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‘Chef Paco’ Brings a Taste of Spain to Fordham

Chef Paco demonstrates how to make authentic Spanish paella for students and faculty. Photo by Ken Levinson

Chef Paco demonstrates how to make authentic Spanish paella for students and faculty.
Photo by Ken Levinson

Fordham students were treated to an international culinary experience on Oct. 20 as they learned how to make an authentic Spanish dish with one of that country’s top chefs.

Francisco “Paco” Manzano, executive chef at the European University of Madrid, visited the Rose Hill campus as part of Sodexo’s Global Chef Program. The program facilitates the exchange of chefs between affiliates of the food service giant. Each visiting chef prepares international cuisine and shares traditional cooking techniques with the host institution’s customers, staff and on-site culinary team.

In addition to making authentic Spanish cuisine that was served for three days at the Marketplace, Rose Hill’s main cafeteria, Chef Paco demonstrated how to make paella, a traditional rice dish, for a group of students and professors.

“It was delicious and very colorful,” said Danielle Flores, a freshmen at Fordham College at Rose Hill. “Chef Paco told me it’s of the utmost importance for the dish to absorb all of the flavors. It’s interesting that no matter what country you’re from, the ideas are still the same—you want the flavors to blend. This dish definitely did that.”

Members of Fordham University Hospitality Services Student Culinary Council, who help plan menus, events and promotions, participated in the cooking class, as did students who are taking Spanish.

According to Chef Paco, paella was developed in the country’s Valencian region by field workers who would make it with the few ingredients they had handy—rice and vegetables. When they could, they would add duck or chicken.

There are many varieties, some of which include seafood or a combination of meats. For the demonstration, Chef Paco made a paella mixta—using chicken, beef, calamari, mussels and beans. The dish is cooked in a paellera, a large, shallow, steel-based pan.

“First, we made the stock, which simmers as we prepare the base with every ingredient but the rice,” Chef Paco said through a translator. “Then we add the rice and vegetables and stock, and in 15 to 20 minutes, it should be done.”

Successfully preparing the dish requires:

• Saffron—which is boiled in the stock.
• Movement—The chef must mix the rice and ingredients constantly to ensure that the rice stays fluffy.
• Cover—It is essential to cover the paellera with aluminum foil once the stove is off.

“The ingredients must marry while cooking, and the dish must absorb every aroma and flavor as it sits for five minutes,” the chef said. “It’s a quick dish to make, but must be done with care. It seems easy tonight because I’ve been making this dish for more than 20 years.”

Leo Hoar Jr., Ph.D., an associate professor in the Department of Modern Languages and Literatures, lived in Madrid for years and said he has enjoyed many types of paella.

“This event helps to internationalize students who are going to live overseas, particularly in Barcelona and Madrid. They will now be inspired to try the paella over there,” he said.

Hoar’s wife, Georgina, an adjunct professor in the department, said she was happy that the dish was being served to everyone who ate at the Marketplace. “I’m sure some of these students didn’t know the dish existed, and now they’ve had it,” she said.

Chef Paco is the first Spanish chef to participate in the Global Chef Program at Fordham. He received his culinary training at the Escuela Superior de Hosteleria y Tourismo in Madrid.


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