San Antonio seeks local chefs to serve as international culinary ambassadors

City seeks local chefs to serve as international culinary ambassadors

SA ambassador chefs
The ambassador program enables local chefs to represent San Antonio internationally.  San Antonio City of Gastronomy

Calling all chefs! The City of San Antonio wants you to cook up some love for the Alamo City as part of an international program highlighting the area’s culinary successes.

The City of San Antonio World Heritage Office has opened the application process for local chefs interested in acting as ambassadors representing San Antonio as a UNESCO Creative City of Gastronomy in a variety of local, national, and international events — including food festivals and media appearances — in the next two years.

Online applications are open now for practicing local chefs (no academic culinary training required), and close Friday, June 11 at 4 pm.

A selection committee will choose as many as 12 San Antonio chefs from the entries. They will then be considered for various opportunities within the UNESCO Creative Cities network. The selected chefs will embody the unique heritage and culture of San Antonio, according to the World Heritage Office, and will be encouraged to share local culinary traditions, cooking techniques, and authentic San Antonio recipes.

“San Antonio is a beautifully unique and diverse city that is the result of a confluence of cultures over the past several hundred years,” says Colleen Swain, director of the World Heritage Office. “We still see many of those influences today, especially in our city’s gastronomy, and we want to see that reflected in the chefs who are selected to represent San Antonio as a UNESCO Creative City of Gastronomy. Chefs of all backgrounds and experiences with expertise in diverse cuisines and culinary practices are encouraged to apply.”

San Antonio’s reputation as a culinary destination continues to grow, a reputation furthered by the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization designating San Antonio as a Creative City of Gastronomy in 2017, in part for its impressive confluence of cultures and cuisine. And the COVID-19 pandemic notwithstanding, the industry is continuing to mushroom locally. According to recent economic reports focused on the San Antonio culinary field, one in eight workers in San Antonio’s metro area — 123,679 people as of 2018 — work in the $30.5 billion local culinary industry, which is likely to experience a boon as the pandemic wanes.

Previous local chefs that have repped the city as official chef ambassadors include margarita maven Blanca Aldaco of Aldaco’s Mexican Cuisine, Hinnerk von Bargen from the Culinary Institute of America (previously referred to by CultureMap as a “noodle wizard”), and Esaul Ramos of 2M Smokehouse (CultureMap Tastemaker 2020 Chef of the Year).

“To be a San Antonian, born and raised in this city, and then travel to the other side of the earth to represent the city I am from was the coolest experience that has ever happened in my life,” says Ramos, who represented San Antonio at the 2019 Jeonju Bibimbap Festival in South Korea. “I love the fact that our city is now getting the notoriety that it deserves, and I love that people are seeing that San Antonio is more than just tacos.”