ITC Culinary Arts Students Explore – and Savor – International CuisineThey’ve studied Mediterranean, Caribbean, and Asian cuisine… so it seemed only fitting that in February, to correlate with Black History Month, ITC students in the school’s Culinary Arts program explored foods representing African nations.
“Traditionally, we’re taught that there’s one way to cook,” Culinary Arts Instructor Yalonda Bey explained. “But with the backgrounds and cultures that all of our students bring to the table, it’s really important that we offer them the opportunity to celebrate that we truly are a melting pot!”
So, most recently, students explore the continent of Africa – breaking up into small groups and selection a nation to examine. The students worked together to research the country’s history, culture, economy, and local cuisine and popular dishes.
“I’m Somalian, but I had never made Anjera before,” senior Abiba Muse said. “This was a common dish when I was young, so I wanted that nostalgia!”
“The Anjera took a long time to make,” classmate Paw Hay Tha Say added. “We learned that there’s a certain technique to make it – it’s like an art.”
Students learned about Somalia, Morocco, Ethiopia, Tanzania, and the Democratic Republic of Congo – making Lamb Tagine, lemon mint iced tea, Shaah Tea, Doro Wat stew, Supu Viazi (coconut potato soup), Fufu, and more.
“The vibrant colors of the Moroccan flag caught our eye – and their architecture,” David Rodriguez shared of how his group chose to cook Moroccan dishes. “We thought maybe if we looked at their cuisine, it would be vibrant as well! I had never made a meat dish like this and it was fun to explore that. Cooking lamb was similar to making a thin-cut steak!”
Of course, as all chefs do when cooking a new dish or using new ingredients, the ITC chefs encountered some challenges. One group wasn’t able to source the Teff flour needed for their recipe; another was missing the Instant Pot that was called for. One group misunderstood the measurements of the yeast required in their recipe, which caused challenges for the assignment’s time constraints; and one group inadvertently marinated meat in a seasoning instead of seasoning the dish during the boil phase. All of the groups, however, were able to work together to improvise, finding adjustments and innovative methods of correcting so they could ultimately bring their recipes to life.
“We wanted to make something that was unique and hadn’t been done before,” Jerome Taylor shared of his group’s interest in making Supu Viazi and Mandazi donuts. “You don’t come across sweets very often in African cuisine – there are a lot of fruits and vegetables in their culture. Agriculture is a main focus on Africa, so their sweeteners come from natural ingredients like coconut instead of using processed sugars like we do here in the USA.”
That appreciation for other cultures is Ms. Bey’s objective in assigning these international-focused culinary projects.
“The foods in the Democratic Republic of Congo are so much more natural than we’re used to here in the U.S.,” Machiah Maddox agreed. “They’re not fried, and there are different seasonings, flavors, and textures that we don’t normally get here.”
We’re proud of these talented Culinary Arts students for using their cooking skills to celebrate diversity and introduce each other to international cuisines!