PITTSBURGH — Andrew Alvarez’s immigrant parents experienced significant requirements. From an early age, he knew they hoped a career in drugs or engineering would comply with his 2004 graduation from Quaker Valley Superior Faculty.
There was only just one challenge, and it was a biggie: Cooking is what essentially fired the Sewickley, Pennsylvania native’s creative juices.
“It just appealed to my standard mother nature, and just designed perception,” he said.
What truly ignited the flame was a yr-lengthy visit throughout fifth grade with his maternal grandparents in the Philippines, the place his Chinese mom grew up. His prolonged family’s conventional meals became a “comfort matter” for the 10-calendar year-old, and the several Asian cuisines and distinct ways of having “genuinely opened my eyes” to a entire world outside of the rapid-food items hamburgers, Italian-American pastas, Chinese buffets and Vocelli’s pizza he grew up on.
“My grandparents were being ‘Chinoys’ (Chinese-heritage Filipinos), so I experienced this benefit of becoming uncovered to both Filipino cuisines and Chinese delicacies,” he explained.
Mainly because meals are also a social affair in the Philippines, food was always related to gatherings and fantastic periods. He remembered that as he analyzed culinary arts at IUP Punxsutawney.
Right now, right after many years of cooking, arranging menus and running personnel at upscale eating places all-around the region, such as the 4-star Peabody Hotel in Orlando, Florida, Orchids in Palm Court in Cincinnati and Or the Whale and Lodge Monaco in Pittsburgh, Alvarez is hoping to inspire others in the kitchen when opening their eyes to other cultures.
Final November, the 36-yr-old Beechview resident became the initial chef to assistance build a culinary plan at Sweetwater Heart for the Arts in Sewickley. He offers a vary of cultural cooking courses for teenagers and adults numerous instances a 7 days in the Wide Avenue kitchen area, including “day night” lessons for couples, all with a one mission: to use foodstuff as a medium of conversation and optimistic reinforcement for below-represented Black and Brown communities.
Final month, he led a course on the foods of West Africa and their influence on Southern delicacies, with recipes from Nigeria, Morocco, Senegal and Ghana. He also hosted a class on American influences on the cuisines of Guam and Korea subsequent Environment War II and the Korean War. For the duration of the a few-hour course, students acquired a quick history lesson whilst understanding how to get ready Chamorro shrimp patties, Filipino leche flan and the Korean fusion stew budae-jiigae, which is made with an intriguing and fiery blend of Spam, warm puppies, kimchi, tofu, gochujang, ramen noodles and — hold out for it — American cheese.
“If you saw [these ingredients] in a friend’s pantry, you would possibly check with, ‘Are you Ok?’ or ‘Do you want money for groceries?,'” he instructed learners as they went more than the sizzling pot recipe also recognized as Military base stew. “You have each and every proper to be suspicious.”
The punchy stew is the delightful end result of Korean ingenuity and resourcefulness.
Food items was scarce in Guam and Korea adhering to the conflicts, Alvarez spelled out as the team went in excess of the ingredient listing. Surplus rations from U.S. navy bases — procured by each lawful and unlawful suggests — helped men and women survive, frequently with shocking effects. The mix of American elements with the regular flavors of Korean cuisine generated a dish so delicious and hearty, it soon spread to cafe menus. Currently, budae-jiigae is a single of Korea’s most beloved dishes.
Chamorro shrimp patties, which are produced with the evaporated milk and frozen veggies favored by U.S. sailors, have a very similar origin. An offshoot of the American fritter, they ended up born in article-Entire world War ll Guam.
“They were being still left with all this things and this was an ingenious way to develop a fried shrimp dish,” observed Alvarez.
Several culinary educational institutions focus on basic French and Italian approaches, and cuisines from Southeast Asia and Africa are generally underrepresented. It can be tricky for chefs of shade to make their voices read, or to get credit score for their influences on America’s culinary traditions.
Even however Alvarez has has much more than a ten years of experience in the food stuff business — he’s been almost everything from a line prepare dinner and banquet chef to sous chef and chef de delicacies — “you often had to say, ‘Is my food great plenty of?'”
He admits he produced exciting of his Filipino heritage as a teen. It wasn’t till he was in his 20s that he recognized his persons have been “interesting” and Filipino foodstuff is awesome.
“It finally clicked for me that the world is a large put and I can comprehend it improved via cooking and taking in and appreciating other cultures.”
He bought a style of teaching at Gaynor’s University of Cooking in the South Facet in the 2010s, and loved it, though he was a guide cook dinner at the Terrace Restaurant in the Omni William Penn Hotel.
