The Payson High School culinary arts class decided to introduce the 13 foreign exchange students and their culture to the community through what else? Their food!
The Dec. 5 Worldwide Festival featured big posters, braziers full of food, and students from Germany, Japan, China, Thailand, Switzerland, Denmark, Norway and other countries dressed in clothes from their countries to share their country with the Rim Country.
“We have 13 exchange students this year and are enjoying all of them in the classroom so much,” said Devon Wells, culinary arts instructor. “My culinary class thought it would be fun to do something like our chef event, just on a smaller scale with the exchange students so that they could showcase their countries.”
The exchange students answered questions about their countries, explained why they picked the food they did and had laptops with slide shows scrolling through photos of their family, friends, countryside, major parks/cathedrals, etc., from each of their countries.
Wells assigned a culinary arts student to each foreign exchange student to help make bite-sized samples of food.
Rebecca Marie Karoliussen, from Norway, decided to make Cakeman — a lightly sweet sugar cookie she had her culinary arts personal chef Nick Hatt bake into a gingerbread man shape.
“It had to have red, white and blue on it because they are the colors of Norway’s flag,” said the perky blond from the Land of the Midnight Sun.
In the corner next to Rebecca, the four students from Germany kept sneaking bites from the huge bowl of potato salad they had made. They also served schnitzel.
Patrick Schlereth wore the traditional male costume of lederhosen, leather shorts, suspenders, a jacket and hat.
“We usually wear stockings with this,” he said. “The pants are short because most of our festivals happen in the summer when it is hot and we dance a lot.”
Philine Görzig wore the sweet dirndl dress German women wear as traditional clothing.
When asked what their favorite food of the evening was, Katja Lange, Katharina Meule and the other two students from Germany pointed to the potato salad full of pickles.
It had a tangy taste, different from mayonnaise-based potato salads. The schnitzel had a wonderful blend of subtle spices and breading.
The two boys from Taiwan, who go by Edward and John to make things easy for English speakers, had made a dumpling that looked and tasted like a potsticker.
“These look like bags of money,” said Edward. “They are supposed to bring prosperity when you eat them.”
The boys said they have helped their mothers make the dumplings since childhood, so when the culinary arts students asked them if they thought it difficult to fold the dough they said they were pros.
Fasai Phongthanakul (she goes by Fah) from Thailand wore a beautiful traditional Thai dress in pink. She served divine fried bananas.
Emilie Stockholm Thomsen from Denmark served a traditional rice pudding with a twist — toasted sliced almonds and cherry pie filling.
“We serve this on Christmas morning,” she said.
Rina Bessho from Japan served as her own chef since she is in the program. Instead of traditional garb, she wore the sharp black chefs jacket all culinary arts students wear.
Her cabbage and bacon-topped pancake went fast.
One of the most popular treats came from Switzerland — chocolate fondue with fresh fruit.
“We usually make fondue from cheese,” said Olivia Grubenmann, “but we teenagers make our own version with chocolate.”
Children surrounded her table to constantly eat the chocolate-covered treats.
PHS chemistry teacher Meena Rustagi also shared food from her native India.
“This is a south Indian snack we eat with tea,” she said of Rava idli.
The pancake had a slightly nutty taste and left the mouth ready for tea. The culinary arts students had bottles of water to help wash down the treats.
Edie Miller, the family coordinator for the Education First (EF) Foundation for Foreign Study, had a table explaining the EF program.
This year, instead of three students, 13 could come to PHS from Asia and Europe, due to a policy change from the school board. The Payson district may now accept tuition from the parents of foreign students, offering a wonderful education for all.