Texas State Technical College’s Chef Mark Schneider returned in October from Croatia as part of an Epicurean World Master Chefs Society culinary cultural exchange.
He could not help but be entranced by the sight in front of him at a Texas cooking lesson he was part of in Vrsar, Croatia. Schneider, director of decision support in the TSTC culinary arts program, was as amazed at the attendees’ interest in fish tacos as he was with the architecture and mountains shining in the daylight.
“They loved it,” Schneider said. “The fish was amazing.”
During that lesson, Schneider also taught people about using cantaloupe, jicama and pomegranate in slaw, as well as how to make pork carnitas empanadas, pickled red onions, tomatillo verde and tortilla chips.
Schneider said the 11-member delegation of American chefs cooked each day of the weeklong trip, except for a professional education day to learn about Croatian cuisine. As part of that day, Schneider enjoyed a white truffle-themed lunch at Konoba Mondo in Motovun in the Istria region of Croatia.
“They shaved (the truffles) like parmesan,” he said. “The truffles were phenomenal. It was mind-shattering.”
The education day also included lessons on mussel and oyster packaging and a wine tasting at an area vineyard.
The trip’s highlight was an evening dinner for Vrsar dignitaries and residents. After the meal, the chefs celebrated and ate pizza they made at a nearby restaurant.
Schneider said he could sense the Italian influences in the cities he visited because of the Istria region’s proximity to Italy.
“The food we had was simple but incredible,” Schneider said. “I came back with new ideas and techniques.”
Chef Michele Brown, lead instructor in the culinary arts program, said the trip will have a long-lasting impact on Schneider’s career.
“A cultural exchange trip such as one that Chef Schneider went on is truly enriching and life-changing,” she said. “It opens up another level of dedication to the craft.”
TSTC’s culinary arts program has a student-operated restaurant at the Greta W. Watson Culinary Arts Center at on Campus Drive in Waco. The restaurant is open to the public, and meals are served from 11 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. on select Wednesdays and Fridays each semester.
For more information, visit tstc.edu/about/culinarydiningwaco.