Latina Eats: Pop-up Dinner Mexico


This is the seventh 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, I hope you all are enjoying your summer so far! I have officially hit the halfway mark of the Latin concentration, and I honestly can’t believe how quickly this semester has gone by. It has been an amazing journey so far and I can’t wait to see what we will be learning in the next few weeks. This week was a clear reminder of how the Latin concentration constantly gives us once-in-a-lifetime experiences that we will cherish for a really long time. Let’s see what made week 6 so special!

This Week in the Latin Kitchen

This week’s recipes were focused on mole, one of the few things I’ll ask my mom to make when I have the chance to go home. Many refer to this dish as a chocolate sauce, but this extremely complex sauce is more than just Mexican chocolate with chiles. My mom does make mole, but I never really knew that there were so many different variations across Mexico. Needless to say, I was ready to learn the ins and outs of this Mexican “mother sauce.”

Before this class, I was only familiar with my mother’s red mole, so it was really interesting to learn that there is a green, yellow, and even a black mole (which is made by basically burning all of the ingredients…pretty awesome!). But this week we focused on a poblano-style red mole and some variations of the sauce like pipián in which the main ingredient is pumpkin seeds.

So, mole poblano…what a process. There are so many steps in making this delicacy. Each ingredient had to be fried separately, and there was a long list in this recipe. From raisins to bread, there were so many different things that went into the mole. Ultimately, it created a simple (looking) yet very complex and beautiful sauce. No wonder my family only makes it for special occasions!



Chef Remolina pan frying the different ingredients for the mole poblano


The chile base of the mole


The pureed nut and bread mixture being added to the dried chile base

One of the other recipes I really enjoyed from this week was a vibrantly flavored pipián verde. This pumpkin seed sauce was served with red snapper and pattypan squash and the flavors went really well together. This preparation was definitely simpler than the mole poblano but there’s no doubt that they were equally delicious. I really couldn’t choose between them, so I ate both! Problem solved.


Seared red snapper that was served with the pipián verde


Chef Pablo Salas and Student Collaboration


If you’ve been catching up with my latest posts, you would know that I have been hinting that a very special guest chef was going to visit us in the near future.


I’m here to tell you guys that this day has finally come. And I am so ready to share what was one of the best experiences during my time at the CIA.

Chef Pablo Salas. You heard that right. Thanks to the lovely Chef Remolina, his previous student from Mexico was invited to help us organize and execute the menu for our second pop-up dinner. This is way beyond what I was expecting when I signed up for the Latin concentration. A collaborative dinner with one of the best chefs in Mexico? Never in my wildest dreams…or so I thought.

Just in case y’all don’t know about Chef Salas, let me fill you in:

Pablo Salas is from Toluca, Mexico where he is the executive chef of Amaranta, a 60-seat restaurant an hour from Mexico City.

He has been creating progressive “Mexiquense” (from the state of Mexico) dishes, focusing on the local ingredients available only to Toluca. You can see that he takes his stance on local cuisine very seriously when you look at his menu and notice that there is hardly any fish. The only seafood you’ll see on the menu occasionally is trout, which is the only fish that lives around that area of Mexico. Not only is he a talented and truly humble chef, but he has been climbing the S.Pellegrino 50 Best Restaurants in Latin America list placing with an impressive spot at number 41 last year.

This year he made Mexico even more proud by placing Amaranta as the 22nd best restaurant in Latin America. I still can’t believe we got to work with this talented man. Unreal.

Pablo arrived in the middle of the week to cook with us during our class time. He got to know us all, and we bounced ideas off of him for our second pop-up dinner that coincidentally was featuring Mexico. My classmates and I all clicked with Chef Pablo as soon as we started cooking together and there was plenty of laughs in the Latin Kitchen that week. The dinner went great, and I’ll say this again, but I have to emphasize that this was honestly one of the best experiences I’ve had at this school since I began in 2013.

Chef Pablo is extremely knowledgeable, and so inspiring. My classmates and I were really grateful to have worked with him for a few days, and who knows, maybe we’ll see him again once we graduate in December and begin to look for a job! *cough cough* (No, but really…)



Preparing cajeta and sea salt macarons. (Cajeta is a luscious caramel made from goat milk.)


Recipe testing also means recipe tasting.



A quick picture while plating our main course:
Lamb two ways, smoked sweet potato puree, and salsa borracha


Macaron trio and avocado-honey ice cream…
The macaron flavors were chocolate mole, cajeta, and hibiscus flower.



Our collaborative menu

An Impressive Semester So Far

Time and time again, the Latin concentration proves to be one of the best decisions I’ve made here at the CIA. My classmates and I have made so many valuable connections that wouldn’t have been possible without Chef Remolina…he’s the man.

I hope you guys are enjoying the posts as much as I enjoy writing them, and if you have any questions about this amazing program, whether you are a CIA student or not, don’t hesitate to comment below. I would be more than happy to answer any of your questions.

Stay hungry,

P.S. Chef Pablo and some of my classmates were interviewed by a lovely reporter named Begoña De Ubieta. She writes for a local news website called El Universal San Antonio and it’s where she will be posting an article and pictures featuring Chef Pablo soon. If you’d like to see our interview and learn more about our experience with this amazing chef, check out the link.

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