University of Vermont

2013 Global Village Food Olympics Medals Go to Russian, German, and Korean Houses

Students dig in to the variety of foods on offer at this year's Food Olympics, organized through the Global Village Residential Learning Community. (Photo: Sarah Reid)

The following report was submitted by Professor Kevin McKenna, German and Russian Department.

With the rapidly approaching Winter Olympic Games in Sochi, Russia, the UVM Global Village, under the direction of the Russian House on campus, launched the second annual Food Olympics last week. The proceeds from the event, as was the case last year, will go to a very good cause — the Bright Connections charity. The food competition managed to raise nearly $150, or, as event organizer Nicolas Chlebak announced at the evening’s conclusion, “4,945.30 rubles.”

Following up on the brilliant success of last year’s inaugural event, when culinary competition was waged between only the German and the Russian Houses, fully nine International Houses in the Living/Learning Center’s Global Village participated in this year’s “food Olympics.”  In addition to the two original Houses from last year, the 2013 Food Olympics this month included tasty delights from Africa House, Canada House, Caribbean House, Casa Italiana, Korean House, La Maison Française, Shalom House and Spanish House. This year’s highly competitive “cook-off” was organized by Nicolas Chlebak, a UVM Russian major and student coordinator for the Russian House.  Determined to build upon the success of the previous year’s competition, Nick (or “Kolya” to his post-communist cronies) wanted to transform the event into a wider global affair and met with eager response from virtually all the international houses in the Global Village.

Students from on- and off-campus gathered in the Fireplace Lounge to select from a mélange of meals before casting votes for the their favorite dish by way of monetary contributions to the House most responsible for tickling their taste buds. The German and Russian Houses reprised last year’s fierce competition and managed, respectively, to take this year’s bronze and gold medals.  Newcomer Korean House challenged for the gold medal but settled for a silver, with its fabulous soup, budaejjigae, spelled 부대찌개 in Hangul. Korean House members, Chris Torossian, Keeta Williams, Kiwi, and Shinyoung Kang bonded together to prepare this wonderful soup. Bronze medal winner, German House, served up a tasty dish of käsespätzele, prepared by Hannah Alsdorf, Spencer Bogle, Amina Brown, Sasha Gainen-Truslow, Amanda Greene, Anna-Lisa Kraller and Gavin Santacross.

While difficult to calculate with any degree of accuracy, approximately 200 to 20,000 UVM students were drawn to the Food Olympics this year and, judging by bulging bellies and happy faces — a good time was had by all. When asked why college students would wait until 8 p.m. for their evening meal, one stuffed sophomore replied, “Hey, dude, it’s, like, free!”  High points of the evening culminated when faculty director of the German House, Professor Dennis Mahoney, regaled one and all with a stirring rendition of the German national anthem, all of whose seemingly endless 17 stanzas he faithfully performed. A disquieting titter ran through the gorged crowd when organizer Nicolas Chlebak announced the final tally of votes cast for the gold, silver, and bronze medal winners. Nervously disclaiming any foul play, “Kolya” pronounced the Russian House as the repeat-winners of the evening’s event. Chlebak was not immediately available for further comment as he slithered away from the stage.  

Russian House faculty director, Professor Kevin McKenna, proudly attributed his dubious role in his students’ success this year to his decision to stay as far away from any food preparation for the event as possible, a winning strategy that he resurrected from last year’s event. German and Russian Department chair, Professor Helga Schreckenberger, proudly proclaimed her approval of the evening’s outcome with little surprise.  When not stuffing her face, Sarah Reid, program director for the Global Village Residential Community, picked her way through the packed Fireplace Lounge snapping photos of happy eaters and exhausted food preparers. For a sampling of Sarah’s photos of the evening, visit the Global Village Facebook Page. Having filled his face with homemade German spatzele, Professor Wolfgang Mieder retreated to a corner of the room to write yet another book -- before returning for (yet another) dessert.   

Chris Torossian from the Korean House wiped a brow in gratefully acknowledging the role of UVM Korean students in tutoring him in the preparation of the popular Korean soup. The winning dish of the evening, Russian блинчики/bliny (a Russian type of pancake), was almost a “no-show” for the Wednesday event. According to Kristen Rousse, the genius behind the main ingredient’s flour batter, her two Russian House grocery store emissaries (Rubin Golderg and Eric Warshawsky) failed to bring home the proper kind of buckwheat flour--resulting in a gruel more akin to cement than to the svelte texture of bliny. Consequently, the whole batch had to be discarded, postponing preparation of the pancakes until the actual day of the event. Assisting Kristen, Eric, and Rubin were Kolya, Veronica Rock and Tatiana Rumsey.

Global Village Director, Professor Joseph Acquisto, summed up the evening’s success, commenting that “the Food Olympics exemplifies so many of the goals that we have for Global Village: it was a student-initiated, student-led event that brought all of our programs together in a common activity that nonetheless highlighted each culture's uniqueness (and as any student will tell you, they believe nothing can do that quite like food can), with the resulting proceeds going to help a worthy cause. I'm proud of them for making it happen.”   

While Kolya and Kristen were the organizers of this year’s and last year’s Global Village Food Competitions, former Russian House student director and recent UVM grad Katie Boynton ’12 initially suggested the idea of a Global Village event last year to raise money for a suitably worthy charity. The Bright Connections organization contributed the proceeds from last year’s event to an orphanage in Kirov, Russia.  A decision for this year’s proceeds remains to be announced.