Behind the Scenes 2016

The 2016 International Food Festival will be our largest event to date, offering foods from 21 countries! We thought it would be fun to tell you what’s going on “behind the scenes” leading up to the festival. Each week we’ll post an article about one or two of the team leaders and the foods they are preparing for our festival.

Haiti Booth

Lauretta Maignan-Gibson is happy to be back for her third year at the festival representing Haiti. Though she has lived in the US since she was 2, she feels a strong attachment to her native country. Lauretta, husband Herman and children Emmanuel, Brendon and Christina still practice many of the country’s traditions, and they go back often to visit family. She is fortunate to have a good team of parishioners volunteering, including Kette and Phil Roche, also natives of Haiti.

Lauretta loves to cook, and this year will be serving “Poulet Rot. et Diri Jon Jon” (a mouthful!), stewed chicken with the traditional Haitian black rice infused with mushroom. They will also offer “Griot and Diri Cole”, which is pork served with traditional brown rice and beans. She says these dishes are often served at galas, religious events and family gatherings that involve music and dancing! A perfect choice for an International Food Festival celebration!


Ecuador Booth

Our International Food Festival is happy to have Nataly Andrade return this year with the Ecuador booth. This is her second year leading her own food team–in the past, she helped with the Peru team. Nataly was born in New Jersey but both of her parents are from Ecuador. She has been in North Carolina for 6 years and looks forward to working in the booth with her family members once again this year.

The team will serve Llapingachos, which are delicious fried potato cakes filled with cheese and a peanut sauce. A side beet and carrot salad of will accompany the meal.


Greece Booth

Deb and Will Sanders, along with Nancy and Pete Esposito, lead the Greek food team. Is it their ties to family back in Greece that brought these 2 families together? Nope! There were enough volunteers in the Polish booth the first year, so they decided to help out the Greek people…and they’ve been “Greek” every year since!

Deb Sanders moved to this area back in 1975, and her husband Will is born and raised here–in fact, years ago the Catholic Church use to meet at his grandma’s house near where he lives! The Espositos, like many of our parishioners, are transplants from New Jersey who moved here shortly before the festival started.

We’re told the original Greek leaders were Joe and Karen Marcott, who transferred out of the area after the first festival. They were in the food service industry and taught the current leaders how to make the massive quantities of gyros that are sold each year. The Sanders and Esposito families enjoyed it so much they’ve continued the tradition. Tony and Helene Tomargo have joined in among others, and many friendships have resulted in the past years.

The menu is the same as always, Gyros and Greek Salad. So, what is the proper pronunciation of “gyros”? Deb says they hear it said a lots of different ways, (like GUY-rows) but the correct way is “YEE-rohs”, with a roll of the tongue! No matter how you say it, they are worth the long wait in line!


USA Booth

We can’t forget about the good ol USA! There’s lots of kids (and adults) happy to see the ever popular hotdog on the menu! Every festival, the Knights of Columbus step up to make and serve the “dawgs”, offering both Beef and Carolina Reds along with all the standard condiments. This year they’re happy to have the Boy Scouts working in their booth.

The Knights have sponsored our event each year and have been instrumental in the success of each festival. Not only are they also out in the parking lot directing traffic, but you’ll find their members working other food booths, helping with the set up and take down, selling tickets…they are spread out pretty much everywhere! We thank them for their service!

USA Booth

USA Booth

International Dessert Booth

Though not a country, we can’t forget to add the “sweetest” food team of all…the Ladies Guild that sponsor the International Desserts Booth! These women will once again be busy in the kitchen making lots of cookies to share with our festival attendees–a perfect way to end your culinary trip around the world!

This year, Shirley Boivin will lead the team. She and her husband Joe moved to Clayton 12 years ago and are very involved in St. Ann parish activities. Shirley has helped in one way or another each festival– there’s no getting around that when your husband is the chairperson of the event! Joe came up with the idea of holding an International Food Festival here at the church and the rest is history!

Shirley tells us she has 6 international cookies on the menu this year, including Old German Honey Cookies, Polish Kolacky, Madelines, Italian Anisette, Austrian Pastry, and Puerto Rican flan. Need we say more? Save room for dessert!


