‘Cook the world’: Sweetwater chef introduces learners to multicultural cuisines | Lifestyles

Versie Dortch

PITTSBURGH — Andrew Alvarez’s immigrant mother and father had substantial criteria. From an early age, he realized they hoped a occupation in medicine or engineering would adhere to his 2004 graduation from Quaker Valley Large Faculty.

There was only just one challenge, and it was a biggie: Cooking is what in fact fired the Sewickley, Pennsylvania native’s imaginative juices.

“It just appealed to my normal mother nature, and just designed feeling,” he mentioned.

What really ignited the flame was a 12 months-long visit all through fifth quality with his maternal grandparents in the Philippines, where his Chinese mother grew up. His extended family’s standard food items turned a “comfort thing” for the 10-calendar year-old, and the different Asian cuisines and various strategies of having “really opened my eyes” to a planet outside of the rapid-foods hamburgers, Italian-American pastas, Chinese buffets and Vocelli’s pizza he grew up on.

“My grandparents were ‘Chinoys’ (Chinese-heritage Filipinos), so I had this gain of staying uncovered to both Filipino cuisines and Chinese delicacies,” he reported.

For the reason that meals are also a social affair in the Philippines, foods was generally linked to gatherings and fantastic periods. He remembered that as he studied culinary arts at IUP Punxsutawney.

These days, soon after years of cooking, arranging menus and handling staff members at upscale dining places all-around the nation, such as the 4-star Peabody Lodge in Orlando, Florida, Orchids in Palm Courtroom in Cincinnati and Or the Whale and Hotel Monaco in Pittsburgh, Alvarez is hoping to inspire other folks in the kitchen though opening their eyes to other cultures.

Date nights

Very last November, the 36-12 months-old Beechview resident became the 1st chef to assistance create a culinary system at Sweetwater Centre for the Arts in Sewickley. He provides a variety of cultural cooking lessons for teens and older people numerous moments a week in the Wide Street kitchen area, like “date night” courses for couples, all with a single mission: to use food items as a medium of conversation and positive reinforcement for less than-represented Black and Brown communities.

Final month, he led a course on the meals of West Africa and their influence on Southern cuisine, with recipes from Nigeria, Morocco, Senegal and Ghana. He also hosted a class on American influences on the cuisines of Guam and Korea next Globe War II and the Korean War. During the three-hour class, students bought a short heritage lesson when mastering how to get ready Chamorro shrimp patties, Filipino leche flan and the Korean fusion stew budae-jiigae, which is designed with an intriguing and fiery mix of Spam, warm canines, kimchi, tofu, gochujang, ramen noodles and — wait around for it — American cheese.

“If you observed [these ingredients] in a friend’s pantry, you’d probably check with, ‘Are you Okay?’ or ‘Do you have to have funds for groceries?,’” he explained to college students as they went over the incredibly hot pot recipe also recognized as Military foundation stew. “You have just about every proper to be suspicious.”

The punchy stew is the delicious end result of Korean ingenuity and resourcefulness.

Foodstuff was scarce in Guam and Korea next the conflicts, Alvarez spelled out as the team went in excess of the ingredient list. Surplus rations from U.S. military services bases — procured by the two authorized and unlawful signifies — served persons endure, generally with shocking results. The blend of American substances with the regular flavors of Korean delicacies produced a dish so delicious and hearty, it before long distribute to cafe menus. Currently, budae-jiigae is 1 of Korea’s most beloved dishes.

Chamorro shrimp patties, which are created with the evaporated milk and frozen greens favored by U.S. sailors, have a comparable origin. An offshoot of the American fritter, they ended up born in submit-Environment War ll Guam.

“They were being remaining with all this stuff and this was an ingenious way to build a fried shrimp dish,” noted Alvarez.

Getting his area

Numerous culinary colleges concentration on traditional French and Italian methods, and cuisines from Southeast Asia and Africa are usually underrepresented. It can be difficult for chefs of coloration to make their voices listened to, or to get credit rating for their influences on America’s culinary traditions.

Even while Alvarez has experienced far more than a 10 years of expertise in the foodstuff industry — he’s been everything from a line cook dinner and banquet chef to sous chef and chef de cuisine — “you generally experienced to say, ‘Is my food items superior adequate?’”

He admits he built enjoyable of his Filipino heritage as a teen. It wasn’t until eventually he was in his 20s that he realized his people have been “cool” and Filipino food stuff is awesome.

“It finally clicked for me that the world is a big place and I can comprehend it far better via cooking and ingesting and appreciating other cultures.”

He bought a flavor of teaching at Gaynor’s School of Cooking in the South Aspect in the 2010s, and loved it, whilst he was a direct cook at the Terrace Cafe in the Omni William Penn Hotel.

Following doing the job as chef de delicacies at Michael’s Legitimate Foods and Consume in Cleveland, he returned to Pittsburgh final calendar year when his spouse, Heather, was provided a career in this article. Only then did Alvarez understand he could make a even bigger influence by educating lesser-identified cuisines to folks keen to improve their cultural recognition.

