Food Bazaar: a celebration of diversity

by Brook Gardner-Durbin

On Saturday, Feb. 15, the ballrooms of the SUB will be transformed into a celebration of MSU’s diversity. The 32nd International Food Bazaar will feature numerous booths from different countries from around the globe, each serving the food of their homeland. Most students will also be dressing in their traditional clothing, and many are participating in a stage show.

“We have amazing entertainment this year,” Deborah Chiolero said, who has been coordinating the Bazaar for 13 years. Expect singing and dancing in a variety of languages, an officially circus-certified unicyclist and more. Many booths will also be set up for calligraphy, allowing attendees to have their names written out in a wide variety of languages.

The annual event is sponsored by the Office of International Programs of MSU to help share the many cultures on campus. “Bozeman is fairly well cultured,” Chiolero said, “but not always [cultured] in food.” The Bazaar aims to fix that by sharing the diversity of MSU’s many cultures and nationalities with other students and the surrounding Bozeman community.

“It is definitely a family event,” Heather Dolan said, who works as coordinator of the Food Bazaar with Chiolero.

The International Food Bazaar is among the largest annual non-sports related events at MSU. There will be 32 booths set up, each cooking about 300 servings.  At least 3,000 people are expected to attend the event, and Chiolero and Dolan began planning for the event in early October. Booths begin preparing their ingredients as early as Thursday to give every team enough time to finish before Saturday.

Each team is given time and space in the MSU food service kitchens, as well as the time and attention of a food service chef. The chef supervises for safety purposes and will provide advice to the amateur chefs if requested, but each booth decides on their menu and does the majority of their cooking alone. The chefs are most often called upon to help with the complications of cooking for 300, with which few students experienced.

One of the largest clubs participating is the Saudi Arabian club, led by Abdulhadi Alqahtani, a junior in mechanical engineering, which has more than 150 members. More than 20 student members of the club will help with preparations. There will be five cooking and eight in the stage show, playing a traditional Saudi Arabian instrument called the Oud, and still others helped build and decorate their booth. “We will have a camel,” Abdulhadi said, “[visitors] can come and take a picture.”

The club plans a menu that includes chicken curry, white rice, vegetable soup, a dessert and a non-alcoholic Saudi champagne (alcohol was prohibited in the event).

The event also features a competition. Secret judges, appointed by the Office of International Programs, will be circulating throughout the Bazaar, evaluating each booth on their food, energy, decorations, dress and stage show. “We won a few years ago,” Abdulhadi said with a smile. “It would be nice to win again.”

Despite the competition, the atmosphere is entirely friendly. Many of the international students are friends from shared classes or international student programs.

Each club pays for its own ingredients, which can be a significant upfront cost when cooking for 300 students. Their costs are offset by their sales, which they get to keep. Most clubs use the money to pay for trips or other club activities. The Office of International Programs is funded by ASMSU and sponsors the event by paying overtime for the chefs, setup, cleanup and renting the ballrooms.

“You know it is something special as soon as you walk into the ballroom,” Chiolero said. Having 32 booths in one room, each with their own flavors and spices from around the world, creates a wonderful aroma.

The International Food Bazaar is Saturday, Feb. 15, from 4 – 7 p.m. Entry to see the show and the Bazaar is free to MSU students, $4 for adults, $2 for 10-18 year olds and free for children under 10. Each booth charges between $1 and $7 per serving of food.