“Is anybody else here bringing it today besides me?” asks Jungle Boy* every time he steps into a classroom at the Culinary Institute of America. This becomes a completely normal question if you have the pleasure of learning menu development through the eyes of Professor Raimundo Gaby. Born deep in the Amazon and raised in the trenches of New York City’s best restaurants, he is now one of the highly educated and accomplished business management instructors at the CIA. And by far the most inspirational. With every breath he exudes an energy I could only dream of possessing for even five minutes. He is always bringing it – striving to take it to a higher level, whatever it may be at the moment.
For his students, it is a very intense menu concept project, and in researching potential desserts for my presentation, I found alfajores. Crisp yet crumbly South American sandwich cookies with a filling of caramel and a sprinkling of coconut. Varieties of the alfajor are endless – cornstarch dough or puff pastry, jam filled or hugged with chocolate. Immediately, I knew these Argentinian delights were my ticket to success. So the baking began.
And went on for a solid week. I’ve now eaten a lifetime’s worth of South American alfajores. This is what Jungle Boy will do to a student. It’s not a negative pressure as with many of our chef instructors – but a positive desire to bring it. Is this making sense, yet? I truly loved every tedious minute of the self-inflicted recipe testing (especially licking up all the extra dulce de leche).
For extra flair serve them dusted with confectioner’s sugar and alongside a nice tawny port. Then remember, alfajores are bringing it. Alfajores served with tawny port is what we like to call double bringing it. And for me, triple bringing it doesn’t even begin to describe menu development class with Jungle Boy. So find your own brand of triple bringing it, or just eat three alfajores. Either way, I hope you’re inspired, because I sure am.
*Jungle Boy is a moniker our professor bestowed upon himself, for the record. It is only used with complete respect and out of endearment.