Quinoa Festival Brings Tastes of Peru to Kennesaw

Country’s most celebrated chef and revered ancient grain showcased KENNESAW, Ga. (Nov. 10,…

Georgia (Nov 9, 2015)

Country’s most celebrated chef and revered ancient grain showcased

KENNESAW, Ga. (Nov. 10, 2015) A Quinoa Festival Nov. 5 at Kennesaw State’s Commons dining facility provided Peruvian Master Chef Flavio Solorzano the perfect stage to demonstrate why he has achieved rock-star status and share his passion for preparing authentic regional dishes, especially those made with the 5,000-year-old Andean quinoa grain.

Organized by the University’s Division of Global Affairs and the Consul General of Peru, and sponsored by Delta Airlines and Global Atlanta, the festival drew an international audience, including members of the Atlanta-based diplomatic corps, with consuls general representing Argentina, Guatemala, El Salvador, Honduras, and Nigeria. The event was the latest in a series of partnerships between Kennesaw State and the Peruvian consulate that began during the University’s Year of Peru in 2011-2012.

Even with the unprecedented diplomatic representation, an overflow audience of some 300 enthusiastic students and community guests, Solorzano was the event’s center of gravity.

In Peru, the chef hosts a popular television cooking show, is head chef at his popular, upscale El Señorío de Sulco restaurant in Lima, and is one of the founders of Mistura, the largest food festival in Latin America. He also creates entrees served to first-class passengers aboard various airlines.

For Kennesaw State’s Quinoa Festival, Solorzano partnered with The Commons’ chefs to create Peruvian dishes featuring quinoa, a grain cultivated in the Andes Mountains that has become a staple in vegetarian cooking around the globe. A tasting served at The Commons’ Globetrotter international cuisine counter during lunch hours featured his quinoa burgers and quinoa topped with cheese. That was followed buy a two-hour public show, during which Solorzano demonstrated his mastery while preparing a full-course menu.  

“There are over 3,000 varieties of quinoa in Peru,” Solorzano explained, holding aloft a book titled “Ayara: Madre Quinoa” that he wrote in 2013 to hail the virtues and varieties of the grain. He has searched throughout the country to uncover types of quinoa and the many ways local people use it in everyday cooking. “When I first started studying quinoa, 98 percent of the pages I found were in English and only 2 percent were in Spanish. Even though we domesticated it [over five centuries ago], only now are we trying to recover the cuisine around quinoa.”

But he didn’t come to lecture, Solorzano assured. The proof, he said, would be in the tasting. 

In the first step in the chef’s preparation of ceviche de quinoa caliente — the first of the four recipes he demonstrated — the aroma of caramelizing onions, garlic, chili peppers and other spices wafted through the demonstration area. In the 20 minutes it took to complete the dish, Solorzano, with the help of assistants, chopped and diced the onions, tomatoes and rocoto peppers that would be cooked with spices, salt, oil and lime juice to create chalaca, a perfect topping for his signature dish.

The chef also described his exhaustive search for a native, plant-based food to make milk for his dessert — a rich quinoa cake made of black quinoa, cacao, vanilla, brown sugar, oil, butter, baking powder, salt and eggs. 

Most Peruvians today cook with cow’s milk, said Solorzano, who strives to create food that is as authentically Peruvian as possible. He explained that cows were not indigenous to Peru, but were brought in by the Spanish. Near the base of Peru’s Lake Titicaca, he found a white, almost translucent quinoa, which he ground, blended at high speed with hot water and coconut oil and strained to make a creamy, white milk whose texture and character when cooked is very similar to cow’s milk.

For his finale, Solorzano demonstrated his only non-quinoa dish, lomo saltado (salted beef), an homage to the Oriental influence prevalent in the cuisines of Peru, which has become increasingly known for its food culture.

This year, three Peruvian restaurants made it to William Reed Business Media’s The World’s 50 Best Restaurants list. Peru’s Consul General Miguel Alemán-Urteaga says Solorzano was chosen to headline the Quinoa Festival because of his role in Peru’s recent “gastronomic revolution.”

“Quinoa is the best example of Peruvian cuisine,” said Alemán-Urteaga, one of the festival’s chief architects. “It has a legacy of introducing Peruvians to the world. The importance of quinoa was acknowledged by the United Nations when it declared 2013 as the ‘International Year of Quinoa.’”

Lissette Davila, a Peruvian native who studied at Kennesaw State as an undergrad before earning her executive MBA in 2012, agrees. She said it was exciting to see her home country gaining recognition for one of its most unique contributions to culinary culture.

“In Peru, our food is one of our most important assets we have as a country,” she said. “To be able to educate the world about our cuisine is very important. It’s one of our top tourist attractions.”

Daniel Paracka, Kennesaw State’s director of campus internationalization and a festival organizer, said the event was designed to be an entertaining, interactive way to get students and other guests to engage with another culture.

“We are working at Kennesaw State to make sure that all students appreciate and understand the global context that we live in today,” he said.

For Ian Resic, a first-year student who hopes to major in international affairs, it was all about the food. He said he decided to stay for the demonstration after tasting Solorzano's quinoa burgers.

“It was very good,” said Resic. “I never thought I’d like a burger made with anything other than beef. I heard somebody say he would be cooking more food, so I went to class and came back.  It was so worth it.”

Solorzano said his experience at Kennesaw State’s Quinoa Festival was “a highlight of my career.”

He added: “Cooking and teaching others how to cook in a respectful and environmentally friendly manner is what I do for a living. I am very impressed by what I have experienced at KSU; it’s one of the best universities I have been to in all my travels. The students are enthusiastic about their courses, which aim to connect food preparation to culture. Teaching them about quinoa and other Peruvian staples and sharing cooking techniques with them was a joy.”

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 —Sabbaye McGriff and Patrick Harbin

Photo by David Caselli

 

 

Division of Global Affairs


 

A leader in innovative teaching and learning, Kennesaw State University offers more than 150 undergraduate, graduate and doctoral degrees to its more than 41,000 students. With 11 colleges on two metro Atlanta campuses, Kennesaw State is a member of the University System of Georgia and the second-largest university in the state. The university’s vibrant campus culture, diverse population, strong global ties and entrepreneurial spirit draw students from throughout the region and from 126 countries across the globe. Kennesaw State is a Carnegie-designated doctoral research institution (R2), placing it among an elite group of only 6 percent of U.S. colleges and universities with an R1 or R2 status. For more information, visit kennesaw.edu

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