Honduras Booth

St. Ann Catholic Church is blessed to be a diverse parish with members from many different countries. We have wonderful food booths where our parishioners are proud to share their culture and heritage. Honduras is one of the most dedicated of the food teams, participating every year since the festival started. Leader Gloria Gutierrez and her sister were both born in Honduras and have been in this country for 15 years. Their entire family joins in the fun of the festival, and, lucky for us, they love cooking from their collection of Honduran recipes.

This year they will offer Honduran tamales, tacos fritos, and baleadas–a flour tortilla with beans and butter. Last but not least, you will want to try the popular plantos maduro, or fried banana…sounds SO good!


France Booth

Every visit to France should include a stop at the local cafe for some delightful crepes …if that’s not on your travel agenda, then our International Food Festival offers the next best thing! Janet Bacon and her team of volunteers look foward to serving you a little taste of France right here in our backyard!

Janet and her husband Dave moved here from Upstate New York in 1994 with their youngest child. The other 2 kids followed, and now the family calls Smithfield home. They are recently retired and enjoying time traveling. When Janet heard the French team needed a leader, she recognized this as an opportunity to get involved and help out the festival. Her food team has already had fun learning how to cook the perfect crepe–Joe Boivin, the former French leader, is a great teacher!
As in years past, the French team will offer either a raspberry jam or strawberry jam accompanied by fresh strawberries. And, back by popular demand, they will offer the wonderful Nutella with Banana crepe.

Mangez bien…eat well!


El Salvador

Since the first International Food Festival, Maria Aleman and her team have been dedicated to representing their homeland, El Salvador. Lucky for us, this year is no exception! Maria is a native of El Salvador and lived there until she was 15 years old. Her husband Fredis was also born there. In fact, the 2 have known each other since middle school–they are now married 17 years, and are parents of 13 year old Kamila and 9 year old Diego.

Maria and Fredis are fortunate to have a very loyal team of family and friends that help each year. They could not do it without the whole Paniagua family, including mother-in- law Tomasa, helping to cook and serve. Other volunteers include an old friend of the family, Liseth, who has made pupusas for years. This group truly has fun and enjoys sharing the food of their country!

The El Salvador booth has quite a following, as they’re well known for their pupusas. Maria tells us she learned to make them shortly after her daughter was born– cheese pupusas were the only thing she would eat! Each year for the festival she uses fresh ingredients from the garden. The pupusas are made with green pepper, onion, garlic, tomato and mozzarella cheese added to the pork. Served with chopped cabbage, you will agree, they are “muy delicioso!”


Colombia Booth

Our International Food Festival is very happy to welcome another new food booth–Belisario Rengifo and his wife Clara Duque will lead the Colombia team! The couple, along with their 15 year old daughter Catalina and 19 year old son Esteban, came from Colombia 2 years ago. They are devout Catholics and are glad to be active members of St. Ann Parish. The whole family is looking forward to sharing their favorite food on the day of the festival.

The recipe for the Empanadas Colombianas came from Clara’s mother. This delicious dish is served with a “not so spicy” guacamole. The family will be busy the week before the festival making the empanadas, which will be frozen ahead of time and ready to fry the day of the festival. (Belasario and Clara shared their empanadas at a food team meeting and received many wonderful compliments… you won’t want to miss this wonderful dish!)



China Booth

If you love going out for Chinese food, you won’t have to go far this year…the International Food Festival is happy to welcome our new Chinese team! Xiaoxia Champon, a new parishioner, is excited to share the food of her country with us!

Xiaoxia was born in China and lived there for 25 years. She recently moved to the area and is a math teacher at Clayton High School. She and her husband Robert are proud parents of one year old son, Alex. Xiaoxia’s mother, Qing Vhang, moved from China last year to help take care of the baby. And, lucky for us, she is a “wonderful cook!”

Xiaoxia tells us her mother will be preparing traditional, authentic Chinese food– everything is homemade. On the menu is fried noodles with mushrooms, green pepper and chili pepper. They will also offer mapo tofu and a porridge for sides. Each plate will come with the fried noodles, and you’ll have the choice of the tofu or porridge to accompany the meal.

Several of the volunteers at the booth are friends also from China. We welcome them all and look forward to this great new addition to our festival!


Poland Booth

Growing up eating Golabki’s and Kapusta, Brian Kochan knows a few things about Polish cuisine! Not only did he enjoy Grandma’s meals, but he learned cooking skills from his stepmother, Claire. A “farm girl”, she observed many of the traditional Polish customs, and holiday meals were especially important events. She was an awesome cook. Brian enjoyed helping her in the kitchen–potato pancakes were a staple at their home along with other traditional dishes! Those skills have served him well. Today you’ll often find Brian in the kitchen preparing all types of wonderful food for friends and family!

