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Chefs discuss Latin cuisine’s past, potential at Latin Cuisine Summit

At the CIA's second annual Latin Cuisine Summit, chefs led demos and discussed the history of Chilean and Argentinian cuisine as well as how traditional dishes can inspire modern menus.

3 min read

Restaurant and Foodservice

Chefs discuss Latin cuisine’s past, potential at Latin Cuisine Summit

The Culinary Institute of America

The Culinary Institute of America hosted its second annual Latin Cuisine Summit last month, bringing together students, faculty and chefs and food professionals from around the world for an exploration of Latin American cuisine. Presented by the CIA’s Center for Foods of the Americas at the school’s San Antonio campus, the program highlighted the southern region of South America known as el Sur with a focus on the cuisine and wines of Chile and Argentina.

The four-day event began Oct. 26 with a day of programming for students, followed by the two-day professional conference which drew 110 attendees. The final day included special Food Enthusiast classes and tastings open to the public.

Presentations from chefs and food experts delved into the history of iconic dishes, from Argentinian asado to Chile’s myriad seafood preparations. Running through each session was the common thread of looking at these classic dishes in modern ways, suggesting interpretations that would be at home on all manner of menus.


In his presentation on empanadas and asado, Argentinian chef Danny Bramson gave a history of the cuisine and the importance of the asado tradition in his home country, but focused his cooking demonstration on contemporary versions. While demonstrating the different pleating techniques used to identify empanada fillings, Bramson explained that a traditional filling for the pastries might include hand-cut beef, but he would demonstrate a version with smoked venison and berry chutney, “for something different.” For his second dish, he prepared tamales that could be served alongside grilled meats, but instead of cooking them in the traditional method using corn husks or banana leaves, Bramson used a silicon mold to create what he called an “open tamale.” Plated with a swipe of sauce made from reduced malbec wine and gelatin, the dish had a striking presentation fit for fine dining.

Many of the chefs pointed out that traditional Latin American dishes are rustic, and adapting them for modern menus may require tweaking the format or presentation. The CIA’s Alain Dubernard spoke of the versatility of Latin cuisine during his demonstration of alfajores. The sandwich cookies are traditionally a casual dessert, made at home or sold in small shops, but chefs can use the classic recipe as a starting point to create other types of desserts, from cookie ice cream to plated desserts, he said. Dubernard created two modern versions that he said could be adapted for restaurants or hotel foodservice. His first dish elevated the humble baked good by enrobing it in tempered chocolate and plating it with caramel corn and a dulce de leche truffle that plays off of the traditional alfajor filling. For his second dish, Dubernard created an alfajor napoleon with stacks of rectangular cookies inspired by the current trend in the US toward stacked desserts.

Barros and Fernandez

Also taking a cue from US palates, chefs Camila Moreno Barros and Isidora Diaz Fernandez created a take on chupe, a stew that Chileans most commonly make with seafood. Fernandez shared a story about a time she made a chicken chupe for friends in the US, who mistook it for a dip and scooped it up with tortilla chips. Fernandez and Diaz shared a laugh over the story, but it served as a perfect example of how traditional Latin American dishes are getting revamped for modern menus.


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