Stony Brook Celebrates Their 30th Hispanic Heritage Month with a Celebrity Chef
By: Augustus Fei
In honor of Hispanic Heritage Month (HHM), the Faculty Student Association (FSA) and the HHM Committee worked together to celebrate Stony Brook University’s 30 Anniversary Celebration with a dinner featuring Dominican Celebrity Chef Kelvin Fernandez.
The event took place in the Wang Center Chapel on Wednesday, October 22. The dinner started off with a cocktail hour at six p.m. where guests sampled one of three appetizers, tuna tartare with sweet sauce on top of a fried plantain, the crispy short rib arepa or the vegetarian arepa. The attendees washed down the appetizer with glasses of mango mule mocktails. Over 60 guests attended the VIP dinner, including members of FSA, the HHM Committee, Stony Brook’s Latin American Student Organization (LASO), CulinArt staff and several Stony Brook students who won a reservation through an Instagram competition.
Hispanic culture was in full bloom as Jubilé, a Latin dance team part of LASO, performed for everyone in the reception hall, dancing to a remix of Natti Natasha’s “La Mejor Versión de Mi.” After the performance, the guests congregated inside the chapel for a few speeches and the dinner. Angela Agnello, director of Marketing and Communications of FSA, talked about how excited she was about the collaboration between HMM, FSA, and Culinart and thanked the groups for their effort for continuing to help spread cultural awareness.
Fernandez hosted a full course meal of Hispanic foods, featuring a roasted pear salad, butternut squash soup, a chimichurri crusted filet mignon and a duo desert of coconut flan and tres leche with coconut flakes. At the end of the dinner, each attendee was given a small container of spice mix made by the chef and a content stomach from the food.
“I loved the filet mignon,” said Melvin Rodriguez, a freshman Stony Brook student who won an invitation through the Instagram competition. “I was honestly surprised when I saw the venue. It was [a] lot more formal than other dinners that Stony Brook hosts.”
President of Undergraduate Student Government (USG), Shaheer Khan, enjoyed the coconut flan the most, claiming how it was “a perfect end to the dinner.”
Eric Keough, a junior studying for a Computer Science degree, came for his love of food. “[The event] is a lot nicer than I expected. I was sort of expected the back of one of the dining locations to be sectioned off. The food has such unique ingredients and flavors that I haven’t tried before.”
Some students came to seek inspiration from the chef’s dishes. John Taveras, a senior aiming for a bachelors in Math, saw an advertisement for the dinner from the Student Activities Center and wanted to see a glimpse of professionally made food.
“I really love cooking and I plan to open a small restaurant one day serving food from the Dominican Republic,” said Tavares.
Pamela Matzner, a member of the HHM Committee, loved the ambiance of the dinner the most. Her table had multiple HHM Committee heads, including the founder, Lynda Perdomo-Ayala. The table was amicably arguing with each other over the pear salad, wondering whether the greens in the salad were watercress or not.
“This feels just like a family dinner, everyone arguing what that ingredient was,” Matzner laughed. Dorothy Corbett, another HHM Committee member who was at the table, loved the Hispanic music that was playing in the background throughout the entire dinner. At times the music was calm and gentle but sometimes the music picked up in pace and the members of Jubilé would dance to the beat.
Throughout the dinner, the chef came up to explain each dish and how it reminded him of home as it was served to the guests. He also went around in between the meals to each table to mingle with the attendees ECHO.
“I hope you all tried the arepas tonight because that’s a dish I made by myself,” Chef Kelvin smiled as the crowd cheered him on. “To everyone who knows who I am, I cannot walk into a [dining] room without those arepas. Those arepas have become me and I have become those arepas.”
The dinner is part of a series of events hosted by the FSA as they work with CulinArt to promote various cultures through meals and dishes as part of Stony Brook University’s Equality, Inclusion, and Diversity Initiative. Chef Kelvin is the second chef to come cook for Hispanic Heritage Month, the first being Mexican Chef, Fred Long, who helped host a luncheon last year.Agnello is excited to continue this tradition, not just for Hispanic Heritage Month, but for other cultural celebrations as well.