Latina Eats: Cooking to the Beat of the Caribbean

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This is the ninth entry of a multi-part series by our student blogger Giselle.  Check back each week for the next installment of her experience during her semester away in San Antonio.


Hello everyone, thanks for checking out what the Latin Concentration has been up to this week! I’m already feeling sad because the end of our journey with Chef Remolina and the San Antonio campus is approaching…*tear*…but we’re enjoying every single second here and really embracing the new things we’re learning every day. So let’s see what the Latin Kitchen was up to this week!


This Week In The Latin Kitchen…


Latin Caribbean was the theme this week, and it was one of the most fun weeks I’ve had here in San Antonio. I’m pretty sure we were playing music and dancing as much as we were cooking. Not a bad time at all! This section of the program was unique because it was something I was completely unfamiliar with. I’ve never been exposed to Puerto Rican, Cuban, and other foods of the Caribbean like I had been this week. It felt like discovering a treasure that had been hidden from me my whole life.

I ask myself, “How can I describe the food of the Caribbean?” and it’s a really difficult question to answer without generalizing the islands as one. They are all so different from one another—the culture, the food, the people. So if I had to answer that question, I would describe the food as lively. There is so much positive energy, music, and dancing in this part of the world, and it’s all reflected in the food. We were able to represent what we learned this week at our third pop-up dinner, where we had a very talented guest chef join the party.


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Decorations inside the Latin Kitchen


Pop-Up Dinner with Chef Nelson Millián


Our third dinner was made possible with the help of a Puerto Rico native, Chef Nelson Millián. Chef Nelson is the executive chef at the San Antonio Country Club and is very involved with the CIA. He taught our class all week, and he was so passionate about the beautiful food of the Latin Caribbean. My classmates and I enjoyed learning from this very talented man, and we are so grateful to have yet another amazing experience under our belt.

He organized a menu that reflected the food of the Latin Caribbean with dishes like alcapurria (a stuffed and fried yucca fritter resembling a croquette), mofongo, and pinononos (plantain cups filled with a savory stuffing). The dinner for 16 went smoothly thanks to our team working well together, and to the guidance of Chef Nelson and Chef Remolina.


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The table setup


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Chef Remolina cooking passed appetizers during the pop-up dinner


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Introducing ourselves to the guests


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Fried snapper, mofongo, chorizo sauce


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Making mofongo


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Pionono, shrimp stuffing, sofrito, herb salad


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Alcapurria, picadillo (meat filling), herb salad


Bringing the Music to the Kitchen


In addition to Chef Nelson bringing in his knife kit and apron, he also brought musical instruments. So basically, this week was a music/cooking/dancing class all in one. Can you say multitalented? While we were cooking, we would take breaks and have a jam session playing instruments like the conga, maracas, and the güiro. So much fun!

Chef Nelson would play the music of the country that we were studying that day, saying, “When we’re cooking the food of this region, playing their music helps you guys understand the culture better.” And he was so right; the upbeat music playing in the background while we cooked Dominican, Cuban, and Puerto Rican food felt like we were really immersing ourselves in those cultures. It was an amazing week of dancing, singing, and cooking food of the islands.


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Greg, Juan, and Maria jamming out


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Playing Chef Nelson’s instruments


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Chef teaching my classmate Edna how to play the bongo


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After the pop-up dinner


Four Weeks and One Pop-Up Dinner to Go


Amazing music, food, and company all contributed to this extremely fun week in the Latin Kitchen. It was great learning about ingredients that I was completely unfamiliar with; it shows how every day I’m expanding my knowledge even more about Latin food.

Chef Nelson was so kind in taking time out of his busy schedule to help us with our third pop-up dinner, and for that my classmates and I are very grateful. Gracias Chef!

Our final pop-up dinner will be featuring the food of South America. Being that this will be our very last dinner, my classmates and I will be going out with a bang, that’s for sure. Stay tuned to see what we cook up for that final dinner!


Until next time,



Giselle Sigala

Hello everyone, my name is Giselle Sigala and I am currently a seventh-semester bachelor’s student at The Culinary Institute of America. I’m honored and excited to be the student blogger for the Latin Cuisine Concentration at the San Antonio, TX campus!

A little bit about myself:

I was born in Long Beach, CA and was raised in Fort Worth, TX since the age of 3. (So I’m a Texan at heart…Go TCU!) My parents are both immigrants from Zacatecas, Mexico, so my siblings and I are the first generation in our family to study in the United States.

Since I can remember, I have always had a fascination with cooking and anything food related. As a child, instead of playing with dolls I was begging my mother for an Easy-Bake oven. (Which I found is a common memory with a lot of CIA students. Right? No? Ok fine, I guess it was just me! Haha.) My fondest memories as a child are set in the kitchen, from helping my mom flip tortillas—I remember always burning the tips of my fingers—to the simple smell of charcoal burning on a Sunday afternoon, because this meant a carne asada was in the works…which also meant we were going to eat some great food! Yum!

A major factor that played into my decision to come to The Culinary Institute of America was the large success of my parents’ carnicerias (a Mexican meat market that sells a variety of produce and delicious baked goods). By spending most of my childhood in the carniceria’s kitchen and bakery, I quickly realized that I had a passion for Latin American cuisine. With time, I knew that there was nothing I’d rather do than to make people happy by cooking for them. Knowing this about myself helped me make my decision about coming to the CIA. And honestly, this place has given me countless amazing opportunities and experiences. The CIA has helped me pursue my dream of working in some of the best kitchens around the world, cooking Latin food, and potentially opening up my own business in the future.I couldn't imagine going anywhere else to pursue these aspirations. It is truly an amazing program that is always evolving and striving to be the best it can be.

As a CIA alum, I couldn't be happier to have chosen to pursue my career goals here. Since my graduation from the associate program in June 2015, I have come to admire and appreciate different cuisines and cultures from all over the globe. From the Cuisines of the Americas class I took to the Cuisines of Asia course, this school has taught me that I can learn so much from a culture by simply learning about their food.With that, I am excited to start my semester studying the vibrant food of Latin America at the beautiful CIA San Antonio in Texas. The campus looks amazing, and I can’t wait to write about my experiences! I invite you to check out my blog as I cook some delicious food, explore an exciting city, and learn from some of the best-trained chefs in the industry!

Giselle Sigala