“This is Payson’s Epcot,” said Sharry Jarrell as she sat down in the Rim Country Middle School cafeteria to enjoy a helping of broiled asparagus wrapped in Canadian bacon and cheese sprinkled with breadcrumbs paired with an herbed white fish spread on toast from Denmark.
She had it right.
On Tuesday, (Feb. 25), Jarell, along with 176 people attended the annual chef event fund-raiser for the Payson High School (PHS) Culinary Arts Program.
The students had decorated each table with a suitcase covered in travel stickers from countries all over Europe and Asia and a cookie cutter in the shape of the United States with a recipe for hosting a foreign exchange student.
For this year’s chef event, the PHS students joined forces with the Education First (EF) foreign exchange students to raise money for the culinary arts students to take field trips to places like the underground kitchens of Disneyland.
Students from Norway, Italy, Japan, Thailand, Germany, India and Denmark worked for hours and days tasting the efforts of the culinary arts students to find the perfect recipe that reflected the taste of their favorite dish.
Mathilde Jensen from Esbjevag, Denmark said they tried four or five different recipes before she would sign off on the fish spread.
“We eat a lot of cheese and fish,” said the cute blond of the food from her country.
Jensen said her town sits close to the ocean and near the German border, which influences the taste of the food she eats.
From a country near Denmark, Lena Klenke of Germany beamed over her red cabbage, Roulade and German dumplings.
“I love these because my grandma makes them,” she said. “I brought my family’s cookbook.”
Ashley Ford helped Klenke serve up the food.
Culinary Arts instructor Devon Wells said each country represented had two dedicated PHS culinary arts students who worked for two months on recipes that created the perfect food.
“We even had to go to a special Asian grocery store in the Valley to find ingredients we don’t have here,” she said.
The culinary students also had to dream up the decorations and make out a budget based on portion size so they could make money on the event.
“It has been a lot of work,” said Wells.
Branda Sanchez and Jade Padilla cooked the “Money Bags” and chicken with coconut rice for Nattapol Tongumpai from Thailand.
When asked why the wonton-like “Money Bags” are given that name, Tongumpai said the golden color of the fried outside reminds his countrymen of money.
Inside the deep-fried crisp dough, pieces of marinated pork with pungent seasonings made many of the food lovers swoon.
Next to Tongumpai, Nana Iwasaki from Japan served tuna sushi and tempura shrimp with a delectable sweetly flavored soy-sesame sauce.
“Sushi is famous from here,” said Iwasaki. “We’re just fond of it.”
Haylee Marshall, who cooked the food for Iwasaki said she and her partners cooked everything over and over again until Iwasaki said it tasted just right.
Across the room, the three students from Norway, Benedikte Borthen, Amy Torp and Yngvild Eksner, served Lasskaus Stew, flat bread and potato sausages.
The three girls could not translate what Lasskaus Stew would be in English, but agreed it is an “open up the fridge and put everything in” type of stew.
Immersed in the creamy beef stock were chunks of beef, potatoes and carrots. The flatbread looked like whole-wheat pita bread, but the sausages took on a new meaning when the girls said the culinary arts students made them by hand.
Gerardo Moceri said he had a hand at helping make the sausages because he makes his own in his restaurant kitchen.
“I have the grinder and casings,” he said.
Wells said the idea for the event started with Gerardo years ago. She said his help makes the event possible. His work on a variety of community fund-raisers and educational projects could explain why Roundup Readers named him “Best Businessperson” in this year’s Best of Payson balloting.
“He has worked on this from Sunday through Monday,” she said.
Surrounding Wells and Gerardo in the RCMS kitchen were huge warming boxes and portable ovens.
Near and dear to Gerardo’s heart was the Italian table with EF student Francesco Calia.
He decided to make a lemon-infused pork and cheesy polenta dish.
To decorate his table, he had a huge tube of water with a tiny singing gondolier.
Next to Calia, two students from the beginning culinary arts class dished up a rice and chickpea dal made by chemistry teacher Meena Rustagi, who hails from India.
After finishing all of the dinner food, guests waddled up to the dessert table where they faced a daunting array of sweets from each country.
From Italy, Tiramisu; from Thailand, Coconut Tapioca Pudding; from Germany, Apple Strudel; from India, Carrot Halwas; from Norway, Veiled Peasant Girls; from Denmark, Pepper Nuts; and from Japan, Shiratama.
Wells said the whole experience was very educational for her culinary arts students.
And Jarrell said it was the next best thing to going to Europe itself, because, she said with a twinkle in her eye, her husband said he could never afford to actually take her there.