From Colombia to the Caf: Sodexo welcomes visiting chef Wilson Sierra

Over fall break, William and Mary Dining Services welcomed chefs from all across the world as a part of the Global Chef Program training.

Sodexo runs the Global Chef Program to offer their top chefs an opportunity to travel to different countries and college campuses to share authentic international cuisine with students and staff.

One of the chefs participating in this year’s month-long international residency program is Colombian Chef Wilson Sierra. A native of Bogota, Chef Sierra studied culinary arts at the National Service of Learning.

“My passion for cooking came from my mother,” Sierra said, as translated by Faiber Carrillo. “When I was a child, I prepared my breakfasts and just fell in love with it.”

Early in his career, Sierra interned at the Hotel Bogota Royal and a number of other hotels in Colombia. He joined the Sodexo team 17 years ago as a contract executive chef in their Bogota branch’s educational division.

Sierra had been hoping to participate in the Global Chef Program for several years. He said that the program is the best way to meet other chefs, exchange knowledge of food cultures and learn new techniques.

Chef Sierra will be serving dinner at Sadler Thursday, Oct. 27 and at Chancellor’s Bistro in  the Commons Dining Hall Friday, Oct. 28. The menu consists of several dishes representative of Colombian culture, such as Ajiaco Santafereno and Bandeja Paisa. Ajiaco Santafereno is a soup prepared from three different types of potatoes, chicken, corn, avocado, capers and heavy cream, and is Sierra’s favorite dish to prepare.

“It’s a dish that’s native to my region, and it’s very popular in Colombia,” Sierra said. “But my favorite dish to eat is mixed rice with vegetables and meat. I just love it.”

Also featured on the menu is Ceviche de Pulpo (baby octopus ceviche), Parrillada (barbecue from the Sabana), Lomo al Trapo (salt-wrapped beef), and Bananitos Flambee en Salsa de Chocolate (banana flambee in chocolate sauce), just to name a few. Students will be able to sample the dishes during lunch and dinner.

“Not everyone has been exposed to the Colombian culture, so this is a great opportunity to introduce students to the variety of foods it offers,” Sadler Food Service Supervisor Bianca Harp said.

Dining Services is also aiming to connect the chefs with different cultural organizations on campus.

“I want to get to know the students, to show them the typical dishes of Colombia, and how we mix ingredients together to create such beautiful flavors,” Sierra said. “In the way that we combine food, we present a different technique for preparing dishes.”

According to Sierra, one of the big differences between American and Colombian food is that American dishes tend to be separated by food group, whereas Colombian cuisine is centered around mixing together carbohydrates with produce, grains and meat. Additionally, since Colombia’s climate allows for such a wide variety of fruits, chefs have more opportunities to try them out in different dishes.

“The Global Chef Program is a unique opportunity [for us] to broaden our students’ cultural experiences and palates,” Dining Services Marketing Manager Melissa Strain said. “It’s good for our chefs to learn the different techniques that are unique to Colombia so that we can mimic their authentic style in our facilities. That way, the dishes at each of our international stations can be genuine to the culture.”

Sierra, for his part, said he was trying to enjoy American culture. He took a trip to Busch Gardens Oct. 8 and is looking forward to trying real, American barbecue.

“The flavor is famous, and there are so many recipes for barbecue,” Sierra said. “It’s just so good, I absolutely love it.”

Chef Sierra and the other chefs in this year’s program also had the opportunity to visit George Washington University and the University of Mary Washington before returning to the College this week.

Dining Services will continuing to expose students to unique cuisines throughout the rest of the semester. The dining halls will feature Travel Tuesdays, showcasing the tastes of different cities in the United States. Oct. 19, Sadler created Memphis-inspired foods such as barbecue ribs. October 25, the Caf will feature food inspired by the cuisine of Austin, Texas.


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