Global cuisine making its way to UMD
Wong Chern Ping, a UMD junior from Malaysia, cooks traditional Malaysian food once a week in his apartment to share with his friends. “I learned the traditional recipe from my mom before I came here,” Wong said. “Then I tried to make my own new recipe. Since I’m living in an apartment and I make my own food, I don’t get homesick that much. And I actually make a variety of food types, like Mexican, European (and) American, every other day.” Wong said he couldn’t imagine living in the dorms and eating at the Dining Center everyday. “Sometimes I feel like I am crazy,” Wong said, after he experimented mixing spaghetti and curry together—a dish he deemed a successful combination of food styles. “I think I just need time to adjust to different food, which is the same for everyone,” Wong said. “I would miss my home country food a lot if I lived in the dorms without any chance to cook it.” According to the International Student Office (ISO), the number of international students has increased from 167 in 2000, to 312 in 2012. Of the 312, 97 are Chinese, 58 are Korean, 37 are Indian, and the remaining are from a variety of other countries.
A table setting for the Malaysian meal in celebration of the Chinese New Year. Photo: Submitted by Dayae Kim The numbers have increased dramatically due, in part, to new programs being offered through the International Student Office. 50 out of the 58 Korean students at UMD came through the “1+3 program” that connects Seoul National University of Education and the University of Minnesota. Students who participate in the program spend their first year studying in Korea and then transfer to the U of M to complete their degree. According to Trisha O’Keefe, an international student advisor, food, homesickness, and friends are the three biggest challenges most international students struggle with while at UMD. Changes have been made to the food options offered at UMD to help international students cope with being far from home. According to ISO, 99 of the 182 undergraduate international students live on campus, as do 16 of the 120 graduate students. That means that many international students eat in the Dining Center for most of their meals. “Last year’s DC was all about fast food, like hamburgers or pasta,” said Da Min Yoo, a sophomore from Korea. “But ever since the ‘chef’s action stage’ opened, professional cooks make the dishes and various different dishes have been shown.” The change started in May with new Dining Center manager, Lino Cardoso. “Food is a thing that needs a lot of time to be changed,” Cardoso said. Over the past few months there has been continuous contact between the Dining Center mangers and student groups to help suggest new ways to improve the options and the quality of food. Student employees who worked over the summer, along with Multicultural Club members, were involved in a focus group that met regularly to talk about issues related to the Dining Center food. “We’ve talked about various international menus we can try,” Cardoso said. “And our managers decided to have more professional executive chefs next semester.” The Dining Center’s food is more focused on an American cuisine, and students have complained that it is too sweet, too salty, or too tasteless. For manager Cardoso, it is hard to keep a balance. About 3,000 students live in the dorms and eat at the Dining Center regularly. That means that except for the 300 international students, about 2,700 are used to the style of the food served there. “We are not done yet,” Cardoso said. “The DC’s purpose is not to make profit. It is a self-operating company; its (goal is) to provide good value to students and help them to eat healthy food.” BY DAYAE KIM Kimx3318@d.umn.edu