After living in Connecticut and New Hampshire, Brian, wife Cathy and daughters Heidi, Kaitlin and Sara made the move to Clayton 11 years ago. They quickly became involved with St. Ann’s church, and Brian took on the role of cook at the various Fish Fry’s, St. Patrick Day celebrations, and events in new kitchen. The first year of the International Food Festival, he led the Polish booth and has done so every year since, along with his dedicated team of more than a dozen or so volunteers. People look for this popular booth at each festival, and their fans will not be disappointed this year! They’ve decided the main dish that will surely please the taste buds of all will be:

Gołabki – Polish Cabbage Rolls: Local minced pork and beef mixed with rice and spices nestled in lightly soft-boiled cabbage leaf.


Old World Apple Sauce: Locally grown red and green apples cooked with spices.


The dish will also have paired International wines and beers served at the Hops and Vine Pavilion.

If you stop by the booth and strike up a conversation with Brian, ask him when he’s going to start up another Polka band…we heard he plays some mean drums!!!





poland poland-2

Mexico Booth

If you’ve been to any of the past International Food Festivals at St. Ann’s church, you are sure to have noticed the large crowds around the Mexican booth! Each year, Regina Mendez has managed the group of 20 some workers to make sure everything runs smoothly the day of the festival. A natural “organizer”, when Regina and her husband Jesus Morales aren’t working in their store Mi Casita, they are often volunteering for church functions. In addition to helping with the Mexican booth, Jesus has lead the festival sponsorship team for years, and their 3 daughters have participated in the Hispanic dance entertainment.

Regina and her volunteers are very proud of their Mexican heritage, and many of the same volunteers happily return each year to share their favorite foods. It is impressive to see how well their team comes together to make such a large number of portions, serving over 1,000 plates! Once again, fans will not be disappointed with the menu –do you prefer the tacos asada or the enchilada? They’ll also offer both plantain and corn tomales, in addition to the popular sweet corn with butter, cheese & chili. And for a refreshing treat, it’s hard to pass up the beautiful fresh fruit cups, made with pina, mango and jicama! We promise, it’s worth the wait in line…delicioso!

Picture of Regina with daughters Stephanie, Kiara and Melanie

Picture of Regina with daughters Stephanie, Kiara and Melanie

Festival booth

Italy Booth

At the early age of 14, Ann Mullins started working in the kitchen of her family’s Italian restaurant, located north of Manhattan, NY. She and her mother made all the pies and specialty desserts. Her entire family loved to cook– she claimed her father could pull any random ingredients out of the fridge and create a wonderful meal! Ann also learned a great deal from the restaurant’s chef, Marcella, a native of Milan, Italy. She was skilled in cooking recipes from Northern Italy, and Ann loved hanging out after school watching her make pasta and wonderful wine based, creamy sauces.

Today, family and friends enjoy gathering in the Mullin’s large kitchen, happy to sample whatever she “whips up! ” Ann loves to use fresh ingredients when preparing food , and husband Mike and children Katie, Erin and Andrew know the value of her home cooked meals! Her motto is “DON’T COMPROMISE WITH THE INGREDIENTS!”

This year, the International Food Festival is happy to have the popular Italian booth back after a year break. Many of the team members have volunteered since the first festival and enjoy the friendships made while working in the kitchen. Ann has a menu that will make her “foodie” fans smile! Everyone loves the meatballs– she says using a meat grinder is the secret, with quality beef and pork loin the main ingredients. In addition, she’s offering both homemade Ravioli and Eggplant Rollitini, made with freshly grated cheese, fresh herbs and eggplant out of the garden. Each entree comes with a side of homemade fried dough… Hungry yet? Mangia! Mangia!

Italian- Ann M-3

Puerto Rico Booth

Christine Adamski spent 8 years of her childhood in Puerto Rico, and her family has always been passionate when it comes to authentic Puerto Rican cooking. Not only do they prepare these dishes for their large family gatherings, but the whole family pitches in to share their love of cooking with our International Food Festival!

