As the faculty liaison for CIA Admissions, Fred Brash—affectionately known around campus as “Chef Freddy B.”—helps prospective students and their parents understand the inner workings of the college’s kitchens and classrooms as well as the wide variety of career opportunities that await CIA graduates. He’s kind of an authority on the subject, having been both a CIA student and chef-instructor, and having worked in the food industry since he was a teenager.
Freddy was the kind of kid who gravitated to the outdoors and liked working with his hands. His life forever changed one day when he walked into a restaurant on the way home from school. “The owner pointed to a stack of dishes and hired me for $1.50 an hour,” he says. “I was introverted and shy, and I met people who were really wild and friendly.” Soon, Freddy was showing up every night. “The chef saw that I was into it, and he took me on the line and showed me how to make some things,” he says. “Later he told me, ‘there’s a school in Hyde Park you should go visit.’ So I took the tour of the CIA with my dad, applied, and worked in a local club to get my experience hours.”
While the CIA in the 1970s was quite different from today (Roth Hall was the only building on campus and the chef-instructors were almost entirely old-school-European-trained), the core tenets were the same. “The CIA is driven by technique, then and now, which is super-important,” Chef Brash says. “Ferran Adrià, Thomas Keller…they were all classically trained; it all comes down to those basics.” And it was that same foundation of knowledge that helped Freddy succeed when he ventured out into the food world.
After starting his culinary career with Hilton Hotels in Washington, DC, Chef Freddy moved on to Philadelphia, where he met up with a fellow CIA grad and began work at a French restaurant called The Garden. Inspired, he took a French course and headed overseas to stage in Paris and the south of France until his money ran out. Back in New York, Chef Brash then served as executive chef for 238 Madison Bistro, La Metairie, Hulos, Terrace Five, and La Mangeroire before leading the kitchen at the Field Club in Greenwich, CT.
“One day, I got a letter from the CIA inviting alums to take the chef-instructor test,” Chef Brash says. “I took it because I wanted to see how good I was. You were presented with a tray of food and asked to make a four-course meal, including a consommé, and serve it to a panel of faculty. If you passed the cooking, then you had to give a lecture.” As you might have guessed, Chef Freddy B. passed handily. He started his CIA career teaching in the skills kitchen, and over his 17-year tenure on the faculty, has taught everything from breakfast and lunch cookery to Asian cuisine to product knowledge, and served as executive chef for one of the CIA’s public restaurants. And in that time, he’s guided countless students. “In addition to doing your class work and studying, it’s super-important for students to get involved with guest lectures, chef demos, student activities, or working at campus events or for dining services,” he says. “The more involved you are at the school, the more you’ll get ahead and excel.”
A self-described good listener, Chef Brash relishes his current role in Admissions. “In the morning, I typically prepare a buffet for 100 people,” he says. “After the students and parents tour the campus, I do a cooking demo the same way I would if it were part of a class here. Everyone takes part in a tasting, they ask questions about my career and what I like to cook, and we laugh a little bit.”
And when the event is over, Chef Freddy B. hopes students will go home with one message: “We’re a really great college—we’re the best—and you’ll leave here with the skills you need for a really great career.”