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North America:


Spycraft vs. Spice Craft

The name CIA evokes various images to different people. To fans of espionage, a certain nefarious agency comes to mind. To more discerning foodies, the name suggests fine sauces, delectable baked goods, meats grilled to perfection, and dazzling knife skills (of the kitchen variety). That’s because the “other” CIA is actually the Culinary Institute of America.

Continuing to trailblaze in its approach to climbing Kilimanjaro, Tusker Trail has just entered into a groundbreaking (and mouth-watering) exclusive deal with that CIA.

Over the next five years, highly skilled chefs from the world-famous cooking academy will be training Tusker’s mountain chefs in the finer art and science of cooking. The training has already begun.

On Top of the (Cooking) World

Picture this: a Certified Master Chef, one of only 65 in all America, imparts his expertise on the slopes of Kilimanjaro. Sounds a bit far-fetched, but when the CIA’s Certified Master Chef James Hanyzski summitted Kilimanjaro in April with all Tusker’s ten chefs, he took their cooking skills to new … heights.

The climb, led by Tusker’s founder Eddie Frank, included a stellar array of high altitude medical doctors pursuing their CME (Continuing Medical Education), and to the person, they can verify that Chef James had the Tusker mobile kitchen firing on all burners. Moroccan spice sautéed Tilapia; French lentil salad; southwestern slaw;  crepes with Nutella and bananas; buttermilk fried chicken; sautéed pork cutlet with mushroom ragout; beef with Mussaman curry, and no-bake fudge brownies were just a few of Chef James’ and his new acolytes’ delectable concoctions.

While the grub Tusker offered until now has always been considered pretty good, you can only imagine that after the influence from world-class chefs like this, how stratospheric it is becoming—in terms of variety, flavor, and of course inventiveness and originality.

A Game of Inches

Headquartered in Hyde Park in upstate New York, with campuses in Singapore, San Antonio and St. Helena, California, the CIA reigns as the world’s premier culinary college. Julia Child called the Institute (as it is affectionately known) the Harvard of cooking schools, and it has spawned many celebrated chefs, including Cat Cora, star of Iron Chef on the Food Network. To paraphrase world renowned author and food critic, Craig Claiborne, the Institute is to the culinary arts what Julliard is to performance, and West Point is to the military.

Promoting excellence throughout the food world for the past six decades, the Institute’s stated mission includes focusing on elevation of the culinary profession, inspiration and collaboration. Its recently-hatched collaboration with Tusker has already started to (pardon the pun) bear delectable fruit.

CIA Cuisine Chef David Kamen says enthusiastically that “The Institute has graduates everywhere, but now ‘CIA’-trained chefs are on top of world—where they belong!”

And Tusker founder Eddie Frank, no stranger to the kitchen himself, warns that “Everyone who comes on a Tusker climb usually loses weight. With the Institute infiltrating our kitchens, that may change. Portion control,” he deadpanned, “will become ever-more crucial.”  He cautioned that because of his new relationship with the Institute, climbing Kilimanjaro may now be measured in feet (19,341)—and (waistline) inches.

Cutting Edge

Tusker has long set the standard for professionalism and innovation on Kilimanjaro.  Ten years ago, when rivals did not fully appreciate (or even know) about the perils of high altitude climbs, Eddie Frank was implementing his radical, game-changing mountain safety regimen. Working with world-renowned doctors and health professionals, he equipped every climb with oxygen and hyperbaric (altitude equalization) bags, and designed his patented High Altitude First Responder (HAFR) H.A.F.R. medical course and protocol, in which all Tusker mountain guides are required to re-certify annually.

This inspiration, and its explicit client-first approach, forged Tusker’s identity and reputation as the safety standard-bearer on the mountain. Invariably, rival outfits were forced to adopt a similar approach or perish, and now everyone at least claims to have trained their guides to Tusker’s standards.

Once again, with the CIA by its side, Tusker finds itself on the “cutting edge”, albeit of the chef knife variety.

Culinary Heights 

Given the proliferation of cooking shows, big dollar celebrity chefs and the increasingly foodie-driven identity of our culture, it was only a matter of time before high-end cuisine—not just hearty campfire fare—merged with high altitude adventure. And it was the inspiration of Amy Frank—Eddie Frank’s wife and fellow guide—while braising Osso Bucco up in Lake Tahoe that led to it. By offering delicious gourmet food at high altitude, Eddie and Amy plan to lend a brand new meaning to the Institute’s commitment to “elevation”.

Be it Cordon Bleu, nouvelle, slow food, vegan, omnivore, baking, pastry, or whatever those CIA cooking geniuses can concoct, Tusker’s Kili climbers are in for a real treat.  Since they all need fuel to hike at altitude, why not make it as artful, creative, and lip-smackingly good as possible?

A common practice for Westerners abroad, especially hiking at altitude, is to fantasize (aloud) about what foods they’d like to eat.  With the Institute now training Tusker’s mountain chefs, that age-old practice is about to get eaten alive.

Off the Eaten Path

Eddie Frank is sanguine about the prospects of the competition once again trying to copy him. “Whether sincere or not, imitation is still a form of flattery.”  He goes on to say that they’ll be hard-pressed to imitate this innovation because “there’s only one Institute on the planet.”  When asked what menus he’s cooking up with his new partners-in-food, Frank offered one word: “Secret”.

It looks as if both CIA’s—the spook and chef kind—share at least that in common.   For now. But if Chef James Hanyzeski’s creations are any measure, what was once off the beaten path will now become off the eaten path.

Lace up your boots, loosen your belts and Bon Appetit! 

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