UWM hosts International Dessert Competition April 23

University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee students will share a taste of the cultures of many countries in an International Dessert Competition on Wednesday, April 23, 3:30 to 5:30 p.m. in Greene Hall, 3347 N. Downer Ave. The event is free and open to the public. Prizes will be awarded to the top chefs and teams.

Students will be sharing tasty treats, ranging from Russia’s apple baba to Saudi Arabia’s tamreya, with the audience as well as the judges.

Judges will include local food and dessert experts including Nancy Stohs, food editor of the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel; Julie Waterman, owner and chocolatier at Indulgence Chocolatiers; Paolo Iazzi of Coldwell Banker North Shore; and, Matt Post and Ricky Crespo of Colectivo Baking Company.

UWM’s language departments and cultural and international program offices are organizing the event.

Students competing are welcoming the chance to share treats from different cultures.

“What easier way to get a college student’s attention than through food?” asks Sarah Shelnutt, a senior Japanese Language and Culture major and president of the UWM Japanese Culture Association.

Shelnutt will enter the competition with her green tea cake with sesame seeds.

She says she chose the recipe because green tea is an integral part of Japanese `culture, and she wanted to demonstrate that it’s used in other ways than just tea.

Brittany Jane (Slava) Blackburn, a junior who double majors in German and Russian, is working with Aaron (Vlad) Kuczmarski, a junior, to prepare apple baba for the competition. “It’s become a Russian Club favorite,” says Blackburn, who found the recipe in a Russian cookbook provided by Russian instructor Meghan Murphy-Lee.  “It seemed simple and I could actually buy all the ingredients in town. The result was a fantastic cake, that I tweaked a little to adapt it to my method of cooking.”

Tamreya is a popular dessert in Saudi Arabia, says Lama Alamoodi, an ESL (English as a Second Language, student, , who is preparing it for the competition. The dessert includes dates, nuts, butter, rice crispies, chocolate and coconut, but can also be mixed with different flavors like caramel and marshmallow.

“We eat it with coffee or tea, and it’s frequently made during Ramadan,” Alamoodi says.

“I wanted to share our Arabic dessert and let others try a different dessert from another culture,” she says of her decision to enter the contest.

Kim Anderson, a senior in atmospheric sciences who minors in French, is making a croquembouche – literally translated as “crunch in mouth.” A French student since the age of 13, she describes the dessert as cream puffs dipped in caramel and stacked up into a cone, decorated. “This is a traditional French wedding dessert.”

This event is for those who enjoy learning about different languages and cultures through their taste buds, according to organizers.

“Cuisine is such a universal interest that everyone can taste the beauty of the culture from it,” says Xiaorong Wang, who teaches Chinese 160, A Taste of China: Learning Chinese Culture through Cuisine. Four of her students are taking part in the dessert competition.

“By respecting and preserving the traditional cuisine, we can pass down the philosophy, thoughts, and traditions from generation to generation,” she says.

“Beyond providing our basic need for growth, food has also a symbolic value offering comfort, stress reduction, security, reward, and control,” says Simonetta Milli Konewko,, assistant professor of French, Italian and Comparative Literature,  who teaches Introduction to Italian Food Studies: A Cultural History.

Among the departments and programs involved in organizing and supporting the International Dessert Competition are: Foreign Languages and Literature; Spanish and Portuguese; French, Italian, and Comparative Literature; English as a Second Language; and, the Center for International Education and the Language Resource Center.