PITTSFIELD — It’s not often one can nibble on a French croissant, taste a German klopschen, and partake of a bowl of borscht, cooked up by students from Ukraine, all in one setting.

But that’s what patrons of the International Food Festival at Maine Central Institute got to experience Sunday, the 16th year the event has been held.

“It’s just wonderful,” said Ann Haseltine, 76, of Pittsfield. “I just had wonderful Mexican guacamole. “I’m trying everything. Very nice.”

It was the first time Haseltine had attended the event, which offered free samples of cuisine from places such as Italy, France, Brazil, Vietnam, Myanmar, China, Liberia, Thailand, Norway, Spain, Peru and Japan.

Held in Parks Gymnasium on the MCI campus, the event drew about 200 people and allowed some 40 students from other countries to make their favorite foods to share, free of charge, with American students and area residents. Faculty and staff also helped cook the food.

Sophomore Allegra Rebbelmund and junior Lilith Emilia Bueser, both of Germany, served the klopschen, which looked like tiny cooked hamburgers.


“This is a combination of beef and pork meats and feta cheese and different spices and it goes in the oven,” Bueser, 17, said.

German student Lilith Emilia Bueser serves klopschen during the 16th annual International Food Festival hosted by the international students at Maine Central Institute in Pittsfield. Rich Abrahamson/Morning Sentinel

Rebbelmund, 15, helped serve Gummibarchen, a round plate of gummy candies Bueser’s mother sent her from Germany, made to resemble a pizza.

“This is my first year at the fest,” Rebbelmund said. “I think it’s really good because we can share something from our culture.”

Juniors Anastasiia Kravcheuko, 16, and Mariia Palamarchuk, 15, both of Ukraine, were serving the borscht, made with potatoes, pork and beets.

Palamarchuk said it was nice, after eating mostly American food, to be able to help educate people about typical foods served in Ukraine.

“I think it’s great that we can demonstrate the food that we usually eat,” she said.


Retired MCI teacher Richard Waite chatted with  Kravcheuko and Palamarchuk and, after sampling the borscht and cuisine from other tables, said it was all delicious.

“The food is great,” said Waite, who taught American history and politics. “It was fun, talking to the two Ukrainian students, asking them how their families were. It’s just so great to see them here.”

MCI serves secondary school students from Pittsfield, Burnham and Detroit, day students from many Maine communities and boarding students from several states and 28 nations.

Artur Fass, MCI’s admissions associate director of partnerships, has organized the food event for six of the seven years he has been at the school.

“Last year we had the largest turnout ever,” Fass said.

Head of School David Pearson was strolling around the gymnasium with a camera, greeting people and taking photographs.


“It’s really impressive what they’re doing, and bringing a little bit of flavor of the countries to central Maine is hugely popular,” Pearson said.

Tom Bertrand, assistant head of school for advancement, started the food fest with students 16 years ago when he was dean of residential life.

“It’s great every year,” Bertrand said. “This is always such a highlight. It’s a great community event.”

Music from all the nations represented was featured throughout the two-hour festival. The France table, hosted by three students, was so popular that the homemade raspberry pie, croissants and crepes disappeared quickly. Students from Turkey served up salsa, as well as rice pudding topped with cinnamon and thinly-sliced pistachios.

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