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West Valley City Journal

UCCC Cooks Up Inaugural Food Festival

Aug 30, 2016 03:37PM ● By Chris Larson

The Wasatch International Food Festival featured 26 food and market vendors representing different nationalities and cultures. –Travis Barton

Food vendors and Cultural Center staff buzzed all over the festival grounds of the Utah Cultural Celebration Center (UCCC) as they prepared for the two-day Wasatch International Food Festival.
Held Aug. 19 and 20, the food festival featured 26 food and market vendors representing a spectrum of different nationalities and cultures, as well as culturally varied musical entertainment.
Julie DeLong, deputy director of Utah Cultural Celebration Center Foundation and
Cultural Arts Board Development, said the event is all about building a strong community by gathering people around a positive community event: food.
“The UCCC and the community felt like its time had come,” DeLong said of the event. “It’s time to continue to come together in unity and to eat so delicious food… and get to know each other.”
The event was an outgrowth of several factors. An ad hoc community group met July 2015 to talk about community events designed to strengthen the community and neighborhoods.
“The idea really resonated with that community group we brought together,” DeLong said.
West Valley City Mayor Ron Bigelow secured a grant from Zions Bank that helped to create the food festival as well as the inaugural West Valley Wild West Roundup, West Valley’s attempt at creating a marquee July cultural event.
The food festival, in its first year, was a ticketed event that featured some popular local culinary and musical talent.
Local chef and restaurateur Viet Pham attended the event Friday night and provided a cooking demonstration for attendees on Saturday.
Pham was semifinalist on Food Network's “Extreme Chef” and beat world-renowned Bobby Flay in an episode of “Iron Chef America”. He also has been recognized by various media outlets such as the Salt Lake Tribune, Wall Street Journal, Food & Wine Magazine and Reuters over the past several years.
Musically, local favorites Tony Holiday and the Velvetones of Salt Lake and VanLadyLove of Provo headlined on Friday and Saturday, respectively.
Roots High School students Gregory Schafer and Jake Clawson said the local Future Farmers of America Chapter was selling watering cans to raise funds for a trip to the National FFA Convention & Expo in Indianapolis, Ind.
Roots High is a “farmed-based” high school, according to Clawson, that prepares students to go into the agricultural industry.
The National FFA Convention will be an educational trip, where they will hear from the current FFA President Larry Case.
Schafer hopes to go to flight school after he graduates saying that the FFA is likely to help him pay for school if it is an agriculture related field. Clawson said he plans on going to Utah State University, but will participate in the college fair at the convention where schools will allow agriculture student hopefuls to apply for college.
Clawson and Schafer are not the only ones at the festival hoping to make a good impression for of their organization.
Anny Sooksri said she will be representing her three different businesses at the food festival. She is the owner of Chabaar Beyond Thai in Midvale, Tea Rose Diner in Murray and Siam Noodles in the Intermountain Medical Center in Murray.
“We are health conscious and use purified water in our food and drinks and many vegetables in all our dishes,” Sooksri said.
Sooksri said she has the “spiciest food in town” at Chabaar Beyond. The spice for her dishes range from a scale of 1 to 10, with the low numbers being very hot.  
“If you have never been to the restaurant, number three is the hottest you will be able to take,” Sooksri said.
This event is her first stab at street food in a street food setting. Luckily, she said that Siam Noodle’s food concept is based in selling Thai street noodles. But, it will be different, she said cooking from a booth.
The cultural center opened in 2003 and is owned, operated and funded in part by West Valley City. The center has applied for and received several grants and other funding from organizations like Salt Lake County Zoos, Arts and Parks and the Utah Division of Arts and Museums.