Christine offered to represent Puerto Rico at our second festival and has drawn a following of repeat customers ever since! Her husband Mark is Polish, but that doesn’t stop him from working in the booth, along with her sisters, daughter and several faithful friends. This year her dad, a Puerto Rican native, will be here to help at the festival. He still does a lot of cooking–Christine credits him with teaching her how to make those traditional Puerto Rican dishes that draw such rave reviews!

The secret to this type of cooking? Well, it’s not really a “secret”…Christine uses sofrito in just about everything but white rice! This is a “master spice” that’s the base for her dishes. The festival’s menu includes a new addition, Alcapuria, a dish made with green bananas stuffed with seasoned beef. They will also offer the traditional crowd favorites Enpanadas (meat pies) and Pasteles (similar to a tamale), which she makes up ahead of the festival. She tells us the Arroz con Gandules (yellow rice and pigeon peas) and Pernil Asado (roasted pork) are made that day. Not only does she roast a pork shoulder overnight in her oven, but her sisters and friend each take a roast home to cook!

Make sure you stop by and enjoy a taste of Puerto Rico!!


Puerto Rico

Christine & Mark Adamski center

Lebanon Booth

Many residents of Johnston County enjoy visiting Smith’s Farm and Nursery, a popular destination for getting fresh fruits and vegetables. Myron Smith grew up on the family farm, and wife Sarah moved from Wilson to join her husband 32 years ago. When Sarah isn’t out working on the farm, you may find her in the kitchen making her family’s favorite dish, Kibby.

Sarah is proud of her ancestry–her father’s parents came to the United States from Lebanon. This is the second year for the Lebanese booth at the festival. She and Myron, sons Chris and Mitch, along with daughter Farris and daughter-in-law Arlene, are happy to share this wonderful food with our festival goers. They are grateful to also have the help of the Blaser family, parishioners of St. Ann.

Sarah tells us she has made Kibby for years. This popular Lebanese dish is prepared with ground beef, onions, cracked wheat and pine nuts. Added to the plate is some homemade hummus with bread to round out the meal. Not only is this a healthy dish, but delicious!


Nicaragua Booth

To members of St. Ann Parish, Patrick Ginty is known as “Director of Religious Education”. To children Mateo, Brian, Clara, James and Ana, he is known as “dad”. And, on September 24th, Patrick will step into the role of “Chef”, dishing up some wonderful Nicaraguan food for our festival!

Patrick grew up in Canada and, at the age of 20, felt the calling to missionary life. When he was 24, he received a scholarship from Ave Maria University to study and evangelize in Nicaragua. He spent 4 wonderful years there, where he met his wife Scarlett, a native of Managua.

Get Patrick talking about food, and you soon realize how passionate he is when it comes to traditional Nicaraguan cooking. As a student, he ate many meals at the homes of friends and picked up some of the “secrets” from their mothers and grandmothers. He is looking forward to sharing those techniques with all of us as he prepares his menu for the festival.

Patrick lived near Granada, a city famous for its Vigoron, a dish made with yuca, fried pork and cabbage salad. He plans to cook up his version of this traditional Nicaraguan dish, along with a side of Gallo Pinto, which is rice and beans. Patrick tells us he couldn’t do a meal without this side dish– it is a staple in the Nicaraguan diet, with many people eating it several times a day! He says there is an art to cooking these beans– and it sounds like he has perfected it!

4 years ago, the Ginty family moved to Clayton to be near Scarlett’s sister and brother in law in Knightdale. They will all be helping in the food booth, along with other parishioners from Nicaragua. Make sure you stop by to try their delicious food and maybe you’ll get Patrick to “spill the beans” about those culinary secrets!


papa w kids

Ireland Booth

“When Irish eyes are smiling, they’re usually up to something!”  Luckily for the food festival,  Colleen “O’Connor” Doig is up to something…preparing to bring back the Irish booth!  After taking a year off to help husband John lead the Germany booth, Colleen has decided get the Irish team back together.  She has a group of loyal “Irish cooks” who helped with the first 6 years of the festival– and she welcomes any  parishioners who would like to join in the fun!

Both of Colleen’s grandparents came from Ireland and she has cousins and aunts still living there.   You may even get her to speak a few Irish words, which she learned while growing up in Pittsburgh, PA.   Colleen learned her cooking skills from her mom, who learned from her grandmother.

So what’s cooking this year?  Colleen will offer the traditional Sheppard’s Pie, a meat and veggie dish covered  with mashed potatoes.  She tells us that Irish food has the reputation of being “bland”, but her recipe is quite tasty!  The main dish will be accompanied by a side of delicious Irish Soda Bread.   Please stop by at the festival and enjoy some of this wonderful Irish comfort food!

