USMEF-Mexico continued its effort to promote U.S. beef and pork with chefs and other foodservice professionals by holding a series of student trainings across 26 campuses of the Universidad del Valle de Mexico (UVM). Funding support for the training was provided by the Beef Checkoff Program, the Pork Checkoff and the USDA Market Access Program (MAP).
The training program, first developed in 2014 as a pilot program, is designed to educate future chefs, food service managers and menu planners about the quality, value and versatility of U.S. red meat. In the most recent training session, students were given an overview of the U.S. beef and pork industries, lessons on handling meat, guidance on muscle cuts and a number educational sessions on preparing and presenting beef and pork dishes.
Both USMEF staff and UVM educators have already seen results from the program.
“The first year, we did the chef student trainings at 12 campuses as a pilot program, and the top chef educator later told us that as the school year went on, it was so clear which students had taken our training,” said Julieta Hernandez, USMEF HRI manager in Mexico. “Following that first training, we got a call from the school’s director saying he wanted to implement the training this year, and at even more campuses. Other schools have been asking about the program, too.”
The training is set up in three stages, beginning with the U.S. industry overview. That initial portion of the course educates student chefs on steps that take place before any cut of meat reaches their kitchens: U.S. production, inspections and purchasing points.
Stage Two of the training provides students with knowledge of various cuts of beef and pork. The students learn how to break down primals and work with each cut. They are shown that meats can be used in a lot of different ways, and in a lot of different types of meals.
In the third and final stage, the student chefs get hands-on training. They learn about the parameters of meat cuts, thermometers and temperature, and seasonings.
“Mexicans tend to overcook pork, it’s a cultural thing,” Hernandez said. “In our student chef training, we cook the meat properly and then let the students taste it after it’s been properly cooked. That has really opened some eyes.”
Along those same lines, basics such as when to know when a beef steak is medium or medium rare is another aspect of the training.
At the end of the training, students are given cuts of meat to prepare, using the knowledge gained from the course. By that point, they have been taught to use a number of methods using a grill, a pan or an oven.
Hernandez believes that training students is a good way to promote U.S. meat and create a core of future generations who will be committed to the product.
“These students will be working in restaurants and hotels across Mexico, and they will be the ones selecting the menus,” she said. “Giving them insight to U.S. beef and pork, and a taste of it, is important to do now as they get ready for their careers.”