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Global Cuisine Served up at Smiths Falls DCI International Café
Global Cuisine Served up at Smiths Falls DCI International Café
Posted on 05/06/2024
Students dining at the SFDCI International Cafe

The alluring aroma of authentic Thai cuisine filled the air on Wednesday, May 1 as students at Smiths Falls District Collegiate Institute (SFDCI) transformed the school foyer into an International Café, complete with a delicious six-course meal and a lesson on the rich culture and history of Thailand.

The brainchild of SFDCI English as a Second Language Teacher Paul Merredew and Hospitality & Tourism Teacher Chef Jeff Burns, the premise of the café is simple — International students studying at SFDCI team up with the Hospitality class to curate an immersive dining experience for the student body that highlights various aspects of their home countries. SFDCI students are given the opportunity to sample freshly prepared food, take in a live presentation, and learn a little about their visiting classmates.

 “So far, the enthusiasm of the Japanese students, the Ukrainian students, the Spanish students, the Italian students, the German students and today, the Thai students indicate that the café’s are a hit with the international students,” said Merredew. “And Smiths Falls students get to try foods they otherwise may never have tried and learn about countries from the people who live there.”

Chef Burns attributed the success of the initiative to the connection people of different backgrounds can foster through food. “We've tried to merge these two concepts and bring the Hospitality and International programs together. And of course, food connects all cultures, so that's exemplified by what we do. The students seem to love it, so that’s really what’s important.”

The featured menu at the Thailand Café was extensive, with emphasis on authentic dishes. The Hospitality team worked with the Thai students to prepare and plate crispy garlic chive dumplings, pad Thai, chicken satay, green papaya salad, mango sticky rice, and pad kra pao. “Our version of the spicy pork was pretty bland,” admitted Burns. “The ladies from Thailand grabbed the chili oil and the garlic and let's just say…they fixed it.”

SFDCI Hospitality & Tourism student Reed King was excited by the opportunity to prepare a meal with his new friends from abroad. “It means a lot to welcome the International Students and make them feel welcomed. I learned a lot about their culture and the food that they eat in Thailand.”

A presentation during the meal gave an in-depth look into everything from the language, history, and culture of Thailand to some more personal stories of the students’ hometowns and their school life back home.

“I want other people to know Thailand because it has very beautiful places and has lots of tourist attractions,” said International student Pam Auakittikulchai. “And the food is good!”

International Cafés have been happening regularly at the school for the past several years, and Executive Director of the UCDSB International Education Program Matt Raby focused on the relationship building that happens during the events. “It's an amazing opportunity for our International Students to showcase and share their home country, culture, food, and celebrations. It’s also an opportunity for our domestic students to learn more about these different countries and cultures, to have an enriched learning experience all around. Great food, great fun, great fellowship, just an overall great learning opportunity!”

Merredew and Chef Burns are planning Café lunches for May and June in collaboration with students from Switzerland and the Philippines, with a possible fundraising event taking place at the end of the school year. After the continued success of the initiative, they remain hopeful that the popular Café events will continue into 2024-25, with a new cohort of International Students sharing insights into their home countries one forkful at a time.

Check out some highlights of the event below:

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