Latin Flavors, American Kitchens


2014 Latin Flavors, American Kitchens
October 1-3, 2014
The Culinary Institute of America, San Antonio


The Latin Flavors, American Kitchens Leadership Symposium is an annual leadership retreat presented by The Culinary Institute of America (CIA) at its San Antonio campus. The symposium focuses on the world heritage of Latin cuisines, their future on American menus, and the advancement of Latin American culinary professionals. Click here to register for the conference!

Part of the goal of the symposium and the CIA, San Antonio campus is to help foster a new generation of Latin American chefs in the United States whose cuisines have deep roots in the authentic traditions and flavors of their heritage, and to ensure that the best of Latin flavors rightfully find their place at the American table, and are acknowledged as among the finest in the world.

Each October the symposium draws together leading experts in the food and cultures of Latin America, as well as many of the corporate chefs and other foodservice leaders in our industry who are best positioned to advance the future of Latin American culinary talent and Latin-rooted flavors. Attendees of the 2013 symposium included 70 volume foodservice professionals and menu decision-makers from across the U.S., 20 presenting chefs and culinary experts, members of the CIA Latin Cuisines Advisory Council Executive Committee, journalists, representatives from the companies and organizations sponsoring the 2013 symposium, and CIA staff and faculty.

Presenters and guest chefs at Latin Flavors, American Kitchens offered strategies to increase the appreciation of the world-class quality of Latin America's culinary traditions on American menus using proven strategies from their own American restaurants, and advance opportunities for Latin American culinary professionals in the United States.

Presenters and guest chefs at Latin Flavors, American Kitchens offered strategies to increase the appreciation of the world-class quality of Latin America's culinary traditions on American menus using proven strategies from their own American restaurants, and advance opportunities for Latin American culinary professionals in the United States.


If you are a foodservice professional or chef working for an independent or chain restaurant, a college or university dining program, a contract foodservice company, a hotel, cruise line, casino, or resort, a supermarket (prepared foods division), or if you are a culinary educator, you can register for Latin Flavors, American Kitchens. Click here to register! Tickets are $495.00.

If you work for a foodservice manufacturer or supplier, please contact Shara Orem ( for information on how you and your company can participate. General registration is not open to manufacturer/supplier representatives.


The guest chefs and presenters for the 2013 symposium included many of America's leading experts on Latin cuisines, who shared the best practices they have developed around their cuisines in years of operation. Most of the nearly 20 presenting chefs and culinary experts live and cook in America, although they are from and represent the traditions and flavors of Mexico, Peru, Cuba, Panama, and Venezuela. Some of the program themes they explored included:

  • Shifts in the American food culture and trends in taste preferences and buying patterns when it comes to Latin and ethnic flavors, including Millennial-driven trends and preferences
  • A block of sessions titled "Authenticity and the Evolution of Cuisines" with separate demonstrations and discussions on the techniques, ingredients, and flavors of Mexico, Peru, and Pan-Latin American cuisines. Those helped the attendees
    • reconcile what is authentic to a cuisine and the flavors that can best work on an American menu
    • find synergies between culinary points-of-view, what customers are looking for today, and the traditional cultures of Latin cuisines
    • advance strategies for American foodservice operations to add Latin flair and flavor to any restaurant style to build on business success
    • respond to the proliferation of Latin outlets across America, the growing Latino population, and the rise in popularity of Latin cuisines across all demographic groups
  • A roundtable of operators that explored particular challenges they faced when introducing Latin dishes and flavors on their menus and the strategies for success they followed, upcoming trends in concept and menu development for high-volume operations, and their thoughts on authenticity when it comes to Latin menu items on American menus
  • And many more, including Umami in Latin American Cuisines, The Latin Vegetable Kitchen and a focus on healthful dishes, Latino Snacks for Millennial Appetites, and an in-depth primer on Tequila and Mezcal

Click for the 2013 program, presenter biographies, presentations, recipes, and photos of all the dishes demonstrated, along with an extensive glossary of Latin American ingredients, cooking terms and dishes.


What does it mean to represent "authentic" Latin cuisines in the United States? This question was the overarching theme of the conference—a complicated one, but the simplified, direct answer that came through each presenter's demonstration and presentation was that authenticity is about place and self. Adolfo Garcia, who is originally from Panama but has long lived in New Orleans, uses Gulf seafood in his restaurants. Rick Bayless uses products local to Chicago, working with farmers and small producers there. Diego Oka imports some base ingredients from Peru for his work at La Mar Cebicheria, but otherwise sources locally. Guillermo Pernot serves Cuban dishes in Philadelphia that very much reflect 21st century presentation styles.

In all these cases, the flavors of the chefs' dishes are unquestionably true to their country of origin, but also represent the fact that they are cooking in American, for American customers who tend to also demand that chefs follow local sourcing practices in the 21st century. They also represent a certain freedom that these chefs have to take very traditional elements of a cuisine—which they stressed are important to understand and master—and make them their own, to be authentic to who they are as creative minds as well.

As is traditional to Latin Flavors, the campus' Kikkoman live fire kitchen was put to good use: Hugo Ortega of Hugo's in Houston made Barbacoa de Borrego. Traditionally a whole lamb is rubbed with a sauce made with dried morita chiles, avocado, bay leaves, thyme, cinnamon, onion, salt and pepper, wrapped in banana leaves, and buried into the ground to cook for 12 hours. A consommé made from the lamb's organs is served alongside the barbecued lamb.

Focusing on the importance of vegetables in Latin cuisines—a fact often overlooked by American diners—demonstrations and a panel offered flavor and sale strategies to help chefs in the audience vary their own offerings. Rick Lopez made Cauliflower Steaks, where large cuts of cauliflower are first poached sous vide then pan-roasted and dressed with a sauce containing arbol chiles, epazote, mint, parsley, and cilantro, while Stephan Pyles prepared Pumpkin-White Bean Chile Rellenos with Pomegranate Crema, a feast for the eyes as well as the palate. Maricel Presilla's Braised Calabaza with Cuban Sofrito and Almond-Chocolate Picada can serve as a side dish, main course, and certainly a new twist for Thanksgiving menus.


With a population of more than 50 million, Latinos today constitute our nation's largest minority. According to U.S. Census Bureau data, between now and 2050 (when it is projected that fully one-half of the U.S. population will be people of color) the size of the Latino population is expected to swell to 102.6 million. At that point, Latinos will represent 24 percent of the U.S. population, a projected increase of 188 percent in just 50 years.

Currently, Latinos make up 15 percent of the total U.S. labor force and will account for 50 percent of the growth of the labor force between now and 2020. Within the foodservice industry, Latinos represent on average 17 percent of the workforce, although in a number of American cities that figure ranges much higher, from 30 percent to 60 percent. Unfortunately, despite how heavily they are employed in the foodservice sector, Latinos are not well represented in industry leadership positions. These numbers not only illustrate how rapidly the U.S. population is shifting, they also foreshadow significant changes ahead for the American foodservice industry, including the extent to which food and beverage marketing, menu development, and training will need to evolve to stay ahead of these seismic changes in demographics.


For more information about Latin Flavor, American Kitchens, please contact:

For program information:
Anne E. McBride
Director – Culinary Programs and Editorial, Strategic Initiatives
(908) 943-8272

For sponsorship opportunities:
Shara Orem
Director - Sponsorship Planning and Outreach, Strategic Initiatives and Advancement
(707) 967-2439

For media inquiries:
Jan Stuebing Smyth
Manager - Marketing, Industry Leadership & Advancement
(845) 451-1457