Bakers Journal

FLIP trip

June 5, 2024
By Bakers Journal Staff

Centennial College students create menu inspired by journey to Spain

A group of students and instructors in Centennial College’s baking and pastry program took part in an exciting trip to the InterSICOP Conference in Madrid, Spain, in February. Photo: Carlo Lazzarino

A group of students and instructors in Centennial College’s baking and pastry program took part in an exciting trip to the InterSICOP Conference in Madrid, Spain, in February.

The industry event focused on bakery, pastry, ice cream, coffee and innovative equipment.

The Faculty-led International Program (FLIP) gives students a chance to represent Centennial College on the world stage and broaden their understanding of the food-service industry and see first hand the latest innovations in culinary equipment and machinery. Meneses saw an opportunity to attend the InterSICOP food trade show and Global Experiences internal helped them organize the trip.

Highlights include food tastings, a bean-to-bar chocolate experience with KAICAO, food stall/market tours, tourism and sightseeing activities, a day trip to Toledo, Spain, and professional networking opportunities.

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“Spain is an unbelievable country, rich with history, food and forward with their techniques and technology while also highlighting their local ingredients. Our baking students enjoyed every detail of the itinerary,” said Demi Meneses, chef professor of the Centennial’s baking and pastry arts program and Work Integrated Learning Coordinator.

Meneses described a bean-to-bar chocolate experience with KAICAO as the highlight of the trip and a relevant learning experience for the students. They engaged in a chocolate factory, delighted their senses, smelled and tasting the roasted cacao beans and engaged in learning a new technique of crystallizing chocolate.

The learning did not end there. On their return to Canada, students introduced their new innovative knowledge and developed a 10-course tasting menu that they served to family and friends at a gala event called Azulejos, which is Spanish for the small tiles they saw reflected in architecture and design throughout their journey.

“We thought this was a great opportunity to do a tasting menu as our work-integrated learning (WIL) opportunity,” Meneses said. Typically their Capstone projects could involve working in a restaurant or developing a menu. “We thought, let’s see if we can new techniques and new plating styles.”

A couple of students were experienced in culinary so that helped develop recipes. The evening took a couple of months to conceptualize and plan. Students were given assessments and ideas to guide them every week or so. 

Methods included tuilles, which are intricate custom stencils. One pastry mirrored a pastry with a flowery icon design seen on a day trip in Toledo. The young chefs were inspired by reds, oranges and pinks they experienced in Madrid (versus blue often seen in Barcelona).

Said Meneses: “They definitely gained a lot more skills in terms of research-based skills. Doing assessments every other week, looking up safety and precautions for the trip, locality of spices. In North America we are open to a lot of multiculturalism but for international students it might have been their first time.

“We went in February and researched what seasonal ingredients to look for while we’re there – fruits and vegetables – that we can incorporate into our menus.

“For the students, it was the first time coming up with a concept and executing it themselves. The first time they had to calculate the yield needed for 50 guests. Coming up with new innovative techniques based on what learned on Grande app. This took them out of their comfort zone. For example, they were familiar with paella and churros. After the trip they were asked to consider flans, seafood and pork.”

The menu included pistachio turron, saffron bread, chorizo flan, Basque cheesecake with saffron orange sorbet and almond-lace tuile, pintxos (snacks), paella valenciana, Arroz Con Leche [Mexican rice pudding] served with cherry coulis and puffed rice, and Azulejos Churros made using 70 per cent dark chocolate and date ganache.

Students made an exquisite Basque cheesecake with saffron orange sorbet and almond-lace tuile inspired by their time in Madrid. Photo: Carlo Lazzarino

“At the tasting event, we surprised students by asking them to explain their dishes to their family and friends. What was inspiration and what did you learn? On top of the thousand things they had to do that day, they took the microphone and explained how to eat their dishes.”

Rebecca Sheppard and Paulina Contreras were two of the participating students.

Said Sheppard: “My favourite memory was going to Cacao and the bean-to-bar experience we are got to go in the back in the kitchen and we walked through the entire process and got to make some of our own. Very cool to get that hands-on experience. One of our dishes was churros with chocolate sauce. 

“I was happy to get restaurant experience on the tasting night. I was telling people what to do and where to go. It was neat to take a leadership role.”

Contreras, who grew up in Chile, said: “At InterSICOP we had the opportunity to see the industry partners and real chefs. A lot of Spanish chefs who were celebrities were there. They interacted with us and taught techniques. I thought that was amazing to see..”

Both Sheppard and Contreras plan to continue careers in food. “We had a chocolate class during school in semester 3 so I really want to look into being a chocolatier,” Sheppard said. “I was a peer tutor and so I’d love to be a teacher.”

Contreras is working at a retail bakery in Toronto “I’ve been learning a lot. They do a lot of different baked goods.

“Back home baking is not seen as a profession. I saw this as my chance, in Canada where they take it seriously. I want to keep going and get experience as much as possible and maybe open a bakery of my own one day.”


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