BUENOS AIRES – Argentina’s highly regarded cuts of beef are now being studied in classrooms thanks to the first School of Beef Sommeliers, where steak lovers specialize in the secrets of their perfect preparation.
As in wine tasting, the most ardent meat-eaters have the chance to savor and rate the quality of beef in a course given by the School of Veterinarian Sciences at the University of Buenos Aires.
Its promoter, Luis Barcos, veterinarian and the only Argentine member of France’s L’Academie de la Viande (Meat Academy), said in a talk with EFE that he always wondered why there were no sommeliers for this specialty, so he got to work correcting that oversight.
By last March when classes began, 200 people showed interest in the course, but it only had room for 60.
Generating jobs in an Argentina in recession since April 2018 is one of Barcos’ interests, who sees this as “a chance to get a job doing something that doesn’t yet exist.”
“Independently of the crisis, people keep eating meat and restaurants are still there,” he said.
The makeup of the class – with an average age of around 40 – is varied: cooks, butchers, economists, businessmen and even graphic designers.
But they all share the same interest: flank steak, chorizo, beef roulade, T-bone steak, beef tenderloin and all the great variety of cuts of beef.
Many see in this training a trampoline to a career in the sector, as in the case of Nestor Mendoza, who told EFE that he studied cooking but works in a bank because “the job came first, the cooking came afterwards.”
Mendoza’s ambition is to work as a beef sommelier and, he said, “there is a wide range of possibilities,” so his ambition is to find his place “in that chain.”
Though the majority of students are men, there are any number of women setting out to discover more about meat tasting.
Vivian Islas, a professional sommelier of wines and infusions, told EFE that she signed up for the course because she was “seeking alternatives” to professionally reinvent herself.
Islas believes that what acts in her favor because she is a woman is “a special perception,” which is the sense of smell.
“Who always went out in search of the food using their senses? The female, right? In other words, search and smell,” she said.
The theoretical part of the course is made up of 21 subjects that include the history of beef, breeds of cattle, production systems, animal well-being and consumer preferences.
One of the teachers, Fernando Carduza, said “there are no secrets here, it’s all about tasting, tasting and more tasting, really getting into it and beginning to appreciate the subtleties that in the ordinary day-to-day one usually doesn’t notice.”
The teaching staff is made up of specialists in the subject plus agronomists, chefs, economists, anthropologists and veterinarians.
The price of enrolment for this first course was 38,000 pesos ($638), but according to Barcos, next year “will be different,” due to the inflation that has struck the country.