Washburne Culinary students pair up with some of Chicago's top chefs

Behind the scenes at Taste of Chicago

July 10, 2012

(WBEZ/Niala Boodhoo)
Mexique's Carlos Gaytan works alongside Washburne student Etheline Chalmers.

Chef Carlos Gaytan is working on food that will be served at Taste of Chicago event. Tonight for his three-course meal, he’s starting with red wine poached beets, pumpkin-seed encrusted goat cheese cakes and a poblana vinagriette. His second course? 

"Short ribs with jicama glaze, we're going to incorporate some chipotle, orange, lime juice, so it’s like a bbq kind of sauce, and we’re finish it with a nice celery root slaw, so it’s more like very summer dish," Gaytan explained.

But Gaytan’s dishes for Taste of Chicago aren’t coming from his award-winning kitchen at Mexique. All of the festival food is being done by The Washburne Culinary Institute – the community college in Englewood.

Thirty students are prepping and serving the food for all the Celebrity Chef events this week.

Student Etheline Chalmers is just about to graduate. Cooking has always been a passion, so now she’s making it her second career. 

"Having an opportunity to work with a celebrity chef and for  consumption on such a grand scale, that’s amazing," said Chalmers, who left a corporate job at Walgreen to attend culinary school.

She turns to Gaytan to ask about prepping the thyme. He explains how he likes to just chop it lightly, leaving the leaves whole, to keep the oils inside the leaves intact while it cooks.

Gaytan is standing next to Chalmers as she preps some poblano chile rellenos.

"They have a lot of questions, nobody ever asked before," said Gaytan, who worked his way up through the ranks unti he opened Mexique. He said he likes that the Washburne students ask more questions than he usually gets from his professional staff.

Chalmers is already working at a catering company while she finishes up school. Her goal, though, is to open up her own business – like Gaytan.

"I have a culinary classmate – she and I are going to go into business together, so perhaps you’ll be hearing from us very soon," she said with a smile.

Tonight, Taste of Chicago’s Celebrity Chef de Jour begins - featuring food by Chef Gaytan – and Chalmer’s.