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Diverse Culinary Traditions Celebrate Hispanic Heritage Beyond the Kitchen

Community |  9.14.2021

Celebrating diverse cultures and backgrounds is central to serving our people, our clients, and our customers. Hispanic Heritage Month, which spans September 15 to October 15, is the perfect opportunity to recognize the rich history and tradition of Hispanic and Latino culture in America.

In partnership with our Impacto Employee Resource Group (Impacto ERG), this month we’re focused on highlighting our Hispanic colleagues – and the fabulous food they create – while furthering our efforts to empower and equip our minority and diverse supply chain partners.

While Hispanic Heritage Month offers a platform for elevating our Hispanic community at Aramark, these efforts go far beyond 30 days. Read on to learn more about this month’s celebration and our ongoing initiatives.

Creating Space for Diverse Perspectives

Across every area of our business, from our frontline associates to our supply chain vendors, we look for ways to empower our Hispanic culinarians, colleagues and partners.

Aramark prioritizes initiatives that expand educational resources, promote mentorship, and foster business opportunities for our partners. Currently, we accomplish this through supply chain initiatives that are specifically designed to build capacity minority-owned businesses. Impacto members participate as mentors on various capacity building programs in collaboration with organizations like the Greater Philadelphia Hispanic Chamber of Commerce. Members of Impacto have also volunteered as Executive Coaches with multiple regional affiliates of the National Minority Supplier Development Council (NMSDC) which helps identify minority-owned suppliers, helping them scale and potentially integrate with Aramark’s supply chain.

“By empowering minority-owned suppliers, we help our local communities. We create a direct relationship between those suppliers, our organization, and subsequently our clients. And we strive to strengthen those links,” says Carlos Ramos, Vice President, International Controller and Impacto Co-Chair. So far, these supplier mentoring initiatives have reached over 50 local minority businesses and approximately half are Hispanic owned.

For Joel Hernandez, Mid-Atlantic Hospitality Enablement Manager and Impacto Co-chair, this representation and visibility is key to celebrating culture.

“Hispanic Heritage Month honors Hispanic people, of course, but it also allows us to appreciate Hispanic art, Hispanic history, and cuisine,” Hernandez says. “It provides us a public platform to share that with everyone, that we’re dining the Hispanic way and having fun the Hispanic way.”

Meet a Few of Our Chefs

Our ongoing Chef Spotlight series captures a snapshot of the immense talent across our dining portfolio, and for this month, we share the stories of inspiring culinarians who have Hispanic backgrounds. The series offers a stage for education, immersing readers in their traditions.

Chefs from across the country submitted their favorite recipes for consideration, and several of their creations will be available for guests at select locations throughout Hispanic Heritage Month. Their recipes are a testament to the wide variety of flavorful and colorful dishes across Hispanic cuisines, as foods in South America are vastly different than those of Central America or the Caribbean.

“Hispanic recipes tell the stories of the places where they originated. There is a reason why corn is a staple in Mexico and Central America, and why plantains are in the Caribbean,” says Ramos. "Chef Spotlight allows us to educate ourselves about the story of the cuisine and the story of the chef. That opens a whole world out there in terms of sharing our identities."

Executive Chef Alicia Rivera’s Puerto Rican Alcapurria

Executive Chef Alicia Rivera was born in Seoul, Korea, and grew up in Rio Piedras, Puerto Rico. She and her brother were raised mostly by their grandparents, while her father traveled with the military. Alicia was introduced to cooking by her family prepare meals together, and always loved making her Dad’s favorite dish, alacapurria. In college, she pursued a culinary arts and a business management degree, and has never looked back. Today, she’s a chef working with the local school district in Lewisville, Texas.

“With perseverance and devotion, I have been growing for over 20 years in the culinary trade,” Rivera says. “I’ve been reaching my dreams one step at a time.”

Now, she passes on this love for her culture and cuisine by sharing recipes over cross-country family Zooms – including her technique for traditional Puerto Rican alcapurria, fritters stuffed with meat. At Aramark, she believes the food she serves is an extension of herself.

Chef Alicia Rivera finds innovative ways to pass on her cultural culinary traditions.

 

Senior Executive Chef Stacy Campos’ Cuban Bistec Empanizado  

Senior Executive Chef Stacy Campos is proud to be a Hispanic woman representing a minority demographic in her industry. She grew up cooking with her Cuban grandmother and entered culinary school with hopes of mastering the secrets of the island’s cuisine. From there, she was inspired to travel around the world and learn more about international cultures, cooking techniques, and styles. Today, she works with a large healthcare facility in Houston, Texas. She infuses international flavors into her dishes at every chance she gets, and her traditional Bistec Empanizado is no exception. The breaded sirloin steak is a very popular Cuban dish often served with white rice, lime wedges, and beans.

“Women and minorities are sometimes underrepresented – especially in the culinary world,” Campos says. “But that is why our presence is so vital to this community. There are so many amazing food experiences to have from other cultures – so why not share the beauty of your home?”

Chef Stacy Campos works to empower underrepresented culinarians.

Chef Ruben Rivero’s Uruguayan Potato Gnocchi with Chicken

Ruben Rivero is on our culinary team based in Albuquerque, New Mexico. Ruben is originally from Montevideo, Uruguay, and his love for cooking (and submission of this dish) ties into one of his favorite Uruguayan legends, called “Ñoquis de papa.”

The legend describes how an Italian farmer, living in Uruguay, saw how his laborers made little money due to low wages. He invited them to dinner, where he served gnocchi and placed enough money under each of their plates to last them the rest of the month. Now, on the 29th of the month in every house in Uruguay, people eat gnocchi with a coin under their plates as a sign of prosperity for the coming month. Rivero’s potato gnocchi with chicken is inspired by this tradition.

In the early 2000s, Ruben arrived in the U.S., where he found work busing tables and washing dishes. He fell in love with the rich Hispanic-American community and climbed the ranks in the kitchen. Some of the most memorable moments in his career have been working with different chefs who not only taught him to cook but also to respect each dish and each ingredient according to its corresponding nationality.

“I aim to take advantage of every opportunity for Hispanics to share our cultures through food. In a dish we can show a little of who we are and where we come from,” Ruben says. “Hispanic gastronomy is quite rich; I think it is so important that we share our roots with others.”

Ruben Rivero finds beauty in the diversity of Hispanic culinary world.

Authenticity as the Path to Professional Success

We believe the best way to create a diverse and inclusive workplace is to celebrate people as individuals, making space for them to unite their talents, passions, and personal stories with their professional motivations.

“Every person should have a voice at work and should feel free to celebrate their history. We’re taking that principle and putting it into action,” Ramos says.

This Hispanic Heritage Month – and long into the future – we strive to ensure the next generation of chefs is empowered to share their journeys, too.