Team Saudi Arabia Wins Top Honors at 2016 International Cook-Off

Nearly 900 Kent State University students, faculty, staff and families packed the Kent Student Center Ballroom Thursday night to enjoy the culinary creations of six international cooking teams in this year's International Cook-Off Competition.

Three judges – including Jim Bracken, Ph.D., dean of the University Libraries; Victor M. Torres, director of global engagement at the Northeast Ohio Medical University (NEOMED); and Kathy Spicer, outreach program manager for Kent State’s Office of the Provost – were given the task of selecting the top three winners in the competition.

The audience also participated by using cell phones to vote for the winner of the People's Choice Award. Six student culinary teams – from Bangladesh, Brazil, India, Nepal, Saudi Arabia and South Korea – had been selected to compete from almost 30 entries. Each prepared and presented a different cultural entrée and beverage from its home country.

The Cook-Off is an annual event hosted by Kent State’s Office of Global Education to commemorate International Education Week 2016. The Cook-Off was part of 41 different events, including everything from lectures to luncheons, gallery openings to Gobble, Gobble Global!

Justin Hilton, senior associate vice president of Kent State’s University Relations, served as the Cook-Off’s master of ceremonies. He welcomed the hungry attendees, introduced the cooking teams and got the evening's festivities underway with a hearty "Let's Eat!"

Throughout the evening, Hilton interviewed special guest Kent State President Beverly Warren, as well as the judges, and cooking teams to learn about their native countries, preparation and ingredients used in the food.

“The cook-off was a delightful representation of the unique way the Kent State community embraces and celebrates diversity in all of its forms," Warren said. "I am so grateful to all of the students who shared their cultures and traditions as expressed so meaningfully through the special foods of their countries."

Here are this year’s 2016 International Cook-Off winners:

  • First Place: Saudi Arabia - Kabsah
  • Second Place: India - Chili Chicken
  • Third Place: Bangladesh - Kacchi Biriyani, Begun Vaji and Borhani
  • People's Choice: India - Chili Chicken 

“All the feedback that we heard from people about the food was positive," said Saleh Shahini, captain of Team Saudi Arabia. "They all liked it and came back again and again. But we didn't expect to be the first place winner based on judge's opinion, which really shocked us. We are so happy and so thankful to everyone participated and to all the organizers. The most important thing is not that we won, but it is that we got to know awesome people from different countries and different expertise."

"I appreciated the enthusiasm of the students,” Spicer said. “It was such an uplifting event and obviously well received by the campus community. All of the food was so delicious. In my opinion, all of the teams deserve high praise for the efforts put forth."

"Congratulations to OGE for hosting a great event,” Bracken said. “It was a delicious blast. I enjoyed every minute of it. The food was excellent. The competition was fierce but friendly. It was a real Kent State community celebration."

"The cook off was an amazing success,” Marcello Fantoni, Ph.D., associate provost for Kent State’s Office of Global Education. “The organizers did a fantastic job, it was incredibly well attended, the atmosphere was festive, President Warren came to visit and the food was excellent."

POSTED: Friday, December 2, 2016 11:58 AM
Updated: Thursday, December 8, 2022 08:11 PM
Mike Taylor