Q&A with Tim Ryan, President of The Culinary Institute of America

20th Anniversary

Q&A with Tim Ryan, President of The Culinary Institute of America

TIM RYAN, President of The Culinary Institute of America, on the Hudson Valley’s dynamic food scene

How has the role of the chef changed in the past 20 years?

Food is the number one business on the planet, so there remains a lot of opportunity for people with talent and fresh ideas. The role of the chef has been changing since the 1970s, and today, chefs have evolved into thought leaders, arbiters of cool, change agents and even global celebrities.

Chefs have become increasingly business savvy--many of the best-known chefs have developed restaurants, product lines, intellectual property and licensing deals into small and not-so-small empires.

How has the American diet changed in the past 20 years?

While we still suffer from "dietary schizophrenia"--talking thin but eating fat--we have made extraordinary progress in the past 20 years with respect to diet.

Today, we consume more locally grown products and have access to more farmer's markets. Locally, the CIA works with 30 farms within a 70-mile radius of our campus; we purchase $750,000 of local eggs, dairy, meats and produce for use throughout the school and its restaurants. We eat more fruits, vegetable and whole grains, we drink less highly sweetened soda and are generally better educated about what constitutes a good diet. All these things contribute to personal health, but they also positively affect the health of the planet.

Beyond issues of health, wellness and sustainability, the American diet is far more ethnically diverse than it used to be. Hamburgers still rule, but things that were considered "weird" in the past—think sushi, yogurt and granola—are now mainstream. The quality of our restaurants also has risen dramatically: We can get well-prepared and interesting fare at a variety of price points all over the country now. That just was not the case in the past.

How has the CIA changed over the past 20 years? 

Many people in the local community don't realize that the CIA is a full-blown college and that along with courses in a major--let's say, culinary arts--a CIA student gets full exposure to a variety of liberal arts courses, and a wide range of business courses, as well.

In the past 20 years or so, the CIA has significantly strengthened its position as the best school of its kind in the world. The campus has expanded significantly and is ranked one of the most beautiful in the nation. Today, students can choose from majors and concentrations at the associate's, bachelor's and master's level—all with food & hospitality as the common thread.

We now have an extraordinary campus in California's Napa Valley and a terrific campus in San Antonio, Texas. We have a thriving campus in Singapore, a castle in Puglia, Italy, and will soon open a campus in Barcelona, Spain, where we will offer master's degrees in partnership with The University of Barcelona. Several major American cities have launched efforts to attract the CIA to their towns, and numerous countries want us to have a presence there, as well.

Over the past two decades the CIA has also developed strong partnerships with numerous other colleges and universities, each following a specific theme and focus. We offer a joint degree program with Cornell's Hotel School, for example; we focus on robotics with Carnegie Mellon University; and we tackle issues of health, wellness and sustainability with Harvard's School of Public Health. Such partnerships signal the high regard in which the CIA Is held.

Whether we’re talking about the change in the status and scope of the chef, or the quality and diversity of the American diet, the CIA has had major impacts on both. We will continue to push forward on these fronts in the future, and we are confident that even better days for the profession, the food world, and the dining public are ahead.

Dr. Tim Ryan, a Certified Master Chef, joined the CIA faculty in 1982. He was named President of the CIA in 2001. Named one of the most powerful people in the food world by both the Daily Meal and Nation’s Restaurant News in 2016, Ryan has expanded the CIA’s presence in the world as well as its role in the Hudson Valley.

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