Tastes of Taiwan featured at MCCTC's Bistro

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In the years that chefs from Taiwan have toured the U.S. for a cultural exchange program, they have not visited the same city twice.

That is, until they visited Youngstown.

For the second-consecutive year, the program has come to the Mahoning County Career & Technical Center.

The visit culminated Tuesday evening in a dinner for more than 100 at The Bistro, MCCTC’s restaurant operated by culinary-arts students and instructors. The event was a partnership between MCCTC and Youngstown State University’s hospitality management program.

“We feel we are doing something very meaningful – and you start with cooking because everybody loves to eat,” said event organizer Florence Wang, a commissioner for the Overseas Community Affairs Council for the Republic of China (Taiwan). Wang is originally from Taiwan.

The program brought chefs Tony Huang and Amo Liang to five cities in the U.S. Huang leads Hsing-Wu University’s hospitality program, and Liang is a culinary instructor there.

Huang noted long-standing ties between the U.S. and Taiwan, which maintain unofficial relations. He noted that just as American culture has embraced Chinese food, Taiwanese food has been influenced by Americans. Beef noodles, for example, are popular in Taiwan because of American influence, he said.

Tuesday’s dinner was prepared with help from MCCTC and YSU students, and proceeds from the ticket sales will fund scholarships for MCCTC culinary students to attend YSU’s hospitality management program.

Among the guests was Eric Jiun-yaw Huang, director general of the Taipei Economic and Cultural Office in Chicago, which acts as Taiwan’s de facto consulate general in the Midwest. The office sponsors the chefs’ tour of the U.S.

The director general said he hopes the event shows people in Youngstown that Taiwan is an appealing destination.

“I think the most important part is that Taiwan is fun. We have a culture of hospitality, and we have very good cuisine and it a very interesting and enjoyable place to visit,” he said. “We’d like the people of Youngstown to visit Taiwan as a tourist, and this is an opportunity for them to have a taste of Taiwan.”

Wang said the educational component is one of the most important aspects of the program.

“Hopefully we’ll start a young generation that knows the culture,” she said.

MCCTC culinary arts instructor Matt Putzier said it gives his students who are accustomed to observing other cultures online a valuable hands-on experience.

The event also featured remarks from several Mahoning Valley leaders, including Wang, Youngstown Mayor Jamael Tito Brown and YSU President Jim Tressel.

The menu featured shrimp salad with a five-flavor sauce, fresh fish ball soup, peppered beef tenderloin with turmeric rice, cashew chicken, scallops and vegetables with a spicy sauce, and almond jelly with fruit.

As for what the Taiwanese delegation thinks of Youngstown, Liang summed it up with a smile and a thumbs up.

“It’s very good,” she said.

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