Return of the International Food Festival draws record crowds

After a two-year hiatus, the International Food Festival returned on Friday, March 25, 2022. Students, faculty, staff, and community members gathered on Thomas Plaza for an evening of international cuisine, music, and fun. 

Each attendee was given several white tickets for food and one red ticket for voting. The winners, decided by number of red tickets, were:

  • 1st place: Juliana Castilla Manotas and Maria Carrera, representing Colombia
  • 2nd place: Zafri Yussoff, Roziah Yussoff, and Izzan Yussoff, representing Malaysia
  • 3rd place: Eyram Havi, Nutifafa Havi, Chidubem Ekoh, and Adesola J. Johnson representing West Africa (Ghana and Nigeria)

Angelo Olayvar, representing the Philippines, tied with the West Africa group by number of tickets, but by a crowd cheer-off, the West Africa group clinched the 3rd place title.


Juliana Castilla Manotas (right) and Maria Carrera, representing Colombia, made tres leches dessert, enyucado, and panelitas. They prepared for three days prior to the festival. Carrera owns the Harrisonburg bakery Sofia’s Sweet Treats, which Carrera says has “the best tres leches of Harrisonburg.” Carrera’s husband, Jose, is a conversation partner in EMU’s Language and Literature Department.

Festival-goers enjoy their food on the steps of Thomas Plaza. “It’s been really nice seeing how excited everyone is to eat the food. Food brings people together,” says Lexi Beard, a member of the group that made pad thai and Singaporian noodles, representing Thailand and China.

Eyram Havi and Nutifafa Havi pose for a photo in between serving their dishes of jollof rice, puff puff, kelewele (plantains), and suya. Representing West Africa, specifically Ghana and Nigeria, this group chose these dishes because they are found in both Ghanan and Nigerian cuisine with some variation. “If you taste our food, it tells you where we’re from,” Eyram says.

Hebron Mekuria, one of the chefs representing Ethiopia, says, “It was a little bit stressful to cook. It took a couple hours, and we thought we wouldn’t have enough time, but now that I’m here and everyone is eating our food and they appreciate it, it makes me happy.”

Ignacio Ocaranza made food for the International Food Festival two years ago, the last time it took place. Especially after COVID, he says, it was great to “come out here as a community and cook together again.” 

Faith Manickam (pictured) and Shiva Aryal served Indian and Nepali cuisine, including biriyani, samosas, momos, masala dosa, and aloo achar.

Cindi Boyer was the host for the evening, shouting out different tables, inviting chefs to speak about their entries, and keeping attendees apprised of the order of events.

Join the Discussion on “Return of the International Food Festival draws record crowds

  1. What a beautiful and fun celebration of our EMU community! Huge thanks to all those who made the International Food Festival 2022 a resounding success!

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