Cuenca Expat Magazine puts on a ¾ day cooking class each month where you can learn many tips for cooking in the high altitude of Cuenca. This month had nothing to do with cooking but learning how to make many delicious drinks.

If you are like most people, you have probably walked right past the San Isidro Instituto Superior next to Banco Pichincha on Avenida Solano without noticing it. 

The brainchild of Francisco Encalada, San Isidro has quickly gained a reputation for turning out some of the best and most innovative chefs found anywhere, not just in Cuenca. While traveling throughout the United States and Europe, Francisco noticed that in many places top chefs were acknowledged as stars in their own right. Such was not the case in Ecuador and many other Latin countries where chefs received little recognition, prestige or formal training. He studied how and where many well known chefs were trained and decided Cuenca offered a perfect setting to create the Ecuadorian equivalent of such famous schools as Le Cordon Bleu in Paris or the Culinary Institute of America in New York.

Francisco is not a chef. His background is in economics and business administration. He was, however, astute enough to recognize a need and develop a solution to meet that need. It took four years of paperwork before San Isidro Instituto Superior received full governmental approval to open its doors in 2009 as a culinary institute, the equivalent of a college for cooking.

Students attend classes four or five hours a day, five days a week, for two and a half years. In addition to their classroom education, students are required to gain work experience in the field.

Since San Isidro opened its doors, 104 students have graduated from the two and a half year program with a cer- tificate as a technologist in gastronomical and culinary arts. Another 320 students are currently undertaking studies at the institute. San Isidro employs 22 teachers and brings in guest lecturers from the USA, France and Mexico to enhance the learning experience for students. Since its inception the institute has been recognized nationally and internationally for its excellent training and has received prestigious awards including the Culinary Cup in Guayaquil, Culinary Cup of the Americas, Culture Alive (Peru), Roots of Ecuador Culinary Cup, and Culinary Cup La Fiesta in Cuenca.

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