Romina Wagener

 

Three-peat Apicius Alum now a Sous Chef for the Morimoto Group

 

Romina Wagener is a repeat alum of FUA and Apicius, having studied there on three separate occasions since 2015. Originally from Peru, Romina has lived in Orlando, Florida since 2008, where she worked her way up the ranks in the culinary world. She is currently a sous chef for Morimoto Asia, a Pan-Asian restaurant at DisneyWorld. She shares with our Alumni Association how she got where she is now and how studying with Apicius through the TuttoToscana program opened up a myriad of professional doors for her.

 

Romina first started studying Culinary Arts in 2001 at Le Cordon Bleu in Peru. While she was working towards a degree in Mass Media and Communication, an aunt saw her innate talent for cooking and encouraged her to pursue her passion. She finished her studies in Peru and then moved to the US to advance her career as a chef. It was there that she decided to travel to Italy to continue her personal and professional growth. “I wanted to keep learning different techniques and cultures, and Italy seemed like a great place to do this,” she shares.

 

Her first Apicius course was Italian Food and Culture in the spring of 2015. She learned the fundamentals of Italian culinary culture, including the basics of wine tasting which she says is “essential for any chef to understand.” She also learned the differences between various types of olive oil and how to make traditional pastas, Italian breads, and gelato. Thanks to this experience, she received a job at Disney Epcot’s Tutto Italia restaurant where they serve handmade pasta with pesto (Romina’s favorite!), lasagna, and tiramisù.

 

Always willing to learn more, Romina joined the Apicius Baking and Pastry crew for TuttoToscana in October 2015 in New York City. She says the experience was intense, fun, and helped her professional development as during the week they put on four different events in four different parts of the city. The event that stood out for Romina was the James Beard Foundation dinner. She recalls a decadent dessert orchestrated by Chef Simone de Castro and his B&P students which they named “The Heretic” - five different types of chocolate in five different textures, united in one dish.

 

Afterwards, Romina received a slurry of job offers. “When they see that you’ve cooked at the James Beard Foundation in NYC on your resumé, it opens so many doors,” she confides. Her next move was to her current position at Morimoto Asia.

 

She describes a typical day: “I go in at 9am, double check the schedule to make sure everyone is there. If someone doesn’t show up, I have to do their job as well as mine so that takes planning. I make sure we have all the necessary ingredients so that the kitchen can open by 11am. From there, I do anything and everything, from prep, to cooking, to working on the line or plating. I rotate stations, sometimes the wok or sushi stations, sometimes the dim sum or ramen stations, though lately I’ve been working at the peking duck station. We have a family meal for the kitchen staff at 3pm and then we start all over again. I go until 9pm. It’s a long day, but I enjoy the responsibility I have.”

 

Romina considers herself a cooking nerd; she wants to know everything there is to know about cooking. This past spring, she returned to Apicius to take part in the Precision Cooking and Texture Development course. “This is something new for me,” she states. “We studied how food molecules react when they interact with each other in combination with heat or cold, and what that results in.” From making fizzy fruit by carbonating apples and grapes to the sous vide technique (removing oxygen from the environment for a more controlled temperature), Romina has grown her skill set and is ready to take what she learned back to the professional kitchen.

 

She dreams of opening her own restaurant in Florida that features Peruvian dishes made with local ingredients and modern techniques. Her advice for students just starting out in the culinary world is, “Get as much hands on experience in the kitchen as you can before you decide to be the boss.” After nearly 17 years in the field, she says she still wants to know more and is excited to learn by doing.

 

If you’re interested in getting in touch with Romina, please write to This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

 

Photograph of "Lomo Saltado" courtesy of Romina Wagener

 

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