Fermín I. García Huizi – Venezuelan professional self taught Chef
Fermín I. García Huizi is an internationally experienced Executive Chef with many work experiences around the world. His culinary path is an uncommon one: in August 2016 García was certified as chef – after 18 years of hard work and mostly being an autodidact.
Fermín I. García Huizi – “Creating a new menu is like a kid playing with a new toy.“
García, where did your journey start as a chef? What made you decide to become a chef?
My journey began almost 20 years ago, at the age of 30. Not very common. Normally you enter this profession at a very early age, it demands consistency and sacrifice, so it is not a suitable career for everyone. What drove me to become a chef … passion!
Which cooking school did you visit?
For most of my career I’ve have been mostly self-taught, and learning from other chefs for whom I had the privilege to work for primarily in London, Caracas and Margarita Island. It wasn’t until August 2016 that I was certified as chef, as an auspice from Instituto Iberoamericano de Recreación Turismo y Gastronomía, located in Porlamar, Margarita Island.
The Venezuelan cuisine: What makes it so unique compared to its neighbors like Colombia or Brazil?
To understand our gastronomy roots, we need to travel back in time, since then we have undergone a transformation, a constant evolution of what natives, local aboriginal Indians, Spanish colonist and African slaves were eating at the time, to where we are today means only one thing, a constant fusion, plus a lot more really.
We have influences basically from Spain for obvious reasons, France has also contributed in shaping Venezuelan cuisine. Italy, Portugal have had their influences due to the large communities that came escaping from Europe after both Great World Wars. All of these different cultures have helped shape and define our cuisine.
What makes our cuisine so unique are staple dishes such as la arepa, a flat bread made out corn dough, also cachapa, a pancake made out of corn, our wide selection white cheeses, unique I must say, “Telita”, “De Mano” “Paisa”.
In my opinion all 3 countries have much in common than we dare to admit, we have so many alike ingredients, corn, beans, root vegetables, and the true uniqueness comes from how our cultures have evolved differently to what they are today. But the one thing that truly identifies Venezuelan cuisine is a tendency for sweet things.
What are the very traditional Venezuelan dishes?
Most common are Pabellon Criollo, very simple but loved by all. Shredded beef, black beans, white rice and fried ripe plantains. Asado negro, another winner, its black roasted eye of round beef with a taste of sweetness. You also have sancocho, a type of stewed chicken or beef soup, normally prepared with certain root vegetables, and in eastern Venezuela prepared with fish.
Arepas and empanadas, la chicha de arroz, a beverage made out of rice. The thing with arepas and empanadas is that they can be eaten for breakfast, lunch, or dinner. And the many options for fillings is enormous.
But I think our most emblematic dish is without a doubt La Hallaca, it’s a sort of tamal that we normally eat only on Christmas. It’s also made out of corn flour, and wrapped in plaintain leaves. Inside there is very nourishing mixed stew with beef, pork, and chicken. Normally it brings the family together during this time of the year to prepared them since it’s a lengthy process.
You worked as an Executive Chef in Sint Maarten on the Netherlands Antilles: How did this Caribbean cooking experience affect you?
New culture, new values, new flavors, new rules, it’s all about adaptability and making the best out of every situation. I have come across ingredients that I haven’t worked with before, and for me it’s a plus, learning!
Which trends do you see in the Venezuelan food scene?
Right now, because of the severe crisis that prevails, where food is very scarce and very expensive, I unfortunately do not expect that nothing is really worth mentioning or interesting in this area. It’s a shame, to say the least.
How would you describe your culinary line today after so many different international experiences?
I do my own thing, taking from a bit from here, and there – all with passion.
Does fusion kitchen play any role in your work?
Can you share one of your latest favourite dish/recipe with us?
Sour sop (guanabana) and grouper ceviche. Fantastic!
What is the best thing about being a chef?
The creativity aspect of developing a new dish, I think the part I love most about my job is making a new menu. For me it’s like a kid with a new toy.
Any place in the world you would like to work as a chef one day?
I would love to return to Venezuela, someday maybe!
Thank you, García!