Sweetwater phone calls

Even though Sweetwater renovated its kitchen in 2012, it was utilised largely for birthday events and summer time courses for youngsters. So very last spring the board began inquiring: If culinary arts is element of its inventive eyesight, should not it be expanded to incorporate young people and older people?

Sweetwater board president Terri Tunick initially wanted him to do a fundraising sequence in the arts center’s up-to-date kitchen area. Alvarez explained to her he’d relatively run an full culinary application.

The cooking college is even now in its early levels, with small products and donated utensils and provides. But Alvarez extra than tends to make up for any deficiencies with his unbridled enthusiasm.

“I’ll be as daring as I can be,” he claimed. “It’s time to set all my encounter into a thing I’m passionate about.”

For grown ups and budding high university cooks, he has established a five-7 days curriculum centered on knife skills and essential cooking techniques. Culinary “date night” classes are geared toward partners seeking to find out a skill even though investing time together, and involve wine with the executed menu. Charges assortment from $75-$85 for a solitary class to $175 for couples.

Impending classes contain Food items of New Orleans on Feb. 16, and Foodstuff of Central America and the Caribbean on Feb. 18. In the latter, students will learn the history and planning of classic food items these kinds of as Puerto Rican mofongo (fried plantains), arroz con gandules (rice and pigeon peas) and Jamaican goat curry.

Long term classes will include a shout out to Thailand, India and other cuisines of Asian Pacific heritage. Alvarez also hopes to create pastry and baking lessons.

“What’s cool is we can be innovative, which is super interesting,” he said. “Let’s learn to cook dinner the globe collectively.”

Info: sweetwaterartcenter.org or 412-741-4405.


PG analyzed

These comfortable fried shrimp fritters are an island favored in Guam. They are served with finadene, an all-function peppery vinegar sauce whole of umami that is a staple of Chamorro delicacies.

For finadene

1 English cucumber, sliced

1/2 cup julienned white onions

6 ounces soy sauce

6 ounces vinegar

5 ounces white sugar

For shrimp patties

2 eggs

1 12-ounce can evaporated milk

2 cups all-function flour

2 teaspoons baking powder

2 teaspoons salt

1 teaspoon each garlic and onion powder

1/2 teaspoon Creole seasoning

2 pounds modest uncooked shrimp or medium shrimp, peeled, deveined and chopped into chunks

10-ounce bag frozen blended greens

Vegetable oil, for frying

Get ready finadene: In a bowl, stir alongside one another cucumbers, onion, soy sauce, vinegar and sugar right until very well mixed established aside.

Put together fritter batter: To the bowl of a foodstuff processor, insert eggs, evaporated milk, flour, baking powder, salt and spices. Blend until eventually smooth. (You can also mix batter by hand utilizing a whisk.)

Add shrimp and mixed veggies, combining properly.

Warmth oil in a massive frying pan or deep fryer to 350 levels. Drop shrimp batter by generous tablespoonfus (you can also use a 1-ounce ice cream scoop) into the very hot oil, and fry till golden brown and cooked through, about 6 minutes. Drain on paper towels. (Be sure to provide the oil back again to temperature between batches.(

Serve at room temperature, with finadene.

Serves 6 to 8.

— Chef Andrew Alvarez, Sweetwater Centre for the Arts


PG analyzed

Also identified as Military foundation stew, budae jjigae is a spicy fusion dish that incorporates American processed meats such as Spam and sizzling dogs into a kimchi-dependent Korean stew. It dates to the 1950s, when Koreans utilized surplus processed meats from U.S. armed forces bases to endure immediately after the Korean War.

You can come across rice cakes — chewy, oval-formed discs manufactured from pounded rice — in Asian grocery outlets these kinds of as Lotus Foodstuff in the Strip District following to dumpling wrappers.

7 ounces Spam, sliced 1/4 -inch thick

5.3 ounces Frankfurt sausages, sliced on the bias

9 ounces tofu, minimize into 1/2 -inch chunks

7 ounces Enoki mushroom, base reduce off and divided

7 ounces King oyster mushrooms, sliced

3.5 ounces shiitake mushrooms, sliced

4 ounces retailer-acquired or handmade kimchi, chopped

1 cup julienned white onion

2 tablespoons minced garlic

1 tablespoon minced ginger

1 tablespoon soy sauce

2 tablespoons gochujang (Korean sizzling pepper paste)

2 tablespoons white wine

32 ounces rooster stock, or additional to protect

1 package dried ramen noodles

1.8 ounces rice cakes, soaked

1 inexperienced onion, sliced

1 or 2 slices American cheese, sliced into strips

Layer every thing but inventory, ramen, rice cakes, green onion and American cheese artfully in a substantial, shallow pot. Include enough stock to cover, then carry to a boil over medium warmth and simmer for 8-10 minutes.

Add ramen noodles, rice cakes, environmentally friendly onion and cheese on major of the pot and cook for an more 2-3 minutes, till noodles are cooked.

Eliminate from warmth, and provide in warmed soup bowls.

Serves 8 to 10.

— Chef Andrew Alvarez, Sweetwater Middle for the Arts

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