Colleen, in green, with husband and members of the food team.

Colleen, in green, with husband and members of the food team.

Vietnam Booth

St. Ann Church is happy to have the Nguyen family return to the festival this year–after a “baby break”, they will be back for the 3rd time offering their Vietnamese cuisine.  Xe and Ni Nguyen came here from Vietnam 34 years ago, sponsored by the Catholic church in Wytheville, VA.  They moved to Smithfield 10 years ago to be near family and joined St. Ann’s parish.

Although Americanized in many ways, Xe has always loved the foods from her homeland and continues to feed her family the traditional Vietnamese meals she ate growing up.  Even her steak and chicken dinners are cooked Vietnamese style!

Son Toan and daughter in law Rebecca will be helping again this year with children in tow.  The Nguyen family will be serving some wonderful traditional dishes.   Along with the ever popular shrimp wraps and sweet chili dipping sauce, they will be serving rice and fried bananas.  Sound delicious?  See you at the festival!


Thailand Booth

Bennie Voyle  is a parishioner who loves to share the culture and food of her native Thailand.  She and longtime friend Brandi Appell have led the Thailand team since the first  International Food Festival.  While Bennie is enjoying a visit with her family in Thailand this summer, Brandi and daughters Cori, 12 and Hayli, 14, spoke to us about how excited they are to do the festival again!  This family knows a little bit about good food– while Brandi and the girls enjoy cooking for the Thai booth, husband Chris is a chef with Sysco Foods and donates a home cooked gourmet dinner each year to our Silent Auction!

So what’s on the menu?  Brandi says they’re sticking to the traditional favorites– the Thai Basil Beef (Pad Kra Proa) is back!  This is paired with Kanom Bung Nah Moo, a baguette bread with meat mixture, and a refreshing cucumber salad.  The combination makes  the Thai booth one of our favorite stops!

We wish Bennie, husband Drew and children B and JJ safe travels this summer!

Cori, Brandi and Hayli Appell

Cori, Brandi and Hayli Appell

German Booth

If you like a little German bratwurst with kraut, you’ll be in for a treat at the festival!  Mike and Mary Jo Buzard are excited to lead the Germany booth this year.  The couple met when Mike was stationed in Stuttgart and they have many fond memories of their time spent in Germany.

The Buzards have been been members of St. Ann Church since 1999.  Longtime parishioners will remember that Mike started the St. Ann Fall Festival, which was the “original” parish event that lead up to our International Food Festival.

After many years of leading the festival parking team, Mike decided to do a food booth, and Germany was a logical choice–his Grandma Spaight would be proud!   They will be serving Bratwurst, Apple Sauerkraut and Pretzels.  The kraut is Mary Jo’s recipe, which is made with apples and caraway seeds,  giving it a delicious, sweet taste.

If any “cooks” out there would like to join the German team,  they would be happy to have a few more helpers.    Please email Mike at


Mike and Mary Jo Buzard

Philippine Booth

She’s BACK…Teri Harrington will be leading her Philippine food team again this year! Many of you may remember Teri and her husband, “Big Terry”– they were very active in our parish until moving to Sommerville, South Carolina a few years back. While visiting in April, they were so excited to hear about the return of our festival that it was decided she would come back and lead the Filipino food team! This is great news for all those eggroll fans!

Teri learned to cook as a child growing up in the Philippines. Thirty five years ago she married her husband Terry and left her country to live in the United States. Though she learned to cook many American dishes, she still enjoyed preparing the foods from her native country. However, Teri says the eggrolls, her “signature dish”, are not part of the typical Filipino diet—the average person can’t afford to buy all the ingredients, so these are usually just made for weddings or other special gatherings. Thankfully Teri thinks the International Food Festival rates as a “special occasion!”

Two weeks before this years’ festival, Teri plans to visit Clayton and hold her traditional “eggrolling” event. With a dozen or so of her loyal helpers, they’ll work all day to prepare those delicious eggrolls. What’s in them? Teri starts with ground beef and ground pork, adds carrots, potatoes, onions and eggs, then finishes off the dish by adding seasonings and soy sauce. Sound good? Add some BBQ Pork on a Stick and some rice, and the Philippine booth will be ready to serve you at the 2016 International Food Festival.!




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