Authenticity is Key to Perfecting Latin Cuisine

In the world of global cuisines—and among American diners in particular—Latin cuisine is gaining huge influence. In the U.S. this is partially due to immigration and geographic proximity, but it’s also because Latin cuisine offers a wide range of flavor profiles that use fresh, natural ingredients and support healthy diets.

Think earthy, grassy, smoky flavors—with lots of herbs, leaves, and fresh vegetables. Corn and tomatoes—bold, spicy, and acidic profiles, these are little words that describe the well-defined, intense flavor profiles of Latin cuisine.

But our new 15-week concentration in Latin cuisines will be a bigger perspective that explores the entire continent from Mexico to Patagonia. We will study every Latin country—with lots of time in the kitchen cooking and the option to travel to Mexico and Guatemala in August.

Our true focus, however, will be on teaching authenticity—helping students understand the history, traditions, and culture behind Latin cuisine so they can bring truly authentic ingredients, technique, and menus to diners.

We will study the importance of Latin crops in the global arena, the influences and trends that these foods are having. To do this, you have to understand the variety of influences from ancient history, when the Spanish came from Europe, as well as the pre-Columbian, Aztec, Mayan, and Incan cultures.

The Mexican cuisine we know today is actually a blend between the Spanish culture and the Mexican culture. Before the Spaniards came, there was no pork in Latin America. No cheese because there were no cows, no milk. And you also have to consider all the products that are unique to the Latin continent. The rain forest is home to thousands of edible species, birds, fish, and plants. Everything is a process of evolution.

Latin civilizations had a very close approach to their foods that has been kept through the centuries—and that applied to technique as well as ingredients. For instance, Latin cuisine uses a mixed-emulsion technique to cook corn with calcium hydroxide, which is lime powder, to break down the cellulose.

We teach the authentic techniques and flavor profiles in order to promote and preserve authentic Latin food. This is increasingly important as diners want to eat healthier—and Latin ingredients and techniques are incredibly healthy. Our stocks are based on tomatoes, onion, garlic, chile—everything is pure, and we don’t use flour or butter to thicken the stock. Ceviches are super healthy because they marinate in lime juice or acid, and authentic techniques of Latin cuisine, like charring, roasting, grilling, and cooking with steam, are very healthy.

If we teach the original and authentic technique, students will understand how to cook authentic Latin food. It is okay if a student wants to mix what he learns in the Latin Cuisine certificate to come up with his own style, but first he must understand authenticity.

A former executive chef at the Mexican Embassy in Paris, Chef Sergio Remolina joined the CIA faculty in 2008. At the Hyde Park campus, he was the instructor in the French-themed Bocuse Restaurant and he taught Cuisines of the Americas.

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