Latin Flavors, American Kitchens

Latinos in America

With a population of more than 40 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.

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.

Currently, Latinos make up 13 percent of the total U.S. labor force, and they 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.

Latin Flavors in America

At the same time, many Latino American foods enjoy wide popularity in the United States, and Latin flavors represent one of the hottest menu growth trends in our industry. However, even with this widespread, accelerating interest, Americans are largely unaware of the breadth and quality of Latin cuisines.

Indeed, much of the so-called "Mexican" food offered in U.S. foodservice today is not authentic and is of varying quality. Although foods do not need to be "authentic" to be good, most Americans are missing out on a delicious world of traditional Latin flavors that, if better understood and appreciated, would considerably enrich the American foodservice experience.

Latin Flavors, American Kitchens

The Latin Flavors, American Kitchens Leadership Symposium is an annual invitational leadership retreat presented by The Culinary Institute of America (CIA). This annual event held at the CIA, San Antonio campus 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 Latin Flavors, American Kitchens 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. In this way, we can help to ensure that the best of Latin flavors find their rightful place at the American table, and in the company of those cuisines considered the finest in the world.

"Tradition is innovation that worked well."
Rodrigo Oliveira, Chef/Owner
Mocotó Restaurant and Cachaçeria, São Paulo, Brazil

Presenters and guest chefs at Latin Flavors, American Kitchens examine strategies to advance opportunities for Latin American culinary professionals in the United States and consider approaches to increasing the appreciation of the world-class quality of many of Latin America's culinary traditions among the American dining public. The 2010 program included guest chefs from Brazil, Chile, the Caribbean island of Guadaloupe, Mexico, and Peru.

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 2010 symposium included more than 100 volume foodservice professionals and menu-decision makers from across the U.S., 20 presenters and guest chefs, CIA staff and faculty, as well as members of the CIA Latin Cuisines Advisory Council Executive Committee.

The 2011 Latin Flavors, American Kitchens Leadership Symposium will be held October 5-7, 2011.