Latin Flavors, American Kitchens

Latin Flavors, American Kitchens will not run in 2015. Latin cuisines will be a major focus of Worlds of Flavor, which will take place April 20-22, 2016
at The Culinary Institute of America
at Greystone in Napa Valley,California.

This year, The CIA's San Antonio campus will host a new Latin cuisines summit, Arriba el Norte, which features an industry-only day on October 2 and public demonstrations on October 3, 2015.
Details and Registration here.


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.

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. The nearly 150 attendees of the 2014 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 sponsoring companies and organizations, 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 and advance opportunities for Latin American culinary professionals in the United States.


This year’s symposium covered a wide variety of tastes and trends, from Brazilian bar culture to tropical fruit desserts. Health and sustainability were important and timely additions to the program, along with an in-depth look at the creativity coming out of Peru, an exploration of the rising popularity of Mexican food around the world, and live-fire cooking demonstrations. Program themes and elements of the series that were addressed include:

  • The role that Latin cuisines are playing in moving us toward healthier diets
  • In-depth explorations of the cuisines of Puerto Rico and the Baja region of Mexico, to continue to better attendees’ overall understanding of the geographical and cultural differences among Latin cuisines
  • A look at lesser-known techniques and ingredients, including fermentation and amaranth, and their possible applications on American menus
  • The development of sustainable cuisines in Peru and Brazil
  • Live-fire menu ideas for sides, seafood, and lighter items
  • An operator challenge and operator forum that engaged the attendees in terms of their creative processes, strategies for menu and flavor development, and business models for the future
  • Seafood dishes from around Latin America, which offered recipes for seafood soups and stews and various raw preparations
  • A look at a modern Mexican menu as offered at progressive San Antonio restaurant Mixtli, founded by CIA graduates

The links here will take you to the 2014 program, presenter biographies, presentations, recipes, and photos of the dishes demonstrated, along with an extensive glossary of Latin American ingredients, cooking terms and dishes.


Latin cuisines are booming in popularity throughout the world. In a presentation focusing on Europe and Asia, Mark Miller stated that it is because they have one of the largest cultural ranges—meaning that they can assimilate into other cuisines and can make use of local ingredients without losing flavor. Other people use Latin foods to make up for what is missing in their own food cultures. Roberto Ruiz, a Mexico native, moved to Spain and opened PuntoMX in Madrid in 2012. There, the philosophy that has brought him acclaims in a country that has only recently begun to embrace Mexican food stems from combining Mexican flavors with the best products from Spain and both ancient and latest culinary techniques.

Melissa Abbott of the Hartman Group provided an overview of the culinary practices of progressive customers, who represent 15 percent of all consumers. Within five years, the trends and habits they adopt early on become mainstream. The modern family eats much more customized meals and a larger number of snacks and looks for higher quality meals and experiences without cooking much from scratch. Consumers are looking for customized experiences. They like to sit down to eat rather than just purchase food to go, particularly when the food is of high quality and is perceived as healthy. Millennials continue to drive the evolution of business models around Latin foods, be it offering more customizable and personal options inside a fast-food restaurant rather than focusing on drive-through experiences and developing more recipes from scratch in high-volume fast-casual restaurants.

New fast-casual concepts, such as FeelFood in New York, respond to this demand for healthier foods in a mobile, customizable format by providing foods such as tamarind and watermelon/rose waters and wraps made from a batter of fermented rice and beans that customers can eat on the go or sit down and enjoy.

Amaranth is nearly as ancient a grain as fermentation is a technique. In Mexico, it can be used for drinks, such as Pineapple and Passion Fruit Atole, pudding, or as a filling for chile poblano, among many other dishes. Roberto Santibañez provided an overview of the grain’s properties along with those recipes.

In Brazil, bar menus create opportunities for sustainable practices, since these foods are about making use of everything, including leftovers. Teresa Corção and Almir Da Fonseca teamed up on the making of feijoada, the bean soup—that is perhaps the most famous Brazilian dish, and feijoada croquettes made from its leftovers. They noted that soup is popular as a drinking snack in Brazil. Teresa also demonstrated Pão de Queijo, the famed Brazilian cheese bread, which in her version resembled popovers. Manioc starch is commonly found in many Brazilian dishes, included those; Teresa has been working with manioc producers throughout Brazil to identify and protect its sustainable production.

Pedro Miguel Schiaffino is also working with producers from throughout Peru to preserve the country’s biodiversity and revitalize the cultivation of indigenous ingredients. He features these indigenous ingredients at his Lima restaurants Malabar and Amaz, and they are at the core of his creative process. Dishes like Three Thousand Meters Over Sea Level or Fresh Water Prawns and Yuca feature products such as sweet prawns found in only one river in Peru and a ball-shaped algae named cushuro that grows at high altitude, where nothing else grows.

Puerto Rico and the Baja region of Mexico (on the Pacific coast, just below California) were the two other “countries” of focus of the conference. Modern Puerto Rican cuisine is inspired by street foods, which are prepared in smaller, more sophisticated portions in restaurants, explained chefs Wilo Benet and Pedro Álvarez Cortés. And while The Baja region of Mexico is rich in seafood since it runs down the Pacific Coast, it also features a wide range of wild game and produce that local chefs such as Diego Hernández Baquedano and Miguel Angel Guerrero hunt, forage, and grow.


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.


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. If you are interested in registering for the October 2, 2015 Latin Cuisines Summit, please check back for additional details this summer.

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.


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 - Director of Corporate Relations, Strategic Initiatives and Advancement
(707) 967-2439

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