The CIA's New Tex-Mex Campus

Robert Del Grande at the grill
At the Culinary Institute of America (CIA) ribbon cutting ceremony in San Antonio on Saturday, the “ribbon” was a string of chiles. That’s because the San Antonio CIA is dedicated to Latin American cooking. Among the amazing facilities at this cooking school is an outdoor grilling pavillion and a built-in underground pit for making such exotic buried barbacoa styles as Chilean curanto and Peruvian pachamanca

Before the grand opening, the CIA held its annual Latin Flavors Symposium. Chefs from Latin-American restaurants in the U.S. and from all over Latin America gathered to demonstrate their unique cooking ideas. The only Texan chef was Houston’s Robert Del Grande. There were some clashes about the wisdom of including Tex-Mex in future symposiums. Chef Ricardo Munoz from Mexico City stated that Tex-Mex was just a mish-mash of Mexican cooking and not worth studying. There were many opinions to the contrary.

Cooking a whole lamb over the coals

The original CIA campus in Hyde Park, New York is influenced by the New York fine dining scene. The CIA Greystone Campus in Napa, California provides CIA Greystone students with lots of opportunities to learn about food and wine. The CIA campus in San Antonio was built to advance the study of Latin American cooking–but no effort was made to take advantage of the local resources in San Antonio.

I hope that at next year’s Latin Flavors conference we see Tejano cooks demonstrating cabrito al pastor and pit barbacoa alongside their counterparts from the rest of Latin America.

5 thoughts on “The CIA's New Tex-Mex Campus

  1. Rick bayless

    Hi Rob. Sorry we never crossed paths after that night at Il Sogno. I wanted to catch up. Anyway, just know that I’m fighting for Texas and New Mexican cooks to be represented at the conference. We’ll be in touch about next year’s roster.

  2. robbwalsh Post author

    Thanks Rick!

    As you said at your cooking demo on Saturday, the San Antonio CIA campus is an amazing opportunity for Latin American chefs to learn from each other.

    With your support, I am sure Tejanos and other Mexican-Americans will get invited to the party next time!

  3. Matt

    I’m hoping for more Tex Mex representation to be included! I find it surprising that in this day and age some people still view it as a mish-mash. Here’s to the future!

  4. J.C. Reid

    If the CIA wants to espouse a strict, sanitized version of Latin American cuisine, why did they choose San Antonio? Dallas would have been a better choice! 🙂

    Seriously, this would seem to be an untenable situation and I’m sure we’ll see Tejano and Tex-Mex influences in future symposiums.

  5. Ed Tijerina

    There’s no doubt the cuisine of Texas and Northern Mexico will be included in future CIA symposia, but it may be a while. Unfortunately Tex-Mex cuisine struggles for legitimacy on both sides of the border. Many chefs from the interior of Mexico are tired of hearing Tex-Mex portrayed as “Mexican” cuisine and are justifiably defensive, while many Americans think they have to choose between the two.

    I try to describe Tex-Mex as foods that developed from Mexican migrants (such as my grandparents) who used what they could find to make the foods they loved. An American cuisine with Mexican roots — maybe that’s the way forward.

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