Promoting the best flavours of Guatemala

Date: 27 April 2021

Promoting the best flavours of Guatemala

Aura Carlota de Fátima Cantoral Milian de Gutiérrez is 28 years old and lives in Guatemala. Her passion: cooking and baking. She took part in the YMCA Guatemala project MISKA, and is now setting up her own pastry company.

Aura Carlota created her two brands: Auris Kitchen, which provides all kinds of meals, and Auris Kake, specialised in pastries. “I wanted to develop my company”, she shares. “I needed more visibility and customers, and one of them, after tasting my food, referred me to MISKA.”

Ensuring the empowerment of future cooks

MISKA is a Cooking and Entrepreneurship School in the city of San Pedro Carchá. It came out of a programme called Manq´a, developed in Bolivia and later scaled to Colombia by ICCO Cooperation (which has currently been integrated into Cordaid). In the second semester of 2019 it was implemented in Guatemala, in coordination with YMCA Guatemala under the name of MISKA (a word that means ‘gift from God and early harvest’).

Claudia Tejada, Secretary General of YMCA Guatemala, explains: “This project responds to one of our strategic priorities of creating “Opportunities for economic development”, which aims to provide spaces for the training and promotion of youth entrepreneurship. It has a social goal, that young people adopt the values of the common good and we build an economy of ‘solidarity’. ”

The model links the three most important groups in the gastronomic chain, where young chefs learn to recover traditional knowledge with local foods that are supplied by small organic producers. It’s aimed at consumers who value nutritious and healthy food.

YMCA Guatemala played a leading role in establishing alliances with local partners to have a building for the operation of the school, it was also in charge of the remodeling work, the acquisition of equipment and utensils, as well as the hiring of administrative and technical personnel, which officially opened in August 2020.

Learning kitchen techniques – and marketing

Along with 63 other young people, Aura Carlota joined the programme for 11 months. She was first taught the basics: “I learned a lot about gastronomy from a technical perspective: selection of fresh and local ingredients, elaboration of meals, making of national and international dishes, presentation of plates, serving the customer … The fact that we could interact with gastronomy professionals made a huge difference”.

The other important component of the school is the training in entrepreneurship: “My best success at this school was to enrich my practical and marketing knowledge: I could develop my brand to make it grow, by adding the new dishes I learnt to prepare. I can now offer a range of local and international meals”.

When the Covid pandemic hit, the school adapted to the regulations, but it was not that easy. Aura Carlota says: “The learning became more difficult. I am aware that the school staff made a very great effort to teach via virtual platforms, but there were days when the signal on my cell phone failed and it was not possible for me to see the procedure for the preparations properly, or to listen closely to the teachers”.

Aura Carlota has professionalized a family story. Her mother and mother in law shared with her their favourite recipes. Today she is selling products which promote her country’s best flavours, such as chile jalapeño en salsa, empañadas, jocón or pepián, made in a traditional way with her special touch of creativity.

In the near future, the MISKA gastronomy school is expected to become a self-sustaining and autonomous project, in which YMCA Guatemala will continue to collaborate through an advisory committee.

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