Dorothy Cann Hamilton, the founder of the French Culinary Institute (FCI) in New York City, is sitting in her office and describing the event she attended last night in tones that alternate between delight and resignation. "I was at Eleven Madison Park," she tells André Soltner, the dean of classic studies at the FCI and the former chef and owner of Lutèce. "First I had a glass of Champagne, which made me really hungry. Then came lobster soup with caviar. Then foie gras risotto, guinea hen, lamb. There were fantastic wines with every course. There was no way I wasn't going to eat it all."
"The only way to avoid it is to not go," Soltner replies with a shrug. Since skipping such events (in this case, a benefit for the anti-hunger, anti-poverty organization Share Our Strength) is not an option for Hamilton, she tells Soltner how she manages to indulge and still control her weight: "I just write off a meal like that and jump right back on my diet the next day. I exercise control so I can lose control."
It's an unconventional approach to weight management, but it accommodates Hamilton's passion for great foodthe same passion that inspired her to open the French Culinary Institute in 1984. Under her leadership, the FCI has established itself as a place where serious cooks come for training in classical French technique, then leave with a strong foundation for developing their own style. New York City-based alumni, for instance, include Bobby Flay at Mesa Grill, Dan Barber at Blue Hill and Wylie Dufresne at wd~50 (Barber and Dufresne are both former F&W Best New Chefs). And Hamilton is constantly expanding and improving the school. Recently, she added wine courses to the curriculum and invited award-winning writer Alan Richman to launch a food journalism course.