Pablo Gutierrez and Chef Fatima Perez share their knowledge of mushrooms and Spanish cuisine to guests in the MacKay food labs.
Pablo Gutierrez and Chef Fatima Perez share their knowledge of mushrooms and Spanish cuisine to guests in the MacKay food labs.

Spanish guests experience Midwest food and culture at ISU

Faculty and students in FSHN welcomed guests from Spain to Iowa for an experience in Midwest food and culture. Chef Fatima Perez Andres and Pablo Gutierrez visited Iowa State January 28-31, 2013 as part of an exchange partnership between Iowa State, Indian Hills Community College, and the International School of Culinary Arts, Valladolid, Spain.

In summer 2012, almost 20 students and faculty from ISU and Indian Hills traveled to Valladolid to learn about the Spanish food industry and learn the latest culinary techniques from local chefs on a 15 – day study abroad trip. “A chef and student from Valladolid who worked with our students in Spain are invited to Iowa to experience food and culture of the Midwest,” said Erica Beirman, culinary science coordinator.

“We try to make their experience unique based on their interests,” she continued. Part of the schedule for Chef Fatima and Pablo included a presentation to students. Chef Fatima is an expert in mushrooms and shared with the crowd in the Mackay food labs various types of mushrooms, where they grow, and how she uses them in Spanish cooking. Pablo and volunteers from the audience then made a traditional Tortilla Espanola for the group of more than 30 who showed up to hear the presentation.

“Tortilla Espanola is commonly made across Spain,” said Linda Svendsen, Sr. lecturer; “each family makes it their own special way.” She explained the dish is made of potatoes, onions, and eggs, and is made into the shape of a pancake.

Also during the visit, Chef Fatima and Pablo had lunch at a residential dining center - Season’s on the ISU campus, and  visited the University Compost Facility, as well as the ISU Dairy Farm. They also had plans to visit the Midwest Grape and Wine Industry Institute. Beirman noted that Pablo is very interested in wine and this was a fun opportunity to interact with wine experts in the Midwest and learn their challenges as well as successes.

Unplanned on the trip was experiencing a Midwest winter storm. Chef Fatima was staying with Svendsen, visiting a farm, and stayed an extra day in the snow due to bad roads. Though it wasn’t on the itinerary, Svendsen said everyone made the best of it and enjoyed the additional time to interact and share stories of their different experiences.

This summer, 5 students will be making the journey to Spain with Svendsen. Those students will begin a half-semester class before they depart to prepare them for the experience.