Being a Food Judge at the Edmonton Heritage Festival 2019
Updated: Feb 17, 2020
Aunty Dupe’s Buka was privileged to be invited as a food judge to the 2019 Edmonton Heritage Festival. This festival is a three-day event held annually over the August long weekend at William Hawrelak Park in Edmonton, Alberta, Canada. Started in 1976 with 11 countries with the intent of celebrating their cultures with traditional food, entertainment, art and crafts, the Heritage Festival has now grown to be the world’s largest celebration of multiculturalism. This year, the festival runs from August 3-5 and consists of 100 countries, 73 pavilions, 25 stages and 501 food items.
I was fortunate to be a part of a group of food judges who spent the first half of Saturday August 3rd travelling to multiple pavilions to taste their traditional dishes. I also enjoyed learning about different ethnic cuisines from friendly vendors and volunteers; many of which were from the Edmonton community.
Our day started off with a meet up at 10:30am just 30 minutes after the festival officially opened to the public. All food judges met up at a predetermined location and were briefed by Heritage Festival's head food judge Phil Wilson, owner of baconhound and local food writer and blogger. We were then divided into 3 groups, assigned to a golf cart and sent on a tasty adventure by 11am! My team consisted of Arturo, Meagan Gee; chef and co-owner of the Commodore Restaurant, a family owned diner downtown Edmonton, and Rolando Sandrea; co-owner (with his wife Samantha) of Avilla Arepa, an urban Latin restaurant on Whyte Avenue. I must say being on this team was a hilarious journey filled with laughter, learning, bargaining, merging of cultures, meeting family, overcrowded golf cart and moments of dancing. It made the food judging experience much sweeter than I had imagined it would be.
I was on the yellow team and we had the pleasure of covering the southern part of the festival. Starting from pavilion 48 to 73, however, excluding 68, 72 and 71 as they were part of the other judges' zone. The Pavilions were displayed in white tents that were spread around the park. Our section consisted of 23 pavilions in total; some of which featured food items, some cultural art and merchandise and some featuring both food and art. Unfortunately, due to some setbacks at some of the pavilions such as a power outage, waiting on the food inspector or not being ready by the time the judges arrived, we were unable to try food from the Indigenous Peoples pavilion (65) and the Kenya pavilion (49). The Israel pavilion (53) was closed and would not be operating on this day. One of my fellow judges explained to me that Saturday is a sabbath (day of rest) in Israel. Interesting fact: According to Halakha (Jewish religious law), Sabbath (Shabbat) is observed from a few minutes before sunset on Friday evening until the appearance of three stars in the sky on Saturday night. Sabbath is ushered in by lighting candles and reciting a blessing.