Eight Kendall College School of Culinary Arts students are on a culinary trip of a lifetime in Mexico during their break, visiting Puebla and Mexico City with Chef Meyer and chefs from our sister school, Universidad del Valle de Mexico. We asked each student to document one day of their trip. Here’s what happened the first few days. Click here to see a beautiful photo journal from the trip by student Joe Bangit.
Day 1 by Jeremy Loya- 9/24/2011
I arrived the day before so I got a chance to walk around the city and check out many of the great sites. When Chef Meyer arrived he and Toni Zavala took me and two others to this old café called Café Tacuba. The food was great. Chef explained to us about the Spanish influence that surrounded us; from the food service to the room deco.
We then walked around Mexico City and found this pastry shop. We all walked inside; the stuff was amazing. Chef explained about the difference influences in Mexican food that were prevalent in the pastries we were sampling.
Day 2 by Alalise Hankwitz-9/25/2011
We got up early in order to take a bus ride to some ancient pyramids: Teotihuacan. This was one of the most amazing sites I have ever seen, an ancient town that was used by the Aztecs and others. We all climbed both pyramids. In many parts of the site we saw murals that were left and preserved. We ate at a local place, we were all disappointed by the food, but I guess they all can’t be winners. We drove back to the hotel to get ready for the evening.
Chef talked with us before we left about Chef Heredia; he is a Master Chef in Mexican cuisine. He told us that this is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity, and to listen and watch. I was nervous. As we drove up to Hacienda los Morales I believed what Chef said to be true; this is an experience I would never forget.
Chef Heredia and Chef Fernando, from Universidad del Valle de Mexico (UVM), met us at the door. Chef shook all our hands and welcomed us to his “House.” He gave us a tour of the area. We then stepped into the parlor and he gave us our assignments; I was to do the salad along with another student. We went into the kitchen. Chef went over the ingredients and how the salad will be prepared. The others went to their stations, and the Chef went over everything with them.
Chef gave us assistants from the restaurant, and we completed our job. Chef came by and kept a close eye on all of us. The others finished up. The Chef asked us all into the main dining hall where he had set a center table where we would eat.
We all sat down along with Chef Meyer, Chef Fernando, and Toni Zavala. Chef Heredia also sat with us and talked to us about cooking. Our meal was about to be served so he excused himself and let us eat and enjoy our meal. The food and service were something I never experienced. After dinner Chef Heredia sat down with us and he let us ask him questions. Chef Meyer asked the first question; “What advice Chef would give to students starting out.” Chef said to “love what you do, if you don’t it will show in your food.” He also spoke about the passion that you must have to succeed, and that you will always be a teacher and also a student. Others asked questions and Chef answered them all. We all took a group photo, and Chef signed our hats.
We went back to the hotel, tired but all realizing that that was an experience we would never forget.
Day 3 by Joe Bangit-9/26/2011
We were all tired from the night before. We went to three different markets: fish, meat and produce. Chef Meyer and Alejandrina (from UVM) answered all our questions; and we had a lot of them. We saw and tasted fruits that I had never seen before. There were herbs that I have never smelled before. I have been in other markets in other parts of the world, but this one was different because Chef and Alejandrina were there to answer our questions.
We drove back to the city center. We got out of the bus and started to walk. We walked all over town it seemed, and everywhere there was food. We ate, and ate – tacos, carnitas, empanadas, etc. All of us were amazed at how good and flavorful it all was. We ended at a traditional restaurant, “Hosteria de Santo Domingo.” We all had something different, and passed plates around to taste. Alejandrina talked with us about the menu, and the traditional dishes we were eating. She also pointed out that the menu contained dishes that were present at the time of the Mexican Revolution, and they were there to remember.
We drove back tired, and full.