After working as chef de cuisine at Michael’s Legitimate Food items and Drink in Cleveland, he returned to Pittsburgh final calendar year when his spouse, Heather, was offered a work here. Only then did Alvarez comprehend he could make a even bigger affect by educating lesser-recognized cuisines to persons keen to increase their cultural consciousness.
While Sweetwater renovated its kitchen in 2012, it was made use of generally for birthday parties and summertime lessons for children. So past spring the board started out inquiring: If culinary arts is portion of its artistic eyesight, shouldn’t it be expanded to incorporate youngsters and grownups?
Sweetwater board president Terri Tunick originally wished him to do a fundraising series in the arts center’s up-to-date kitchen. Alvarez told her he’d somewhat operate an full culinary plan.
The cooking university is continue to in its early phases, with minimal products and donated utensils and materials. But Alvarez more than would make up for any deficiencies with his unbridled enthusiasm.
“I am going to be as daring as I can be,” he said. “It can be time to put all my expertise into a little something I’m passionate about.”
For grown ups and budding substantial university cooks, he has established a 5-7 days curriculum focused on knife abilities and primary cooking approaches. Culinary “date night” courses are geared towards couples wanting to understand a ability even though paying time with each other, and consist of wine with the executed menu. Selling prices assortment from $75-$85 for a one class to $175 for couples.
Upcoming classes involve Foodstuff of New Orleans on Feb. 16, and Foods of Central The united states and the Caribbean on Feb. 18. In the latter, college students will understand the heritage and preparing of conventional food items these types of as Puerto Rican mofongo (fried plantains), arroz con gandules (rice and pigeon peas) and Jamaican goat curry.
Potential classes will contain a shout out to Thailand, India and other cuisines of Asian Pacific heritage. Alvarez also hopes to develop pastry and baking lessons.
“What’s great is we can be creative, which is tremendous enjoyable,” he mentioned. “Let us find out to cook dinner the entire world together.”
These smooth fried shrimp fritters are an island favorite in Guam. They are served with finadene, an all-intent peppery vinegar sauce complete of umami that is a staple of Chamorro cuisine.
1 English cucumber, sliced
1/2 cup julienned white onions
1 12-ounce can evaporated milk
2 teaspoons baking powder
1 teaspoon just about every garlic and onion powder
1/2 teaspoon Creole seasoning
2 kilos little uncooked shrimp or medium shrimp, peeled, deveined and chopped into chunks
10-ounce bag frozen combined greens
Vegetable oil, for frying
Get ready finadene: In a bowl, stir alongside one another cucumbers, onion, soy sauce, vinegar and sugar right up until effectively mixed set apart.
Put together fritter batter: To the bowl of a foodstuff processor, add eggs, evaporated milk, flour, baking powder, salt and spices. Mix until finally sleek. (You can also mix batter by hand using a whisk.)
Include shrimp and mixed greens, combining nicely.
Heat oil in a large frying pan or deep fryer to 350 degrees. Drop shrimp batter by generous tablespoonfus (you can also use a 1-ounce ice cream scoop) into the warm oil, and fry right up until golden brown and cooked through, about 6 minutes. Drain on paper towels. (Be confident to convey the oil back to temperature between batches.(
Serve at home temperature, with finadene.
— Chef Andrew Alvarez, Sweetwater Center for the Arts
Also acknowledged as Army foundation stew, budae jjigae is a spicy fusion dish that incorporates American processed meats these kinds of as Spam and sizzling dogs into a kimchi-centered Korean stew. It dates to the 1950s, when Koreans made use of surplus processed meats from U.S. armed forces bases to survive immediately after the Korean War.
You can find rice cakes — chewy, oval-formed discs manufactured from pounded rice — in Asian grocery stores this sort of as Lotus Foods 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, lower into 1/2 -inch chunks
7 ounces Enoki mushroom, foundation minimize off and separated
7 ounces King oyster mushrooms, sliced
3.5 ounces shiitake mushrooms, sliced
4 ounces shop-bought or do-it-yourself kimchi, chopped
1 cup julienned white onion
2 tablespoons minced garlic
1 tablespoon minced ginger
2 tablespoons gochujang (Korean warm pepper paste)
32 ounces rooster stock, or extra to address
1 package dried ramen noodles
1.8 ounces rice cakes, soaked
1 or 2 slices American cheese, sliced into strips
Layer anything but inventory, ramen, rice cakes, green onion and American cheese artfully in a substantial, shallow pot. Insert sufficient stock to deal with, then provide to a boil above medium heat and simmer for 8-10 minutes.
Insert ramen noodles, rice cakes, eco-friendly onion and cheese on best of the pot and prepare dinner for an more 2-3 minutes, till noodles are cooked.
Clear away from warmth, and serve in warmed soup bowls.
— Chef Andrew Alvarez, Sweetwater Middle for the Arts
(c)2023 the Pittsburgh Article-Gazette