My wife Michele and I had an unbelievably enchanted experience last Thursday evening when we joined seven exceptionally fortunate individuals for one of the monthly Community Culinary Events presented by the Carlos Rosario International Public Charter School. Picture this: you enter the spectacular Sonia Gutierrez Campus of Carlos Rosario PCS that I wrote about when it opened towards the end of 2013. Then you progress up to the third floor which houses the school’s Culinary Institute. Your eyes are immediately taken by the long corridor whose massive plate glass windows allow you gaze directly into the spacious stainless steel kitchens where you observe the frenetic activity of the students learning to prepare restaurant quality meals. We are ushered into an adjacent intimate room, The Bistro, with just enough seats at a dining table for 10 people. Sebastien Lamerre, the charter’s Culinary Arts Academy director, is our host for the night.
At each setting is a menu with the four course meal that is about to be presented.
Cactus Pad Salad, Fish Salpicon & Roasted Poblano with Mushroom & Corn
Joining us are guests Christopher Britton, president National Capital Chef’s Association; Eric Gomes, talent acquisition manager ThinkFoodGroup; and Ino Okoawo, owner Education Compliance Associates. From the school, in addition to Mr. Lamerre, are Benjamin Velasquez, food service director; Dr. Ryan Monroe, chief academic officer; Patricio Sanchez, director of accountability; and Mandy Toomey, communications manager. Anticipating the reason we were all assembled in one place meant that everyone was in an exceptionally good mood.
Fish & Shrimp Ceviche with Green Plantain Chip
We learn from Mr. Lamerre that the Culinary Program currently has 98 students enrolled, most of whom will enroll for two years. At the end of that period they will receive certifications in Culinary Arts Fundamentals, International Cuisine, Baking and Pastry, and Servsafe, which focuses on instructing the proper handling of food. The tidbits prepared for us today are from the Baking and Pastry class taught by Chef Mariano Romos.
Seared Port Loin with Adobo Sauce
At the beginning of each course the approximately 12 pupils enter the room to remove the uniformly empty plates and then they return with the next delicacy. The student responsible for the new dish provides a short introduction as to what we are about to eat and the individual’s country of origin. Mr. Velasques explains that about 70 percent of the chefs in training are already working in the restaurant industry. They come to the award-winning Carlos Rosario because they know they need to formalize the skills they learned on the job, and recognize that they cannot really progress unless they learn English. Many are in in fact somehow miraculously balancing two paid positions, studying, and raising young families. They attend the charter in either the morning or evening tract.
Crème Brulee, Chocolate Mousee & Biscotti
To say we are impressed is the understatement of the century. Michele and I agree that we have never tasted anything as fine. The group collectively feels like we have been to a five-star restaurant. Mr. Gomes is practically ready to sign up these stars up for one of Jose Andres’ many establishments. It is of course, extremely good that he is here. Several of these scholars need places to intern, and eventual employment, once they complete the classes of Carlos Rosario. It looks like they will have no problem finding a location in which to practice their craft.