Meet Chef Andrew Francisco
Associate Director of Culinary Operations
Western Michigan University
Third Place Winner of the 2023 CAN DO Challenge
Chilean Pumpkin Pear Empanadas
What was the inspiration for your winning Chilean Pumpkin
& Pear Empanadas?
I intentionally had a lot of unique flavors mixed to make it a more unique taste. Pumpkin was used in the dough to compliment the richness of sweet pears, savory bacon, and sautéed onions. All these ingredients have strong flavors that are balanced well. Pumpkin is sometimes used in Chilean sopaipillas. These are fried doughs made with squash or pumpkin purée incorporated into the dough. While I am no expert in this cuisine, I thought it would be fun to have this spin on my empanada.
Why did you decide to become a chef?
I decided to become a chef around 2009 when I fell in love with the structure and discipline that a well-operated kitchen provides. I witnessed this sort of kitchen at Grand Rapids Community College. A few years after graduating I took a break from hands-on cooking while I started my family, and at this time I was still directing and managing foodservice establishments. I was always able to sneak some cooking into those positions, which was great. About two years ago, I had the opportunity to do both cooking and leading at WMU. Now, I am the Associate Director of Culinary Operations, and I have a planning role as well as an active chef role in our two campus dining centers, three retail operations, and eight cafes. It’s the best of both worlds, every day is exciting, and it’s a good work-life balance for me. I feel very lucky for the position I am in as well as having a great hard-working staff by my side.