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Ecuadorian Chef Masters Kitchen Karate
by Hernando Diosa/ La Voz Hispana | Sep 7, 2012 11:37 am
Posted to: Arts & Entertainment, Food, La Voz Hispana
This article originally appeared in La Voz Hispana. It was translated from the Spanish by Gilah Benson-Tilsen.
The hands of the young professor, Fidel Sanchez Carvajal, are a source of surprises for those who do not know him. At times, he employs them forcefully to defend himself from his opponents, as he is a karate champion in Ecuador; on other occasions, they are dedicated to producing culinary art, forming amazing figures and creating masterly decorations in fruits and vegetables for restaurants, conventions, and academic theses.
In our newsroom sat this master chef of international cuisine, who had recently arrived for a visit and seized the chance to share with us his genius and talent, sculpting into a watermelon the figure of a beautiful fish, the name of our newspaper and a small and colorful flower. All of us who saw him work were left impressed by his art, which is on another level. That was what moved us to feature him.
“Where were you born?”
I was born in the province of Esmereldas, in the canton of Quinende, although I was raised in Puerto Rico, where I spent my childhood and began my life as a student, up until college.
“How did those artistic urges first arise in Sanchez Carvajal?”
The art was born in me mainly through inspiration from my parents. My mother, Cecilia Carvajal, is a painter and does some work with her hands, and my father, Alberto Sanchez, was a man dedicated to creating wooden sculptures. When I was still young, I went to the capitol, Quito, to study tourism and other subjects, while continuing to practice my favorite sport, which is karate. It was there that I began to feel a love for cuisine. And since within cuisine there are something like 500 specializations – such as Garde Manger, pastry chef, hot kitchen, cold, and more – in the end I chose fruit art, which is something impressive and grand.
“And you studied all of that there?”
No. In the capitol I studied at the University of Tourism Specialties (UCT), and then received a scholarship to go to France – where my mother was living – to enroll in the best school of cooking in the world, “Le Cordon Bleu.” After a year there, I went back to Puerto Rico, because I have always believed in my country. Also, I had complete confidence that I would be able to succeed when I returned, and I wasn’t mistaken; today I’m a teacher at the Superior Polytechnic School of Chimborazo (ESPOCH), in Ecuador, where I teach something which in the curriculum is called Elective 1. There I impart what I call Art in Fruit. And I also teach Practice 3, which relates to sculptures of candy, chocolate, icing, marzipan, etc.
“Can you remember your first experiment in your field?”
My first work was realized in a carrot that I carved with one of my professors. Then I was looking for other challenges, until I was creating – for example – a flower, a swan, and later, other more complex objects. It’s the case that, when one loves something, one keeps going until one gets results. So much so, that I learned to do candy blowing, which is another technique that is applied combining refined sugar, glucose, glycerin and additional components. For this, special implements are required, just as in the case of fruit art, and attention must be paid to weather and temperature.
“So, do you think that as a master chef, you must know how to cook dishes typical of your land?”
I cook some very distinctive dishes, but not really all of them. For me decoration is a challenge, because there I do everything and I create. I always think that the decoration that was done yesterday, need not be the same as that of today. In this way, if a client asks me for a piece, I always change something. That’s my mark.
“Sanchez Carvajal, I see that you’re very imaginative, and very recursive in your works.”
I imagine, I create, and while I do this, I am paying attention to the place I’m in and the type of client I have in mind. In this way I begin to work. Or should I say, how you do things is how you sell yourself.
“And how do the fruits differ when you’re working with them?”
Well, all are different for decorating. If we’re talking about a melon, this depends on the clemency of the weather, because if there’s much humidity, you finish it losing quickly. That also happens with the papaya, although that has the advantage that its content is 95% water; in contrast, melon is 99.9%. One of the disadvantages in this latter case is that we’re practically working only with water.
“With these credentials that you mention, surely you must have competed in your field?”
Of course. I have been in local competitions and on the national level, but today I no longer participate in my home country because I’m part of an organization called “Chef 4x4”, which is a Brazilian franchise, for which I am the representative in Ecuador. It’s a somewhat large corporation, and I manage it jointly with Fernando Jacome, another master chef like me, and who specializes in Argentina. We two put an emphasis on the idea that this is a fraternity, and for this reason we try to take better advantage of and meld the knowledge of each. In this way, we sometimes hire chefs who come from our country and support us with their knowledge and ideas. Thus, we achieve a blending and combining of Ecuadorian cuisine with American, French, or of other places. In one of these experiences we met a chef specializing in Asia, named Alexis Torres, and who works in the Marriot Hotel, there in my home country. He, in place of using the seaweed that’s used to wrap sushi, instead wraps it with leaves of chard or lettuce. This is good, because we are inventing with what we have at hand. It is in this manner that we intend that Ecuadorian food will be converted into a universal heritage, much like what Mexico, Peru and France have done. The food of Andean countries is what we must rescue in this way. And it’s not that we don’t have anything to work with: just that sometimes – with all that we have – we restrict ourselves to only doing certain things. Nevertheless, when we go abroad, that is when we learn to value what we have.
Master chef Fidel Sanchez Carvajal will be exhibiting his art this coming Sunday, the 2nd of September, in “La Bamba Restaurant,” on Main Street in East Haven, CT. The following week, on Saturday, September 8th, the public can admire his genius and talent for cooking in the Bistro Mediterranean & Tapas Bar, at 383 Main Street, East Haven, CT.
His website is: www.chefs4x4.com.
If you want more information about the activities of this Ecuadorian master chef in Connecticut, please contact Dixon Jimenez at (203) 619-2907.
Article translated by Gilah Benson Tilsen.
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