- Hours before the graduation ceremony, each of them prepared a dish inspired by the knowledge they had acquired, blending traditional flavors with international ingredients, and shared them with the CATIE community.
September 4, 2023. After a month of culinary training with both national and international chefs, 17 women from rural areas of the Turrialba canton graduated upon completing the culinary program, made possible through a partnership between CATIE (Tropical Agricultural Research and Higher Education Center) and the International Rotary Club.
The graduation ceremony took place at the Turire Hotel at 3 p.m. on Wednesday, August 30, with the participation of workshop participants, who were awarded certificates in recognition of their achievements.
The event was attended by CATIE's General Director, Muhammad Ibrahim; Alberto Ayon, President of the Rotary Club of Cartago; Eliecer Vargas, coordinator of the workshops and the International Master's Program in Sustainable Tourism; authorities from the International Rotary Club; the chefs responsible for the workshops; and the graduates' families.
The event was an emotional moment for the participants, who had spent a month learning different techniques in both national and international cuisine. Alberto Ayon commented, "After the effort they demonstrated, the best way to conclude was to give them a quality farewell in an unforgettable place. I am sure that this experience will remain etched in their memories forever."
Graduates presented their best dishes.
Hours before the graduation ceremony, workshop participants took over the Henry Wallace building, filling it with aromas and flavors. Each of them prepared a dish inspired by the knowledge they had acquired, blending traditional flavors with international ingredients, and shared them with the CATIE community.
Eliecer Vargas pointed out that one of the primary objectives of the training from the beginning was to see if a culinary fusion between international techniques and local knowledge could truly be achieved.
"Today, with the 17 dishes, I believe it is evident that there is a lot of potential because I truly tried them all, and I liked them all. I have my favorites, of course, but each of them incorporates local ingredients or several components from the Turrialba region," Eliecer said.
"This has been a great conclusion in the sense that they have demonstrated what they have learned. Some came with no prior experience, while others already had some, but the dynamic with multiple chefs was very positive for them as it opened their minds to prepare these dishes they are presenting," mentioned Alberto Ayon.
Dishes with Family Roots
Tres de las graduadas compartieron donde nacieron sus recetas:
Milady Yasmin Díaz Fernández from the Pacayitas Community: "My dish was 'caibas a la ranchera,' an original dish. I harvest the caibas and make them at home. The reason is that from a very young age, when my mother and grandmother taught me how to cook, I learned to make caibas. The caibas come with avocado, shredded meat, and some little tortillas. I am very happy, very content, truth be told. This course has helped us a lot; we have learned a great deal, not only in terms of living with our fellow participants but also learning new things and sharing what we already know to teach others. It was a beautiful experience," she said.
Alicia Castro Brenes, a resident of Colonia Guayabo: "My dish is called 'Pasaltico,' a kind of appetizer that includes plantain chips with salmon ceviche and hollandaise sauce. I chose it because I'm a huge fan of plantain chips. It's like the moment when the whole family gathers to share; you cut a bunch from the garden in my backyard and cook it all. Hollandaise sauce was one of the things I learned to make during the course.
Idaly Castro from Colonia de Guayabo: "My dish has a base of kiwi vinegar with yuca puree and pork loin in barbecue sauce. We learned to make kiwi vinegar here, only with other fruits, so that was the variation I made. The yuca puree was because when my mom was little, my grandmother was very poor and raised them with yuca, while smoked pork loin is my dad's favorite food, and he is one of the most important people in my life," she concluded. At the end of the demonstration, each person who tasted the dishes voted for their favorite.
The first place went to Nelsy Oquendo Fuentes, the second to Lucrecia López, Eylin García Sojo received the third place, and Fabiola Serrano Cabrera and Idalí Castro Brenes tied for fourth place.
CATIE and the Rotary Club once again joined forces to support vulnerable groups, especially women, and expressed gratitude for the support of chefs from the United States and Turrialba in this initiative, promoting the new Turrialba cuisine.
International Master's in Sustainable Tourism.
Esteban Rodríguez Zamora
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