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Tasting Latin culture with Chef Gonzalez

Sidney Murillo
Chef Lydia Gonzalez Welch deconstructs a caprese salad and adds a spicy salsa to give it a Latin spin.
By Sidney Murillo

Avocado green, bright tomato red and soft, earthy brown peanuts. Adding color to dishes is important to any chef and foodie.
As Top Chef host Padma Lakshmi says, “you eat with your eyes first.” Adding color to dishes is a sure way to add aesthetics and nutrition to a meal.
In honor of Hispanic Heritage Month and in conjunction with the common book, “Fast Food Nation,” Latin Culinary Art Institute, Chef Lydia Gonzalez Welch visited the campus on Oct. 17 to talk about the importance of eating healthy by using such colorful fresh fruits and vegetables.
Gonzalez Welch began the presentation by explaining the importance of including Latin fruits and veggies in dishes.
“The culinary institute was really founded to be able to share the secrets of these delectable, very complex ingredients gathered from the pre-Columbian era,” she said.
Later, she challenged with the audience with a little trivia. She showed pictures of exotic fruits and asked if anyone recognized them. She also asked for the origin of some of the foods, like peanuts.
“Most people won’t guess where peanuts are from,” she said. “They are from Peru!”
Gonzalez Welch showed a green fruit with a white center and black seeds that she called a “chirimoya,” or soursop in English.
She explained how farmers markets are usually well stocked with obscure produce, and by buying them, you can have a broad palate while still supporting your local businesses
She explained that Mexican ingredients and Latin dishes are the fastest growing concept in foodie culture.
“How many of you have a favorite street taco place?” she asked. “Street tacos have basically taken over. You have high-end chefs who work in restaurants recreating the street taco with complex ingredients.”
Gonzalez Welch also touched on the ways traditional food mixes with modernized kitchens.
Students such as physical therapist major Kyerra Polk, who also dabbles in the kitchen, enjoyed the presentation.
“She gave us a lot of details about Latin American food, and learning about the ingredients was pretty cool too,” she said. “It was cool learning about the Aztecs and their customs with chocolate.”
Students who run to class, then work and keep up with their studies rarely have the time to properly marinate a chicken and sauté fresh vegetables. However, Gonzalez Welch stressed that cooking healthy doesn’t have to be difficult. It can be done with simple ingredients like salt, pepper, lime and cumin.
“I encourage people to mix up their own spices,” she said. “I hear everyone say, ‘Oh, I don’t cook with salt,’ but if you look at all their premix spice rubs, you will see so much sodium that it can really affect your health.”
ESL professor Maria Caratini-Prado spoke highly of the presentation and the institute.
“This institute serves as one of the leading institutions in the nation,” she said. “[Gonzalez Welch] creates dishes ready for the U.S. palate to try out. It’s an honor to have her on campus.”

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