WKU faculty and staff get ‘taste of Ecuador’

Aramark head chef Gilbert Holt hands out fried Llapingachos to WKU Public Affairs employees Heather Garcia and Marcus Dukes during the Cooking with Chef Gilbert Holt: Ecuadorian Cuisine class in the Fresh Cupola room Tuesday. The class is a part of the International Year of Ecuador Program here at WKU. (Luke Franke/Herald)

Nicole Ares

The smells of savory soups wafted through the room. The warmth circulated throughout. The potatoes, cheese and spices created an atmosphere of comfort food. 

Faculty and staff opened their taste buds to authentic Ecuadorian food during the International Year Of event, Cooking with Chef Holt: Ecuadorian Cuisine, on Tuesday night in Downing Student Union’s Cupola room.  

The special for the evening was llapingachos, a thick potato cake stuffed with cheese and cooked until crisp. Aramark Head Chef Gilbert Holt also had locros de papas— a cheesy potato soup and a staple Ecuadorian dish— ready for tasting. 

This is Holt’s 15th year working for WKU. Last year, he traveled to Ecuador to cook and said the experience was “eye opening” and that he wants others to share in this country’s great cuisine. 

WKU partnered with Ecuador for its inaugural International Year Of program to promote cultural interconnectedness through celebration and partnership. As a part of the program, WKU hosted a series of events that give students and faculty the opportunity to immerse themselves in Ecuadorian culture. 

Andrea ‘Addie’ Cheney, assistant director for international programs, said the IYO program “is an opportunity for students and faculty to get to know these countries, without actually having to travel there.”

Sonia Lenk, Ecuadorian native and associate professor in the Modern Languages department, said she attended the event because she takes pride in her country and also needed a few cooking tips.

“I grew up in Ecuador, but whenever someone asks me to cook authentic food, I feel really embarrassed that I don’t know how to cook my country’s food,” Lenk said. 

Lenk and 22 other faculty and staff were given opportunity to learn Ecuadorian recipes during Holt’s presentation. During the demonstration, Holt explained that one of the ingredients— the achiote paste— doubled in Ecuador as face paint. 

“I definitely think I will go home and make the achiote sauce,” Alison Youngblood, assistant professor of English said. “It was flavorful and excellent.” 

At the end of the event, Cheney reinforced to the crowd that the International Year of Ecuador is not over.

“There is still food to be had and coffee to be drank,” she said.