International Food Bazaar draws crowds, raises funds

By DANIEL MARSH Originally Published March 14, 2013 at 12:00 a.m.
Updated March 13, 2013 at 11:53 a.m.
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Jim Miller, Contributing photographer

Cedric Akodokoun from Benin serves up some international delicacies during the International Food Bazaar, which is held every spring at Henderson State University in Arkadelphia. The food bazaar highlights dishes from the cultures of various student chefs at the university while raising funds for an area charity chosen annually by the Henderson International Students Association.

Beneath colorful flags depicting each nation represented at

Henderson State University’s 17th annual International Food Bazaar, hundreds of people lined up to sample cuisine prepared by student chefs.

Cedric Akodokoun, for example, had prepared a dish from Benin called ragout

a la viande beninoise, with ingredients that included yams, tomato sauce, onions, red peppers and boneless beef.

Shelia Ballard of Hope had just sat down with a paper plate laden with food, including some of Akodokoun’s dish.

She was also eating a Korean dumpling and a slice of South African milk tart.

“It’s good,” she said of the beninoise. “We just hit the line and got all we could, and if at all possible, we’re going to go back down the line for more.”

John Ballard, also of Hope, agreed that the food was “awesome. This curry is very good,” he said. “I am also having something with white rice and beans and a sauce with salmon and peppers and tomatoes.”

“This milk tart is delicious,” Shelia said. “It tastes like a piece of Southern buttermilk pie.”

Luke Sorenson of Texarkana, Ark., said he had gotten a little of something each from Russia, Benin, Korea and Sri Lanka.

Shelia said she is a graduate of Henderson and has a daughter attending the university. It was their first time to eat at the bazaar.

“We love it,” John said, spearing a chunk of a beef-stuffed roll on his fork.

Chris Ibasco, a senior nursing major who was born in the Philippines but raised in American Samoa, worked for months organizing the bazaar. He said that each year, the Henderson International Students Association raises funds for an area charitable organization by hosting the bazaar.

“Every year, we’ll choose a group for a fundraiser,” Ibasco said.

The bazaar grew out of annual gatherings at the International House of students interested in learning about other cultures. This year’s bazaar benefited Hillcrest Children’s Home of Hot Springs.

Ibasco said 40 foods from 22 countries had been prepared for the event, which each year feeds 200 to 300 people.

“The first hour is for food and socializing — people will sit down with their plates and mingle and enjoy the food, and the second hour is for entertainment and a raffle.”

Portugal and Mexico were two of the nations to be represented in the evening’s second hour of entertainment.

“We start getting ideas together for the performers and the different dishes early in the year,” Ibasco said. “It’s a lot of work, and it takes both semesters to do it.”

More than 40 students, many of them American, participate in the bazaar. Ibasco said they prepare the dishes wherever they can — at their homes, in their dorms, “in whatever kitchen they can find.”

He said helping to organize and prioritize for the bazaar will be useful in his chosen field of nursing. He couldn’t say which type of cuisine he most looked forward to sampling.

“I’m not picky about food; I’m open to anything,” he said, laughing.

Randall D. Gant, operations director of Hillcrest Children’s Home, and his wife, Rhonda, were enjoying tilapia.

“I’m not sure what everything else is,” Gant said, with a laugh. “I just trust the students, but it is all really good. There’s lots of protein, which is what I like.”

He said he was encouraged by the turnout for the fundraiser.

“I think it will give us an opportunity to share with everyone here about what we are doing and how they can get involved,” he said.

Hillcrest ministers and provides food, clothing and housing for as many as 60 abused, neglected or abandoned children.

“We provide for every aspect of their lives,” Gant said. “We serve children from ages 18 months to 18 years. We house them, feed them and send them to Hot Springs schools. Anything anybody’s kids could need in their home, they need here.”

Gant spoke briefly to the crowd before the festivities began. The evening’s entertainment included a fashion show featuring students dressed in traditional clothing from various countries, including China and Nigeria.

None DANIEL MARSH can be reached at .

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