Harper College Students Spice Up la Preferida Cookbook

Article excerpt

Byline: Melissa Allen Daily Herald Correspondent

Margarita Fajitas, Mexican Benedict, Cactus Roulade and Black Bean Burgers. If you think these sound like recipes from the back of a can of mole, frijoles or chilies, you're right, or you will be in a few months.

When the folks at La Preferida wanted recipes for the third edition of its cookbook, the food manufacturer tapped an unlikely source - college students.

A few phone calls later and La Preferida's newest recipe- development team consisted of four culinary students from Harper College in Palatine.

"Creativity is what La Preferida is looking for, so working with college students is a definite plus," said Manuel Balais, regional sales manager at the Chicago-based company. Often, food companies partner with professional or celebrity chefs for recipe help.

Balais, a Harper College graduate himself, wanted to keep the project in the Chicago area. La Preferida has called Chicago home for more than 100 years.

"Harper College is a perfect fit for La Preferida," Balais said. "We wanted to stay in our area and work to build a relationship."

Taking time from their busy college and work schedules, sophomores Lindsey Island of Palatine and Samantha Segura, of Hoffman Estates, along with adult students Jeff McDonald and Jeff Klauke, both of Arlington Heights, worked twice a week, three to four hours a day developing recipes for "La Preferida's Authentic Mexican Made Easy."

The book, according to Balais, will be distributed to the company's clients and available at food conventions. Individual recipes also will be printed on cans and packages of La Preferida products.

"The payoff is in being published," said Segura, who works at Chandler's Chop House in Schaumburg. "It's going to be great to have something like this under my belt."

In return for the students' hard work, La Preferida will print their names on the recipes and make a not-yet-decided donation to the Harper College Fund.

"We wanted to develop a partnership that both parties could gain something from," said Patrick Beach, professor with the college's hospitality management department.

While the students undoubtedly enjoyed the project, developing the recipes was harder than they initially imagined.

"Lindsey and I went to the grocery store and filled up a cart with one of each La Preferida item that they carried," said Segura. "We brought the products back and just sat and stared at them. It was difficult because many of the items are basic and vital to cooking. The range of possibilities was overwhelming at first."

Though the students thought up many tasty dishes, not every idea made it to the finish line.

"Most of what I made came out good, like the Cactus Roladi, others, like Cactus Hamburgers, came out really bad," said McDonald. …