A dinner series inspires connections across cultures, as guest chefs serve up dishes from their homeland.
Ethiopian misir wat and shiro wat burst with the soft tan and orange hues of spicy red lentils and chickpeas respectively. That’s what was cooking for the evening’s meal at the Letchworth Dining Hall, as guest chef Habiba Boru transformed part of the dining room into her home by adding a little “flavor” of Ethiopia.
Boru’s Ethiopian meal was one of Credo Kitchen’s VIP Destination Dinners, which brings together some 30 students and community members who are hungry to explore other cultures via a guest chef who immigrated to the United States or was a refugee. They prepare native dishes on campus, and share their story.
Sofia Villalón ’18 created Credo Kitchen as the recipient of the Frank Vafier ’74 Ambassadorship in Leadership. Student ambassadorships provide funding and logistical support to students pursuing independent projects that reflect the principles of integrative learning and address real-world issues. Villalón was inspired by her “credo” — a belief that “through food, we can open doors for people to discover and appreciate culture, bring people together and build their mutual appreciation and respect for each other.”
Boru’s was the third in a four-part Credo Kitchen series. The first featured chefs from Nigeria and Pakistan, Alex Nnamdi Obinatu and Sarah Robin, respectively. Villalón will host a fourth event that focuses on global issues this spring.
Boru came to the United States when she was 14, after living in a refugee camp in Kenya. Now an international relations major at Syracuse University, Boru cooks at My Lucky Tummy, a dinner series in Syracuse that features home cooking from around the world.
At Boru’s Credo Kitchen tasting, Villalón set up tables community-style, so participants could enjoy what Boru prepared together.
Boru and Villalón brought out six platters of food, one for each table to share. As with Ethiopian custom, no silverware was needed for this meal; just injera, a spongy Ethiopian bread. The event was structured, Villalon said, “to feel like home.”
For Boru, coming to Geneseo was special. “In Ethiopia, I was blessed to have one big plate of food together with family, and exchange ideas,” she said. “This is what I brought to Geneseo.”
Family, community, and opportunity are what Credo Kitchen is all about.
It is all in the food, let it take control of you, the result is amazing,” says Villalon.
Wine, Food and the Right Atmosphere
Former Geneseo Foundation Board member and entrepreneur Frank Vafier ’74 knows how food and wine can build community. His first career was founding Prolifics, a global information technology company. He built his second around another passion; wine and bringing people together. In 2011, he opened Corkbuzz in Union Square, New York City; two more locations soon followed, in Chelsea, New York City, and Charlotte, N.C.
The wine-centric restaurant serves hundreds of wines and a menu of shared plates curated to pair with a wide variety of wines. The restaurant is designed to encourage conversation and hosts several communal tables where guests and wine experts can mingle and share wine and stories. Corkbuzz also offers classes on a range of topics which cater to the novice and wine professional alike.
After selling my software company, I was looking for my next adventure,” says Vafier. “I got the opportunity to open Corkbuzz with my niece and now business partner, Laura Maniec. Laura is one of only 32 female Master Sommeliers in the world and had the vision to share her passion for wine and love of hospitality in a way that reminds us of sitting at my mom’s dinner table on a Sunday evening.”