Dietetic students worked on a class project for more than 40 hours for two consecutive weeks to put on the annual Friday Night Cafes at 5 p.m. Nov. 8 and Nov. 15 on the third floor of the Administration building. The first featured Nepalese food, the second featured South Korean food.
Friday Night Cafes have been going on for more than 30 years, and Nepal and South Korea hadn’t ever been chosen as the theme. Director of the Didactic Program in Dietetics Karen From said this gave the 14 students in the class special challenges.
“The two countries we did this year (are) very unique in the cooking skills that’s required,” From said. “(The students) have grown immensely with the things they’ve learned. … I’m really proud of them.”
The class was split in half, with seven students as managers and with the other students as their employees for the first event. The roles switched for the South Korean themed Friday Night Cafe.
Senior Nayeon Lee was a manager for the first one. She asked Nepalese students Lhakpa Sherpa and Pooja Poudyal to recommend recipes and help with decorations. Both Sherpa and Poudyal attended the candle-lit dinner and enjoyed the experience.
“Everything was perfect,” Sherpa said. “I just like how they put the right amount of spice so it wasn’t too spicy for everybody, but for us tasting it, we just found it perfect. In Nepal, we have a lot of spicy food, and we put a lot of spices in, but people here, they tend to have it less spicy.”
Senior Abbi Brown enjoyed learning about the Nepalese culture. She said they decorated the room with prayer flags because someone told her it’s not possible to be in Nepal without seeing prayer flags.
“It’s such an interesting culture,” Brown said. “We have such a big population of Nepalese students on the Northwest campus, so we wanted to do something to represent them and learn more about them.”
The students had been preparing for the cafes since the beginning of the semester, starting with research. Poudyal said she was happy to see the effort they put into preparing Nepalese food.
“Something I really liked was that they didn’t just stick to the common Nepalese food. They had some very unique foods like the potato salad, the cucumber salad and asparagus curry,” Poudyal said. “Everything was really good. They really did their research to make this an authentic dining experience.”
She was also glad to be represented.
“It’s very humbling to see people from different places or different identities and cultures making an effort to celebrate a different culture and honoring it,” Poudyal said. “Being a student from that culture, it makes us feel more welcome and more appreciated.”
Lee is from South Korea, but she wasn’t the one to propose South Korea as a theme. When it was first chosen, she was concerned.
“I was really scared because I personally don’t cook Korean food because of the food availability, and they don’t have anything in Maryville,” Lee said. “I think Korean food in general is very complex to make. I was happy about it, but I was worried about how it might turn out. I think it turned out really great.”
Senior Brian Downs said Lee was a big help in the planning process by confirming recipes and ingredients. They have a set budget to buy all their materials for the event. This is handled by a purchasing team within each management.
The food alone for each dinner costs more than $700, From said. Tickets costs $13, a little higher than most dinner events to make up for the cost. Only 60 tickets were available so students could ensure they had enough food for all the guests.
“The money goes to pay for all the food supplies and decorations the students purchase to put on the event,” From said. “We usually break even with maybe some leftover to purchase small equipment or supplies for the lab.”
Downs was glad to be on the second management team because he was able to see what should be improved.
“The first week (team) is kind of the guinea pigs,” Downs said. “Nepal went great. We loved it. There’s just some things we fine-tuned. You have to acclimate the time crunch; some simple tasks like chopping vegetables may take an hour, but you don’t even know it and put it for 15 minutes on your production schedule.”
Colombian freshman Camilo Castelblanco went to both Friday Night Cafes because he enjoys experiencing other cultures. He said his favorite part was seeing the effort and positive attitudes all the students had while hosting the event.
“I try different things to expand my mindset,” Castelblanco said. “My biggest takeaway (is) you don’t need special equipment or people who are really experienced on something to make something happen really good; students are able to join together, learn ahead and do amazing things.”
Lee was honored her classmates chose to theme the cafe after South Korea. When they were preparing the food, she said the kitchen smelled like home.
“It feels really great. Making something you’ve never tried is hard, but that’s why we need to research and learn about that country,” Lee said. “That whole process was very valuable. I really appreciate my peers representing my country because I know how hard it is. I really appreciate them, and I feel very appreciated as well.”