By MM Pack
Big dreams turn into vibrant realities at the Culinary Institute of America (CIA) in San Antonio. This third campus of the prestigious nonprofit college, headquartered in New York, continues to expand and innovate—making waves, making news and making culinary futures happen.
BIRTH OF A FOOD COMMUNITY
The initial dream was that of San Antonio entrepreneur, philanthropist and food lover Kit Goldsbury. He imagined greater opportunities for Latino chefs and increased recognition for Latin American food as one of the world’s great cuisines. In 2004, Goldsbury and his company, Silver Ventures, joined forces with CIA to create an education and research center to fulfill these goals, and CIA San Antonio was born.
Located north of downtown on the recently extended San Antonio River Walk, CIA San Antonio is an integral part of the historic Pearl Brewery Complex that Silver Ventures is repurposing into a food-centric, sustainable urban village. In addition to the school, the revitalized brewery now houses a farmers market, restaurants and specialty food businesses, a bookstore and performance and event venues.
The school opened in 2006 in the brewery’s former machine shop, and offers classes in culinary arts, a certificate program and continuing-education courses in 5,500 square feet of sunny teaching kitchens. By October 2010, an additional structure of 30,000 square feet provided seven cooking areas, a bakeshop and bakery café, a spacious kitchen theater and a traditional, tiled Mexican kitchen that incorporates a wood-fired oven, a massive corn grinder and extensive outdoor cooking facilities, including a large pit for traditional earth-oven-style cooking found across Latin America.
EL SUEÑO SCHOLARSHIPS
The next vision fulfilled was the launch of the El Sueño (The Dream) Scholarship. To cultivate culinary leaders and aid Texas residents who want to attend CIA San Antonio, Goldsbury endowed 20 million dollars to help students pay for their culinary educations. Open to qualifying Texas residents, the fund can provide up to half of the program tuition.
With help from El Sueño, Austinite Maribel Rivero is launching her own dream via CIA San Antonio. Formerly a nutritionist and now a marketer for El Chile Restaurant Group, Rivero’s planning her next steps. “I seriously want to propel myself to be an authority, educator and motivator to the public on food knowledge, preparation and enjoyment of a variety of cuisines. And, ideally, I want to teach abroad about Mexican cuisine,” she says. “CIA San Antonio is the best fit for me, and El Sueño’s scholarship influenced me—I want to take advantage of such a rare opportunity.”
VARIETY, DIVERSITY, MULTICULTURALISM
One of the most important aspects of CIA San Antonio is the variety of educational programs offered. Chef and Managing Director David Kellaway says that, “the school is as diverse as the world of food itself, attracting a unique blend of students—future chefs, food lovers and established culinary professionals.”
Diversity applies to the programs, the students and the faculty—the chef instructors hail from around the U.S., Europe and Mexico. As an example of the global approach toward culinary creativity, Chef Alain Dubernard, department chair of baking and pastry, says of the school’s bakeshop, “We take all these flavors from around the world—jackfruit from Malaysia, mamey sapote from Central America—to make fantastic products using European and American techniques.” The bakeshop's pastries and breads are available to the public at the CIA Bakery Café.
In recognition of its diversity initiatives, CIA San Antonio received the National Restaurant Association’s 2011 Faces of Diversity Inspiration Award.
PROFESSIONAL DEGREE PROGRAM
The cornerstone of CIA San Antonio’s education programs is the professional curriculum designed to educate future chefs. Since the campus opened in 2006, it has offered a basic 30-week certificate-training course. However, in August 2011, the certificate program will be superseded by CIA’s 21-month program in which graduates earn an Associate in Applied Science (AAS) degree in culinary arts.
Following the same curriculum taught at CIA Hyde Park, the AAS is a comprehensive program of culinary study. In addition to classic and modern cooking techniques, students learn nutrition, gastronomy, writing, wine, world cuisines, purchasing, management and hospitality. An integral component is an 18-week externship in which each student works and learns in a professional setting. After completing the AAS degree in San Antonio, students can transfer credits to CIA Hyde Park to continue towards a bachelor’s degree.
The school offers an ongoing series of continuing-education classes for working culinary professionals looking to enhance their skills and advance their careers. These professional-level courses cover subjects like plated desserts, laminated dough and specialty baking, and offer in-depth courses on aspects of Latin American cuisines taught by the chef instructors from the Center for Foods of the Americas (see below).
In addition to professional training, there are learning opportunities at CIA San Antonio for culinary enthusiasts—amateur cooks who want to hone their kitchen skills and knowledge. Enthusiast classes range from two-hour chef demonstrations all the way to five-day boot camps on topics such as basic culinary training, grilling and barbecue and aspects of Mexican and Latin American cuisines. In a rigorous variation of the culinary-vacation model, boot camp students wear uniforms and work in the school’s professional kitchens with their chef instructors.
As Chef Kellaway says, “CIA San Antonio offers a wide range of opportunities for people who are passionate about the world of food.”
CENTER FOR FOODS OF THE AMERICAS
An exciting component of CIA San Antonio is the Center for Foods of the Americas (CFA), a multifaceted research center dedicated to documenting, preserving and disseminating Latin American cuisines. Two chef researchers, Iliana de la Vega and Elizabeth Kossick, traverse Latin America to catalog the ingredients, cooking methods, regional specialties and street foods that comprise Latin American foodways from Mexico to Brazil.
As well as preservation and documentation, CFA’s purpose includes educating both foodservice professionals and the American public about Latin American cuisines. CFA creates videos (available at ciaprochef.com/CFA), publishes instructional materials and recipes and teaches both professional and enthusiast classes.
CFA also organizes an annual symposium for foodservice leaders called Latin Flavors, American Kitchens, which focuses on Latin cuisines, their potential for American menus and strategies to support and advance Hispanic culinary professionals in American restaurants. Each year, the three-day program showcases different countries and regions with presentations by leading chefs, traditional cooks, restaurateurs and food historians. The 2010 symposium included guest chefs from Brazil, Chile, Peru, Puerto Rico, Mexico and the Caribbean island of Gaudeloupe. The 2011 symposium is scheduled for October 5–7. Find details at ciachef.edu/texas.