December 29, 2000
Imperial Beach Juan Garcia of Logan Heights decided that for his senior culinary project he would demonstrate the cooking of Latin America. Garcia, a San Diego Job Corps Culinary Arts Student, is one of 28 students being trained at the San Diego Job Corps for Culinary skills. Many of these students like Juan will go on to advanced culinary schools or land jobs in local restaurants or in hotels like the Hilton or the Marriott. The demonstration project is a requirement for students completing the program.
Garcia's demonstration included showing the attendees to this special gourmet lunch how he put together the incredible ajiaco bogotano (a creamed chicken and potato soup with avocado and capers); the torta de platano maduro (ripe plantain cake); the Spanish rice; matambre (stuffed and rolled flank steak); and for dessert, the flan. In the audience was his mother, Maria Garcia and his grandmother, Graciella Alfaro.
"I chose this menu because it was a challenge, "explained Garcia. All through the demonstration, Garcia explained the importance of special aspects of each dish. For instance, the chicken in the soup is part of Latin American culture before the Spanish arrived. Further, potatoes are full of vitamin C and were important to the natives. The Spaniards brought capers to central America. The avocado is a tropical fruit though many people consider it a vegetable. It is used as a garnish in this creamed appetizer.
Argentineans consider the flank steak as an appetizer. In this meal, Garcia chose to make it a main dish along with the Spanish rice and the plantain cake. The plantain is native to Brazil. The flan is a common dish of Latin America. The twist on the dessert served was that it was chocolateyummm.
The San Diego Job Corps Culinary Arts program is coordinated and instructed by Dick Siegiel and Ellen Baum. Both instructors are well known in the local culinary industry. Baum, a graduate of the Culinary Institute of America (Hyde Park) has been in the industry for 17 years specializing in corporate dining and catering. Siegiel, a graduate of the Scottsdale Culinary Institute, works with Daily's Healthy Lifestyle Restaurant and Sharp Hospital as corporate chef.