Jarocho Octopus

Participating local restaurants include Jarocho Pescados y Mariscos.

Master chef Carlos Gallardo of Ecuador is one of many highlights at Comida, the 5th Annual Latin Culinary Arts Experience taking place on Thu., April 26 at Union Station.

“Comida, through its food, libations and music, will transport you to Latin America and Spain,” says Amarilis Valdez-Dempsey, event co-chair of Comida 2018. “Guests will be able to experience a whole liturgy of flavors without having to travel far.”

Visiting chefs, such as Gallardo, will join local chefs and restaurant owners as well as 10 cocktail experts to create a singular experience. Visual and performing arts add to the creative spectacle. Gallardo is the CEO of Taste Ecuador, an international program that promotes Ecuadorian products through traditional Ecuadorian cuisine and modern international cuisine.

“We worked with the Ecuadorian Consulate in Chicago to bring chef Gallardo to this year’s event,” says Valdez-Dempsey. “Carlos Gallardo is the most important chef in Ecuador. His mission is to get the word out on the richness of their cuisine and transform Ecuador into a gastronomic destination.”

Each chef and mixologist represents a different country in Latin America and Spain, featuring more than a dozen countries in all. Mi Rancho Tequila will offer specialty tequila-based drinks with food pairings from Jarocho Pescados y Mariscos and Cacao restaurants.

“Every year we work with different Latin American consulates to bring in our international chefs,” says Valdez-Dempsey. “The Ecuadorian Consulate is also bringing chef Michael Andino from Chicago’s RioBamba Latin Kitchen, which focuses on Ecuadorian food.”

Local chefs participating in Comida this year include Mexico native Carlos Falcon of Jarocho; El Tenedor’s Carmen Cabia Garcia, who was born in Spain and is an accomplished Catalan chef; Carlos Mortera of The Bite; and Patrick Ryan of Port Fonda.

“If you look at the chefs in a large portion of the [participating] Kansas City area restaurants, many are Hispanic. For example, JJ’s executive chef is Julio Juarez,” says Valdez-Dempsey. “Non-Hispanic chefs in the Kansas City area [also] have an appreciation for the richness and diversity of Latin America and love being able to put their culinary talents to the test via the country they choose to represent.” 

Terry D. Bassham, chairman and CEO of Kansas City Power and Light, and his wife, Zulema Carrasco Bassham, will serve as the 2018 Honorary Chairpersons for Comida KC. Event proceeds benefit the Hispanic Chamber of Commerce of Greater Kansas City and educational programs of the Greater Kansas City Hispanic Collaborative.

“The Greater Kansas City Hispanic Collaborative’s mission is to provide comprehensive assistance to the growth, evolution, and professional advancement of Hispanics and other minorities in the Greater Kansas City Metropolitan area,” Valdez-Dempsey says.

Comida will be held at Union Station (30 West Pershing Road) on Thu., April 26. Ticket information and more details are available at comidakc.com.

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Writer Pete Dulin is the author of Kansas City Beer: A History of Brewing in the Heartland, KC Ale Trail, and Expedition of Thirst: Exploring Breweries, Wineries and Distilleries Across Central Kansas and Missouri.

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