The saying goes that good things come in small packages, and for Carla Castro this rings especially true.
Castro, a graduate of the Culinary Management program at NC’s Canadian Food and Wine Institute, left a flourishing career as a chemical engineer in Brazil to follow her passion for food. On November 3, Castro represented Niagara College at the International Tapas Competition in Valladolid, Spain.
The International Tapas Competition is the culmination of the ICEX Spanish Gastronomy Training Program where aspiring chefs from around the world spend six-weeks studying at the International School of Culinary Arts Fernando Pérez, followed by a three month internship at a traditional Spanish restaurant and a two-week trip exploring the sights, sounds and tastes of Spain.
The competition showcases the training the young chefs have received in Spanish language, culture and food. Each chef creates a unique tapa that represents their time in Spain using regional cuisine and their experience during their internship.
All of the chefs have eight hours to prepare their dishes and only 10 minutes to plate 13 tapas –one for each of the high caliber Spanish chefs and leading industry professionals who make up the panel of judges. Each tapa is judged on flavor, presentation and use of Spanish ingredients.
Castro’s creation, Straws and Sunflowers was inspired by the landscape of Castilla y Leon where she spent most of her time studying. “I applied what I learnt at my internship and played with the texture of my ingredients, presenting the egg as a deep fried sabayon, layered with a sunflower seed hummus, smoked cod and shoestring potatoes.”
After completing the program, Castro hopes to return to Canada and continue her gastronomy training. “Spain will always be in my heart, but my goal is to use the experience I have just gained to help me build a life in Canada.”
“The support received by the faculty and staff at Niagara College helped me settle into the country and start building my life. There is so much that the school offers apart from classes that you graduate with a lot more to offer besides a diploma,” she said.
Chef Mark Picone, professor at the Niagara College Canadian Food and Wine Institute, believes that a balanced teaching approach of hands on culinary skills and professionalism for the working world allows students to become well rounded and highly coveted by potential employers.
Castro’s resume will be enhanced with her new language skills, Spanish culture and history knowledge. “Any level of investment in your reputation, brand and skill set is important because our profession is based on performance,” Picone said. “I think a very astute employer will recognize the skills Carla has and capitalize on them. As an employer, I would be honored having Carla as part of my team.”
For more details on the event, visit the Foods from Spain website.