Exploring Latin American

Tapping staff expertise helps create authentic dishes from our Southern neighbors.

jerk-chicken-salad-authentic-food

Rising to the occasion

Latin American cuisine might be wildly popular, but it’s not always easy to create. Labor is a major challenge for Brutsman—“it takes a long time to create 500 empanadas for one meal”—but by creating labor-intensive items during downtime, such as spring break, and doing small-batch cooking as much as possible at the station, Brutsman has solved the issue.

Thibodaux’s Curtis can relate. “Many items within this region are grilled. However, the home-style approach is often moist-heat methods, such as braising, stewing or steaming, so it’s important to have the proteins tender and made with just enough sauce so the flavors are strong and robust,” advises Curtis, noting ample marinating time as paramount. “If you add too much liquid to a braised or stewed item, the flavors are diluted and the finished product suffers.”

Keeping up with demand has been a challenge for MacRae—it’s not easy pressing 120 Cuban sandwiches and keeping them crispy. So MacRae developed a new method whereby the sandwiches are made in advance, pressed between sheet pans weighted with cans of beans in the walk-in and fried in clarified butter on a hot griddle to order. “It has worked so well, we have used that method to press all kinds of sandwiches on all kinds of sturdy breads,” she adds.

When sourcing is a challenge, get creative with substitutes, such as cilantro or parsley for culantro, Curtis says. When MacRae had trouble sourcing Seville oranges, she duplicated the tang with a recipe using lime, orange and lemon.

Perhaps most important, “your clientele has to be educated to accept these items,” warns Curtis, citing his struggle to introduce his customers to black beans instead of red kidney or white. “In order to increase acceptance, I slowly introduce them as components to other dishes, such as salsa, and over time people grow to accept the new items.” 

More From FoodService Director

Industry News & Opinion

The University of New Mexico’s proposed on-campus taproom has officially been approved by the school’s Board of Regents.

Construction on the $650,000 student union taproom will begin this summer and is expected to finish in August when students return to campus. The school’s food vendor, Chartwells, and UNM’s Dining & Food Services department will split the cost of the taproom evenly.

Designed by students in the school’s architecture department, the space will feature a rotating selection of beer and wine, and will also welcome guest brewers. Chartwells will be...

Ideas and Innovation
cafeteria

Three years ago, Colonial School District in New Castle, Del., started a pilot supper program at its high school. The goal: To make sure the district’s students, 57% of whom are on free or reduced-priced meals, would not be hungry when school is done for the day.

Since its inception, the program has expanded to 12 schools and now provides afterschool meals to children participating in YMCA activities. And it's just one of many such programs popping up in districts throughout the country, as operators add supper to the list of daily meals they provide for students.

Building...
Ideas and Innovation
hydroponics

We put our hydroponic gardens in a spot where students can watch them grow, but at the same time it’s safe from being tampered with. At one of our elementary schools, the gardens are in the kitchen, but there’s a window where students can look in as they walk down the hallway. Some even stop to count how many cucumbers they see.

Ideas and Innovation
food snap

We started a 50-member vegan team in response to students expressing the need for more vegan options. Between our monthly meetings, students are asked to take photos of foods they eat in and out of the dining halls to give us a true picture of the kinds of things they like and the kinds of foods that cause disappointment. This exercise has sparked a lot of conversation and given us more insight into what we could do better.

FSD Resources