Last week, the Culinary Institute of America, San Antonio hosted its First Annual Symposium on Latin Cuisines, Cultures, and Exchange. Aptly titled “Latin Flavors, American Kitchens,” the invitation-only event brought together food authorities and food-service trendsetters in an effort to advance the future of Latin American culinary talent and Latin-rooted flavors. The passion for the subject was evidenced at every turn — from the rousing talk by Rick Bayless about promoting authentic Mexican dishes to the orgasmic street-food lunch including Peruvian Lamb Skewers Marinated in Aji Panca. In one magical moment, we watched Abigail Mendoza Ruiz, the famed Oaxacan restaurateur, on her hands and knees using a metate to grind toasted corn for a traditional maize mole. It is cooks like this — who put so much of their heart and soul into the dishes they create — who truly elevate food from a craft to an art. With the Latin-American population in the U.S. projected to increase 188 percent over the next 40 years, it is exciting that the CIA chose San Antonio as its home base for what will become an increasingly powerful force in the way all Americans think about food. Seriously, we should all be proud.

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