Day 4 by Lindsay Jacobson-9/27/2011
After a morning visit to the Anthropology Museum we got in our whites and left from the hotel for UVM to cook with Chef Fernando. We arrived at UVM atop a hill in Lomas Verdes and were greeted by Chef Fernando with a lot of curious looks from the students. We met Chef Michael who was the master of the dish we were about to cook and would be there in the kitchen to help. As a group we were introduced to the class that Chef Meyer was about to teach and encouraged to speak to the students in English so they would learn. After that our Kendall group entered a very clean kitchen with all of our ingredients and tools and Chef Fernando described the chiles en nogada that we were about to make. He divided us in teams to work on roasting peppers, preparing nuts and cutting fruits and vegetables. Adam and Carrie bought whole shrimp yesterday at the market and Chef requested ingredients and gave us instruction to make shrimp in adobo sauce cooked in banana leaves. UVM students came in to the classroom and helped out while we plated the chiles and cleaned the kitchen.
We went to sit in the dining area where the hospitality students served us our meal that we cooked. Everything was fantastic and knowing everything that went into our meal gave me so much more knowledge and appreciation for each dish. The special dessert was an avocado-pineapple sorbet with a toasted amaranth stick that was created that morning in the classroom. Over dinner Chef Fernando shared with us his experience teaching at UVM and his impression of Chicago when he visited in the winter. He gave us a short tour and all of the staff left us feeling very welcome to come back again.
Day 5 by Carolyn Schloss -9/28/2011
Today we said “Hasta Luego” to Mexico City. We drove to Cholula, which given Mexico City traffic took us close to three hours. On the way, we stopped to get a great look at the Popocatepetl and Iztaccíhuatl volcanoes. In Aztec mythology, Popocatépetl was a warrior who loved Iztaccíhuatl. Iztaccíhuatl’s father sent Popocatepetl to war in Oaxaca, promising him his daughter as his wife if he returned (which Iztaccíhuatl’s father presumed he would not). Iztaccíhuatl’s father told her that her lover had fallen in battle and she died of grief. When Popocatépetl returned, and discovered the death of his lover, he committed suicide by plunging a dagger through his heart. The Gods covered them with snow and changed them into mountains. Iztaccíhuatl’s mountain was called “La Mujer Dormida, (the “Sleeping Woman”), because it bears a resemblance to a woman sleeping on her back. Popocatépetl became the volcano Popocatépetl, raining fire on Earth in blind rage at the loss of his beloved. Popocatepetl actually has been rumbling since June, so clearly he is still in a rage.
We arrived in Cholula and were met by Executive Chef Felipe Rueda from UVM Puebla who took us on a walking tour of Cholula. We began by going to the market where we ate the most amazing sandwiches called cemitas. We then went to the Great Pyramid of Cholula which is actually larger in volume than the Great Pyramids of Egypt. Part of the pyramid is excavated, but most of it is still covered from when the Spaniards conquered Mexico, because on top of the pyramid is the most famous church in Cholula, Nuestra Señora de los Remedios, which was built in the 16th century. We then stopped for some ice cream at a little store run by a female lawyer with bright red hair. It’s really interesting because the shop is really small and has a home kitchen, yet they make 300 litres of ice cream every Sunday. After that we went to visit a couple of churches in neighboring villages. They were really beautiful and ornately decorated. We then checked into the hotel in Cholula, which is run by a former student of Chef Felipe. After a quick change, we went to the campus to begin cooking our dinner with the pastry chefs of UVM. We made sweet tamales, tamales verdes, Aztec hot chocolate, churros and bunuelos with lots of sugar. Everything was delicious. We are looking forward to our adventures tomorrow.
Day 6 by Rick Hantke-9/29/2011
Each one of our days in Mexico has been better than the rest.
The morning started off together in the hotel restaurant with our first hot Mexican breakfast. The star of this breakfast was the chilaquiles verde con pollo, which was a nice change of pace from the continental breakfast of fruit and pan dulce from each prior day.
