More than 200 students from Latin America and the United States are taking classes on preparing international haute cuisine from renowned Spanish chefs via an online platform designed by the Institute of Spanish Gastronomy, or IGE.

"The objective is to (get across) to society both in Latin America and the United States our good faith in online instruction that we've been developing for many years in Spain in three big areas: gastronomy, hotel management and nutrition," the IGE director for Miami and Latin America, Agustin Castro, told Efe.

The method, he says, is "innovative and exclusive, given that, for the first time in the market, all the training is done via the Internet."

The intention, he added, is to be "an authentic online school" and to give students not only training, but also the "opportunity to improve their lives both on the professional and personal levels."

The approach has received an enthusiastic welcome from people in Chile, Colombia, Ecuador, Peru, Argentina and Mexico, as well as from Hispanics in the United States.

"We have a great demand from students in Mexico and (among those of) Hispanic origin in the United States," said the IGE director.

In the Mexican case, Castro attributed the demand to the fact that it is a country where the Internet is used a great deal and it is adapting very well to the new communications technologies.

To that must be added that "historically it's a country where gastronomy is very important. It has a very rich cuisine and they are people who are very concerned with improving gastronomy and trying new cuisines and pastries."

The educational offerings vary from short courses, such as wine tasting, of about 250 hours that can be taken in up to four months, up to training programs lasting a year.

People also can sign up for simpler courses in pastry making, bartending and event organization and protocol.

"Our chefs and catering professionals who are in restaurants are our professors and they communicate with the students by video-conference. We organize face-to-face classes an hour long," Castro told Efe.

The students receive an international certificate issued by the Universidad de San Jorge, in Zaragoza, Spain.

Castro said that as part of IGE's action plan they hope to conclude agreements with universities in the United States, Mexico and other Latin American countries to "have our studies validated by them."

To provide to students "not only training, but also career opportunities, we're arriving at agreements with other companies (including hotel chains and cruise lines) in the United States and Latin America to offer employment positions to our graduates."

The IGE director said that soon the classes also will begin being offered in English.

The IGE culinary school was founded in Madrid in 1974, it has benefited from the advice of an important group of chefs - including Genaro Pildain, Juan Maria Arzak and Patxi Bericua - and it has a large number of centers established all over Europe.

The school had its start in the union of the Grupo Lezama restaurant and hotel chain, the San Valero Foundation and the Universidad de San Jorge, which are internationally recognized for offering practical and theoretical training in gastronomy and hotel management.