Student Programs welcomed a rare opportunity for cross-cultural exchange during its recent Culinary Skills Training Program, held earlier this month.

Chef José Luis Aranda Puente, from the Instituto Technológico y de Estudios Superiores de Monterrey, in Monterrey, Mexico, traveled to Virginia Tech to participate in the two-phase training program, which is led by Chad Tyler Brodkin, executive chef of Personal Touch Catering. The goal of the Culinary Skills Training Program is to inspire Virginia Tech culinary staff members through progressive training sessions designed to help them advance in the foodservice industry.

The Culinary Skills Training Program was created 10 years ago, and is open to Student Programs staff members who prepare food in on-campus dining centers. The courses are also available to Housing and Dining Services operations managers. Participants meet in day-long sessions five days a week for both the intermediate- and advanced-level courses, and learn everything from knife skills to specialized cooking techniques. The course features chef demonstrations, hands-on skill-oriented lessons, and video instruction provided by the Culinary Institute of America.

During his stay here, Aranda Puente conducted demonstrations on preparing traditional Mexican recipes, such as chilaquiles and chicken with mole sauce. Class participants prepared the Mexican foods highlighted in Aranda Puente’s demonstration for a special luncheon held the last day of the course. Guests included Brenda Dehoyos, a Monterrey Tec employee participating in the Global Citizen Partnership Program (a leadership and community development exchange program); Maj. Gen. Jerrold Allen, commandant of cadets for the Virginia Tech Corps of Cadets; and guests from the Virginia Tech Service-Learning Center.

Aranda Puente also had an opportunity to tour the various campus dining facilities. He was particularly interested in the centralized production operation at Southgate Food Center and the state-of-the-art marché-style serving stations in D2 and West End Market, according to translator Nancy Becerra-Cordoba, who is an urban affairs and planning doctoral student at Virginia Tech.

As the chef in charge of the Monterrey campus’ 14 dining centers, Aranda Puente said he plans to remodel some of them according to the marché style in the near future. He also shared his plans to invite Brodkin and other Student Programs chefs to a similar culinary seminar at Monterrey Tec.

Both Brodkin and Aranda Puente are pleased with the concept, execution, and style of the culinary training program, and grateful that the cross-cultural collaboration worked out so well.

“The whole week went smoothly, and this has been a rewarding experience for everyone involved,” Brodkin said. “It has been a great opportunity to learn from each other and share ideas from another culture.”

For more information about Housing and Dining Services and the dining program at Virginia Tech, visit the Student Programs website.

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