Education First, an international language education company with an outpost in San Diego, takes what it calls World Wednesdays very seriously, since at any time, the campus is home to a resident student population from more than 30 countries.
In solidarity, the Bon Appétit team highlights one country each Wednesday at dinner. Recent dishes have included helstekt persiljekyckling (roast chicken with parsley) from Sweden, kabsa (a meat and rice dish) from Saudi Arabia, cassoulet (slow-cooked pork and white bean casserole) from France, ayran (salted yogurt drink) from Turkey, draadjesvlees (shredded braised beef) from Holland, kuyrdak (stewed mutton) from Kazakhstan, and hand-formed empanadas (fried stuffed pastries) from Argentina.
It takes a collaborative effort to ensure authenticity. Executive Chef Anthony Simpson enlists students from the featured country to help write the menu, decorate the café, translate the signage into the country’s language, and pick music to play over the school sound system. Past celebrations have included pasta-making demonstrations (Italy), fresh boba milk tea (Taiwan), and traditional dancing (Turkey).
By writing menus with the students, the team endeavors to showcase food that feels as much like home as possible. Sometimes exact ingredients (especially spices) or cooking methods are hard to replicate, so adjustments to recipes have to be made to render them more affordable and approachable for the entire student body. But overall the team has successfully showcased some of the lesser-known dishes from the featured countries — not just the American adaptations seen at chain restaurants.
Students love the dinners, saying it’s their favorite night of the week. And the Bon Appétiters are excited to continue their cultural celebrations, expanding their own knowledge of global cuisines and encouraging student involvement with the food program along the way.
Just as Bon Appétit’s food is alive with flavor, the café on Wednesday nights is definitely alive with energy and national pride!
Submitted by Molly Johnson, General Manager