Latina Eats: Settling In and Venturing Out


This is the third 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.


I have enjoyed every second of my time here in San Antonio so far. My classmates and I finally got to explore the city a bit, and we are loving the food scene here! Here’s a little preview of what I’ve been up to this week:

  • Salsa tasting and tamale day in class with Chef Remolina
  • Field trip to Sanitary Tortilleria
  • Got a job at the campus restaurant, Nao (yay!!!)
  • Worked a food and wine event at school
  • Oh…and we ate some amazing food!


This week in the Latin Kitchen


We explored different salsas and studied how they are used in Latin America. The salsa tasting was such a cool exercise. This day was focused solely on the different uses and methods of making this delicious ‘condiment.’ It was so interesting to learn about the countless ways we could incorporate it into any cuisine you could think of. So, in fact, salsas can not only be used as condiments but as seasonings for meats, stews, and many other things. We used three different recipes and prepared them 10 different ways, such as blended, fried, raw, and crushed in a mortar and pestle called a molcajete. You could not imagine the difference it makes when you simply blend a salsa versus crushing it using the stone mortar and pestle. I really enjoyed this day because we were able to take our time, discuss, and take notes on what we found particularly interesting about the salsas we made and why we would or wouldn’t use them in a certain dish.


Those are some good-looking salsas right there (and they tasted even better)


With all that salsa we have, why not put it inside of a taco? No-brainer!


Besides the salsa-fest we had in class, we also cooked a bunch of food in leaves and husks this week! The end products were unbe-leaf-ably delicious. (Sorry, had to!)

From corn husks to banana leaves, we explored an ancient cooking method that has been perfected by so many cultures such as the Aztecs from Mesoamerica. Being one of the earliest food preparation techniques, cooking in leaves was something I was very interested in learning about. I was really only familiar with cooking in corn husks and in grape leaves prior to this class, so it was nice to open my eyes to how other countries in the world are using this cooking method. That’s what’s so great about the Latin concentration—you might be familiar with something like a tamale, but Chef Remolina will teach you the history behind cooking in a corn husk, plus 10 other countries that are doing something similar yet so different when using this cooking method. From Puerto Rican pasteles to Venezuelan hallacas, we learned the ins and outs of this very simple yet renowned food preparation.

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Here, Chef Remolina is preparing tacos de jaiba, which are crab meat tacos steamed in a banana leaf

(we made the tortillas from scratch that morning)

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Here’s me making the ‘dough’ for pasteles, a traditional food in Puerto Rican cuisine. It’s similar to a meat tamale but it’s wrapped in banana leaves instead.

Oh, and the exterior of the pastel is made from root vegetables…pretty cool!!


Tamales de nopal, aka cactus tamales


This week we went on a field trip to Sanitary Tortilleria, which is one of the largest tortilla distributors in San Antonio. In fact, the CIA San Antonio and more than 100 other sites are using Sanitary to get their tortilla fix. Our class got to go to the factory where they make these tortillas from scratch every…single…day. Yep, that’s a lot of tortillas. All of the corn they get is from the San Antonio area and they make some delicious tortillas with it. This place takes no shortcuts. They nixtamalize and grind their own corn. But the coolest part about Sanitary? Being able to see their tortilla machine from 1925 still being used on site!



Heres a link to an article I found on the tortilleria; it talks a little bit about their history in San Antonio and what makes them so ‘sanitary’: Tortilleria Link >


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Some of the decorations inside the tortilleria


This week we worked a food and wine event which featured some dishes cooked by our talented CIA chefs like Chef Ward and Chef Clark, to name a few. I had so much fun working this event with my friends, and we also got to try some of the amazing food our chef-instructors made.


Here are a few pictures from that event:


Ceviche three ways by Chef Remolina (Peruvian, Ecuadorian, and Mexican)

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Chef Clark’s creation: House-made fromage blanc, pickled vegetables, and tapenade crumble

Overall, this week has been eye-opening…to the endless variety of dishes that can be made from simple ingredients like corn and leaves, and to the opportunities the Latin concentration has brought (and will bring) us. I hope you guys are enjoying reading about my time here, and stay tuned for next week’s post when I’ll talk about my new job at Nao and much much more!
’Til 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