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Ethnic restaurants offer samples to students at fifth-annual event

| Friday, November 18, 2016

The International Student and Scholar Affairs (ISSA) sponsored their fifth-annual International Taste of South Bend on Wednesday. Held at the Stepan Center, this event featured free food samples from sixteen participating ethnic restaurants in the South Bend area with cuisines varying from Cajun and Jamaican to sushi, homemade cheeses, Chinese and Mediterranean. Between bites of food, attendees, ranging in age from toddlers to adults, enjoyed student entertainment from five acts, including Irish dancers and the a cappella group The Echoes.

While the event was on hiatus last year, this year’s International Taste marks a milestone year for the event. With around 400 attendees in 2014, the location was changed from LaFortune Student Center to Stepan Center to accommodate the increased demand.

“My goal with the venue change was to do a lot more advertising,” program coordinator Heather Christensen said. “The first group we wanted to target was the Notre Dame community: faculty, staff, and students.”

In between student acts, foreign music blared from speakers and the International Ambassadors Entertainment Committee, clad in gold shirts, greeted guests and making sure everything ran smoothly. The center was decorated with balloons that some of the youngest guests took home.

Upon entering, attendees were presented with a laminated map of the world and were asked to mark their native country with a dry-erase marker. This year, the event was such a success that nearly all the food was gone by 7:15 p.m., with some of the last guests receiving homemade cheeses, cured meats and bread from Oh Mamma’s on the Avenue.   

The aim of the event was not simply to provide college students with free food, Christensen said. It was also meant to provide exposure for up and coming restaurants, such as South Bend’s Arabesk Palace — opened in late September — to members of the South Bend community.

“We really tried to give as much exposure as we could for the variety of restaurants in town,” Christensen said. “There are some restaurants that may not be able to do a lot of advertising, so we wanted exposure for the community as well. I’ve been assisting on events for five years, and I find that local community members check the calendar on their phones if we put events on Notre Dame’s calendar.”

Christensen also expressed a desire to expand students’ knowledge of the South Bend area with this event and to get them “out of the Notre Dame bubble.”

Reggio’s, an Italian restaurant in Mishawaka, had a table at the event, for example. Christensen acknowledged that driving out there would be a bit of a hassle for the typical Notre Dame student, but she said she felt the exposure the restaurant gets to the community, as well as the opportunity to show students more options for dining, is worthwhile.

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