- Created on Wednesday, 04 December 2013 20:19
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By JASLEEN KAUR KALRA
When it comes to international food no one can resist the temptation to have it.
On Monday Niagara College organized an International Day to celebrate the culture of students from various countries by serving the food of their countries at the Benchmark restaurant, Niagara-on-the-Lake (NOTL) campus. The event represented five countries.
Chef Professor Peter Blakeman, 55, says, “We organize this event every year and we have been organizing this event at NOTL campus for the last 10 years. Before we used to organize it at the [Niagara Falls] Maid of the Mist campus.
“The reason behind the event is that in the last 10 years, we have seen a large population of international students and we want to celebrate that. In our programs, in our curriculum [for second year] we have put in an international cuisine course.
“In a country like Canada, a lot of students come from different countries, so we thought it would be fun for them, because they are away from home, to celebrate their culture and do something as an event to celebrate the different nationalities by coming to our school and a program,” says Blakeman.
“We don’t have any South Americans in the group; we have lot of eastern European, a lot of Chinese and Korean students. I would say Chinese food is really interesting – it is sweet, sour and the noodles are simply amazing.
“In this event, the new thing is that we have a Nigerian section from Africa, which is really different. I don’t think that people have ever tried it – a combination of Nigerian goat stew and porridge beans with plantains.
“Every time when we organize such events, we repeat food from some of the countries like China, Mexico and India. This time students made a new Mexican dish, it is a big dish, and something which is new for me to learn as well and I am learning as much as they are. They are learning about my culture and I am learning about their culture.”
Kristina Lebedeva, 19, a second-year student in the Bachelor of Applied Business – Hospitality Management Operations program, says, “We have prepared a different cultural food like traditional Nigerian food and traditional Mexican, Russian/ Ukrainian, Chinese and Indian food.”
Lebedeva is from Russia and one of the students who prepared the food for the students. She says it is “pretty hard to say” which one will be the most served.
“My favourite food is Chinese – grilled shrimps and noodles. It is my first experience and I feel very good that I got a chance to make food for people and serve them.”
Another volunteering student, Victoria Radchevko, 19, a second-year student in the Bachelor of Applied Business – Hospitality Management Operations program, says she is very happy and she loves her program.
“I love studying in Canada; I meet a lot of new people. I had a good experience and it was really fun.
“My favourite food is Ukrainian because I like perogies as it reminds me of back home. I used to eat lot of perogies when I was in Ukraine.
Jeffrey Stewart, 43, chair of Niagara College’s Hospitality, Tourism and Administration division, says, “I was pretty excited and I see all the students who are here from across the campus to really share a great cultural opportunity.
“We change the countries from our student perspective. We have students from over 20 different countries, mostly from China and India. This is the biggest event in the college; we are celebrating it the last almost 15 years. I tried Chinese food – a combination of shrimp and pork chow mien and dumplings and I would say that the students did a great job.”
Dan Leblanc, 41, a chef professor for the Culinary Management (Co-op) program, says this event is organized annually with food from different countries.
Leblanc has worked at Niagara College the past five years and has 25 years’ experience in the food industry. He says that while preparing food and instructing students he had a good experience, it was fun and interesting.
Chinese, Indian and Mexican food are on the list, says Leblanc.
“We have got good reviews for Nigerian food as well, as it was served for the first time and people really like it. We prepared food for 500 students but more than 600 students turned up and I think it is really a big achievement.”
Marcie Newell says, “I feel great; it is a real honour to attend this wonderful event. We have an opportunity to meet new people, to get to know about their countries.
“I was trying to learn how to use chopsticks and also I was asking Indian students to teach me Bollywood dance, as I am really a big fan of Bollywood dance. Though, they were shy to teach me, but I was dancing on the tunes.”
Newell is originally from Italy. She came to Canada in 1969 and has worked with Niagara College for 12 years as support staff at the Greenhouse.
“I was at the event last year as well. I think this time more students came and the line-up was tremendous. I tried food from China, Nigeria and India and the food I like the most is Indian, as I like curry. It is something which I cannot cook by myself and students did a fabulous job.”
“I would say, also, the goat meat was also beautifully cooked. I have never tried Nigerian food before, but it was really awesome.”
The food is really delicious, very flavoured, and it tastes perfect, says Yonyoung Zhang from China.
Zhang, 19, is a second-year-student in the Hospitality Management – Hotel and Restaurant (Co-op) program. She says she tried food of all the countries and the one she liked the most is the Indian food. It is not at all spicy, it is just perfect, Zhang says.
“I was here last time too, but I was in the cleaning department. There were not too many students, but I think this time there are lot of students and it is really good.”
Bijal Makwana, 30, a second-year student in the Culinary Management (Co-op) program, says “food is really very good.”
Makwana is from India. She says, “I tried food from all the countries and the most delicious and my favourite is the Ukrainian and Nigerian.”
Kathryn Stobo, 19, a first-year student in the Office Administration – Executive (Co-op) program, says, “Oh my god, the food is just too awesome and delicious. I tried all of the dishes but I like the Mexican dish most as I have always been a fan of vegetables and I am familiar with the food as well.”
Bukky Izibili, 25, a first-year student in the Human Resources Management program, says the food is “so delicious and tasty; it reminds me of my home. I felt like as if I am in Nigeria. I really didn’t expect this much perfect taste for the food.”
Apart from food, Dr. Mary Kilmer-Tchalekian, 69, was selling products made by small communities in Argentina. The handcrafts produced from the natural environment were aimed at helping the students of the Clemencia Gonzalez Tourism School Yryapu, Argentina.
Kilmer-Tchalekian is a former professor. She taught Spanish language courses, International Communication and Protocol courses, and English communication courses for 20 years here.
She visits this event every year and says it is always a pleasure to meet new people and experience the flavour other people’s culture. “The food is very good; it has a different flavour, different taste and different combination. I tried Mexican and Chinese food. I wanted to try Nigerian and Indian food as well but it was finished.”
Liu Na, from China, 26, a second-year student in the Hospitality and Tourism Management program, shared Chinese culture with all the students.
She was there as a volunteer teaching how to use chopsticks, how to write your name in Chinese letters, which every student and a staff member enjoyed learning.