PITTSFIELD — More than 20 countries and their cuisine were represented Sunday at Maine Central Institute’s annual International Food Festival in Pittsfield.

Since 2007, students and faculty have planned, shopped and prepared dishes for one of the schools most beloved traditions, according to one of its organizers, Artur Fass, who works for the school’s English as a Second Language Department.

“This is one of the oldest and perhaps one of the most beloved traditions at this campus,” Fass said. “MCI is truly a global and diverse community, and this festival is here to celebrate our cultures. There’s no better way to share a culture than through food.”

Fass, who is from Estonia, was representing Ukraine at the festival and prepared borscht, a deep-red soup made with beets, cabbage, potatoes, carrots, onion, garlic and beef.

“I do have family in Ukraine. My uncle is fighting in the war and my cousins are refugees,” Fass said. “Borscht is a staple Ukraine food. Every household in Ukraine has it at their tables, and that’s something I’d like to share today.”

Maine Central Institute student Madison Knight, 17, of Liberia, right, holds warm rice bread while Sandra Janiec of Poland grabs bowls while serving samples Sunday during the annual International Food Festival at Maine Central Institute in Pittsfield. Janiec says she assisted Knight, after serving all her samples of Polish food at a nearby table. Rich Abrahamson/Morning Sentinel

This year’s food festival included 22 teams of students representing nations from throughout the world, including Brazil, France, Myanmar, Italy, Portugal and Slovakia.


Kristyna Markova and Charlotte Losticka , seniors at MCI, represented the Czech Republic at the festival and prepared potato pancakes.

“Our cuisine has been forgotten,” Losticka said. “Now people are trying to revive it.”

Maine Central Institute students Kristyna Markova, 18, left, and Charlotte Lostitcka , 19, work together Sunday while cooking potato pancakes, a traditional dish from the Czech Republic, during the annual International Food Festival at Maine Central Institute in Pittsfield. The pair from the Czech Republic say they were making the pancakes in a sample size, when normally they are much larger and served with meat as a meal. Rich Abrahamson/Morning Sentinel

Fass said students are responsible for planning meals each year, including shopping for supplies and preparing the cuisine during the festival, although faculty members assist in the efforts.

“There’s autonomy and students take this very seriously. They are proud of their cultures,” Fass said. “Every year when I come out and ask them whether they want to do this, they’re excited, there’s no question, even from those kids who have never been here. They take it just as seriously as the returning kids.”

Emily Andrews of Lewiston attended the festival for the first time Sunday with her husband and their 3-month-old daughter, Piper. By noon, the family had made its rounds through Parks Gymnasium at the MCI campus.

Maine Central Institute students from Vietnam prepare and serve spring rolls Sunday during the annual International Food Festival at MCI in Pittsfield. From left: Claire Nguyen, 18, Mi Nguyen, 18, and Peter Truong, 18. The three, along with Alex Nguyen, 17, worked together and made 100 spring rolls in pork, shrimp and vegetable varieties during the event. Rich Abrahamson/Morning Sentinel

“We’ve tried everything. The empanadas were delicious,”Andrews said. “It’s hard to find international food in Maine. We will be back next year.”

An empanada is a baked or fried turnover or pastry with filling, common in Spanish, Southern European, Latin American and Filipino cultures.

Maine Central Institute is an independent boarding and day school for students in grades nine through 12. The school serves as the town academy for Pittsfield, Burnham and Detroit, and for many students from around the world.

“We have students from Presque Isle to Cumberland Foreside, around the state of Maine, around the United States and the world,” said Wayne Lobley, director of advancement at MCI.

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