Tuesday, July 1, 2014

Latin Cuisines Concentration: Difficult, Yet Rewarding

by student blogger Peter

*First off, I would like to apologize to all that read this blog for the lack of updates. Life here in San Antonio is fast and busy, there is always something to do, and writing weekly fell to the wayside for a bit but I assure you I am back!

Life in San Antonio.

I had a completely different view of this program upon signing up for it. I imagined that classes would be structured similarly to the AOS program of the CIA. When I say that, I mean that upon entering class you have a set timeline and set recipes and you will never deviate from either because we are there to be taught the way it is and the way it will be. When it comes to cooking in Latin America, that mindset couldn't be further from the truth. Recipes are more alive, they deviate based on what's available, and the person cooking them also puts his/her own character into each recipe. 

What have we been doing?

Over the past two months that we have been in this class we have spent time focusing on the cuisines of Mexico intensively and now are working our way through Central America and into the South. Each week we have class with the phenomenal Chef Sergio Remolina. I first met Chef in the AOS program in Hyde Park in the Bocuse kitchen. He immediately changed my mindset into a fast-paced one that demanded perfection laced with speed. I was thrown into a world of long hours, yet after that course I can honestly say I was a better chef. Needless to say, when I heard he was instructing this course it was a no brainer. Now, back to class.

The cooking classes you take while participating in this concentration start with Advanced Latin Cooking, which takes you through the entirety of Latin America to give you a brief glimpse at cuisines but mainly focuses on techniques of this style of cookery. We made everything from tortillas to roasted meats in a pit filled with fiery hot stones. After this course we moved on to Latin Cuisines I, which took us all throughout Mexico. We learned about the spicy cuisines of the North, which rely heavily on wheat instead of corn, all the way to the South of Mexico in the Yucat√°n, focusing on jungle ingredients and lots of tubers. 

How much work is it?

This concentration, as expected, is heavily based on cooking. With lots of cooking comes lots of work. Each day I wake up at 5:30am, take a shower, shave, put on pressed chef whites, and trek to campus. Chef Remolina, being a man of timeliness and discipline expects us ready to work at our station no later than 6:45am, which most days ends up being 6:30 so we can handle the large amount of recipes expected to be completed. There are only five students in this group, including
myself, and with a small group a larger work load is bestowed upon us. The curriculum designed for this course is suited best for 10-15 students, but honestly, we are getting more experience this way. Instead of making one or two full recipes a day I will make five or six. This immense amount of work is tiring, of course, but is extremely rewarding. I feel that throughout this concentration so far I have learned so much and am definitely getting the most bang for my buck. 

Is there anything to do in San Antonio?

YES, San Antonio is loaded with things to do. This city is huge, and when you are doing the Latin Cuisines Concentration at the CIA you are living right in the heart of it. If you want to work while going to school here there is plenty of job availability! It seems that almost every storefront or restaurant you pass by has a 'now hiring' sign. There are all sorts of restaurants to work for. Across the street literally 100ft from the front door of the school provided housing there are two bars, a cafe, and a nightclub that are all hiring. In The Pearl complex where The CIA San Antonio is located there are a number of fancy restaurants all looking for experienced servers and cooks. When it comes to fun things to do in the area there are tons of local bars and clubs to enjoy late a night. This city is loaded with parks and walkways and there is always somewhere to explore. It is truly a wonderful city filled with amazing unique people. I will never forget it and to all those considering doing this concentration, I highly recommend it. If you have any more questions about this program or city, feel free to reach out to me via Facebook

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