How the CIA Helped Me Through Allergies and a Pandemic

How the CIA Helped Me Through Allergies and a Pandemic

By: Juwairiyah Motiwala

Despite being allergic to six out of the nine Big 9 Allergens, I love baking, even if it’s with ingredients that I cannot consume. As a result, I have always had an intrinsic passion for researching different ingredient substitutes when developing recipes. I’m fascinated by how a simple change like alternating aquafaba for egg whites can result in almost 100% accuracy to the original recipe.

The appeal of the importance of an ingredient in a dish has long been a topic of great curiosity for me. Researching for hours at a stretch to make the perfect macaron without eggs, or the perfect crunchy texture in an entremet without adding nuts, is no longer a task for me, but rather an avocation that turned into the career path I have chosen. This desire for baking and creating known delicacies with substituted ingredients has even led to me to win several competitions since high school and, subsequently, many laurels. Over time my imagination, research, and drive for experimenting with new ingredients outgrew my kitchen, leading me to working in workshops and hotels—allowing me to grasp other opportunities to learn, explore, and craft. I followed this passion for learning all the way to the CIA, the perfect lab for my experimenting tastes.

In the past few months here, I have had the most electrifying and invigorating experiences—forming amazing bonds, meeting many creative minds, and learning about the endless possibilities I can find right here on campus. It’s no wonder that studying culinary science and baking and pastry at the CIA is one for the books, with so many opportunities and resources to churn out my inventiveness. It is definitely turning out to be the perfect place to cultivate my taste buds and brain cells. My tenure at the college has been amazing, with new, unique classes and the most talented and erudite chefs to feed me this knowledge. I have particularly enjoyed the bakeshop classes, as learning the art of quick production has completely changed my game.

However, the pandemic did not make this easy. With new rules set in place like the mandatory face shield and mask, it was a challenge-and-a-half to overcome as the shield would often create obstacles in sight. Additionally, in-person classes were mainly restricted to lab classes, to the point where all my other academic subjects were completed via online learning for two semesters.

In spite of the pandemic and the negativity that surrounded it, I feel like the CIA continued to ensure the best quality of education possible. The professors in the online classes were so very prompt with any guidance I had requested and also gave great advice on how to actually adjust to different styles of learning at home through a screen. Moreover, the burden of the pandemic pushed us into practicing higher levels of caution for hygiene in the kitchen and even taking care of ourselves on a personal level. It was also really sweet how we had to upload a video that would “reveal faces” just so that Chef could get to know us a little better. The CIA SAFE Pledge allowed all of this to be in place and helped us transition out of this terrible pandemic. Being so far away from home, activities like daily temperature checks allowed my parents to also feel secure about my safety. In fact, these checks were even more habitual than breakfast. And I’m not going to lie; the excitement to find out the color of the daily wristband is completely real!

These small methods of instilling joy—even when carrying out such basic, requisite tasks—is what makes my experience at the CIA unmatched and outstanding. It drives me to surpass all expectations, and makes me believe that no matter the hurdle, I can surely make the best of my opportunity here!