Our travels began Thursday with a trip to Tecali de Herrera, which is about 80 miles southeast of our hotel in San Pedro Cholula. There, we visited the Ex Convento de Tecali. This former convent was a photographer’s dream (as Joe and Adam will attest), as the 16th-century supporting structures remained to offer both beauty and history within the convent ruins. After an extensive tour of the ex-convent, our time in Tecali concluded with a shopping spree through the many shops containing an assortment of beautiful (and inexpensive) onyx and marble objects. Many souvenirs were bought here for family members and students alike.
After filling our bags with onyx and marble, we drove to the city of Puebla to enjoy traditional Poblano cuisine at Fonda de Santa Clara. Of course, almost everyone’s meal included one of three famous Poblano sauces: Pipian Verde, Pipian Rojo or Mole Poblano. In all, everyone quickly understood why Puebla is so famous for its cuisine. After a satisfying lunch, we visited the beautiful, 17th century Catedral de Puebla, followed by a quick visit to the Capilla del Rosario, one of the most elaborately-decorated Baroque chapels in Mexico with its delicately-constructed walls and dome covered in gold leaf. And, no trip to Puebla could possibly be complete without sampling the various sweet specialties such as camote candy nor without buying at least one piece of Puebla white/blue ceramics, known as talavera. Somehow, the students found room in their bags to fill with these artisanal crafts.
As good as our day may have been, our evening was the true highlight of our Thursday. After a brief stop at our hotel in Cholula to change into our chef whites, we headed to UVM for an evening of cooking and eating. While Chef Meyer taught class for the UVM students, the Kendall students learned a number of Mexican dishes from Chefs Felipe and Gonzalo. The highlights of the dishes the students learned to make were cochinita pibil, a classic Yucatecan dish of pork roasted in banana leaves served in the style of panuchos, and sopa lima, a soup featuring the local ingredient: bitter oranges. Habanera salsas were also learned and made by the students to go with the cochinita pibil, but these salsas were not made before appreciating firsthand the effort necessary to season a brand new molcajete made from volcanic rock. A salsa ground from roasted habaneras and garlic in lime juice was the first fruit of the students’ labor from the molcajete. The habanera salsas may have been too hot for some, but there was no denying the fantastic flavor of the chile and the complements it made with the cochinita pibil. And, after a long evening of cooking and learning, the evening ended perfectly when all of the chefs and students from UVM and Kendall sat down to enjoy all of the great food made in the hours before.
Evident in our last meal together on the UVM campus, the Kendall students are not only taking home knowledge of great Mexican food and culture, but they are taking home a new family: the wonderful, knowledgeable and gracious staff and students of UVM.
Day 7 by Chef Thomas Meyer – 9/30/2011
It’s the last day of the Kendall Mexico trip and I decided to write the last blog myself. The day started off in Puebla where we all had breakfast together for the last time. We all expressed how we came to view Mexico differently, will leave with a better understanding of the culture and the cuisine, and would definitely come back. We boarded the bus and headed for Tepoztlan, a pyramid on top of a mountain in Morales, Mexico. We arrived in a small town dominated by a crest of mountains that surrounded the town. The town was quaint and had a great market. We headed through town eating and admiring all the handcrafted items that the locals brought into town to sell.
We arrived at the base of the mountain and began the climb. The climb would be 1300 ft. in 1.2 miles which meant about two hours of steep climbing through a heavily forested trail. It was hard and challenging, but we all made it to the top. At 50 years old and out of shape, I viewed reaching the top as a personal milestone, and all the students gave me a round of applause when I made it so it was worth it. The view was spectacular and something that I will personally never forget.
The climb down was equally hard, but all of us made it. We ate at a local place in town. We then went back to Mexico City and dropped of two of the students who were leaving early the next morning. The rest of us landed in Mexico City after a long bus ride back. We all got together and had a farewell meal of all things – pizza!
I will have very fond memories of the trip, and of all who attended.