Behind the Scenes

Welcome to our festival.

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 Alcapuria, a dish made with green bananas stuffed with seasoned beef. They will also offer the traditional crowd favorites Empanadas (meat pies) and Pernil Asado (roasted pork) She tells us the Arroz con Gandules (yellow rice and pigeon peas) and 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!!

Christine & Mark Adamski center

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 Hena were both born in Honduras Gloria has been in this country for 15 years and her sister has lived in Selma for more than twenty five 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 delicious Nacatamales, Baleadas (flour tortilla with fried beans, sour cream and cheese) and Fried Chicken Tacos (with cabbage, tomatoe sauce and cheese). Last but not least, you will want to try the popular plantos maduro, or fried plantain…sounds SO good!

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.

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!

El Salvador Booth

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 Freddis 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.

This year, Maria needed help with the leadership and friends RIcky and Sonia Herrera stepped in! They are fortunate to have a very loyal team of family and friends that help each year too. 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!”

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!

Dawn and Michael Brown and their team of volunteers look forward to serving you a little taste of France right here in our backyard! The Brown family moved here from Rhode Island with their son and daughter 12 years ago. They’ve always volunteered at past festivals, and chose to work in the French booth last year. When they found out the team was looking for a leader for the 2017 festival, they decided to step up!

As in years past, the French team will offer either a Crepes au nutella et banana (Nutella with banana) or Crepes Confiture de framboise ( French for Crepes with raspberry jam or strawberry jam.) Mangez bien…eat well!

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 beef or pork tacos? They’ll also offer empanadas de pollo (chicken empanadas), tostadas de tinga (tostadas with chipotle sauce), 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! Add the popular beverage agua de horchata and we promise, it’s worth the wait in line…delicioso!


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.

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!

Look for the line, as the Boy Scouts will be joining the USA booth this year selling an all American favorite–ice cream!

Come on now, you can’t go wrong with hot dogs and ice cream!

USA 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!”

Many of the Italian 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 Caprese Salad, Four Cheese Pasta, 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!


Vietnam Booth

St. Ann Church is happy to have the Nguyen family return to the festival this year. 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 Te 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 Lemongrass chicken and rice, they will be offering fried shrimp wraps and fried spring rolls with sweet chili dipping sauce. Sound delicious? See you at the festival!

Venezuela Booth

The 2017 International Food Festival is more than happy to welcome a Venezuelan booth this year! Parishioners Ani and Domingo Coffaro will lead the team with their son Fabricio and their daughter Sabrina. Natives of Venezuela, they have been here 4 years and are happy to be a part of the St. Ann community!

Ani, Domingo, Fabricio, and Sabrina Coffaro

Ani and Domingo have invited family and friends to help at the booth, and will prepare Venezuelan Tequenos. These are sticks of white cheese wrapped with slightly sweet dough, then fried to a golden perfection, served with a cilantro sauce… a great addition to our international foods menu!

Philippine Booth

Thanks to Manny and Carmella Eslabon, we will welcome back the Philippine booth this year! As many of you may know, Teri Harrington led the group for many years, even after moving to South Carolina. She still plans to help by making her wonderful egg rolls, but Teri is grateful to the Eslabon family for taking over the leadership!

Both Manny and wife Carmella were born and raised in the Philippines. Carmella came to the United States to work as a Physical Therapist back in 1999 and her husband followed her the next year. They are happy to be active parishioners of St. Ann’s church since moving to North Carolina in 2006. You may know their 17 year old son Matthew, who is a member of the Youth Group, an altar server and Catechist volunteer. Matthew recently installed the flag poles and brick wall in front of the Parish Center as part of his Eagle Scout project! Even 9 year old daughter Alexa helps the church as an altar server!

The popular menu from past years is back again! 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.

Manny and Carmella will be busy making their BBQ Pork on a Stick and rice…sounds yummy! So happy to have the Philippine booth as part of the 2017 International Food Festival!


Cuba Booth

We welcome the Hernandez family, who have graciously offered to add a Cuban booth to this year’s event! Rudy and Carmen have recruited the whole family to help, from 7 year old Ella to 97 year old Grandfather Alfredo!

Rudy, Carmen and their children Aidan (9) and Ella (7) moved here 2 years ago from Miami. Rudy was born in Cuba and came to the United States when he was 4 years old. They are lucky to have family in this area. Carmen’s mother Maria is also a native of Cuba and resides here, along with Grandfather Alfredo, who came to the United States 50 years ago.

When you talk to this family about food, you see their faces light up! They all love cooking (and eating!) traditional Cuban food– a must for any family gathering! This year, they look forward to offering 2 of their favorites, a Cuban and a Pork Panini style sandwich. The Cuban Sandwich has a combination of swiss cheese, roasted pork, ham, mustard and dill pickles pressed and melted in a special bread. You can also choose the Pork Sandwich, a favorite with Mojo marinated Cuban roast pork and onions!

Make sure to stop by the Cuban booth to say hi to the whole family. You’ll want to get your sandwich before they’re gone! Thanks Rudy and Carmen… what a great addition to our 2017 International Food Festival!


Jamaica Booth

There are those people that like to cook, and there are those that LOVE it! Lynne Bigness will tell you that cooking IS her life…you can hear the passion in her voice when she talks about food. Growing up on a farm in Northern New York, Lynne spent lots of time helping her mom in the kitchen preparing meals for their large family. Since she was old enough to work, she’s been in the food industry. Recently, following a 16 year career as a chef at Barton College, Lynne moved on and is working as a caterer at Johnston Memorial Hospital. To top off the years of experience in the kitchen, she fulfilled her dream by recently completing her “chef” degree!

The Jamaican team missed last year’s festival, but we’re lucky to have Lynn and friends Amy and Jim McCormick back! Lynne’s daughters Trisha and Leanne will also be helping, along with a few of the grandkids!

Once again, festival goers will be treated to that wonderful marinated, grilled Jerk Chicken that was so popular in the past. On the side will be Coconut Corn Bread, a recipe someone shared with Lynne years ago. She added the coconut to make it moist and it has become an all time favorite with her catering business. Mmmm…”Jamaican me hungry!”

Lynne Bigness

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 33 years ago.

Sarah is proud of her ancestry–her father’s parents came to the United States from Lebanon. This is the third year for the Lebanese booth at the festival. She and Myron, their son Mitch, along with daughter Farris and Kelly Cowell are happy to share this wonderful food with our festival goers.

Sarah tells us the menu has changed this year. They will be serving chicken shawarma, an incredibly flavorful Middle Eastern sandwich. The chicken is marinated in lemon juice and olive oil, garlic and spices (cumin, salt, pepper, paprika, turmeric, cinnamon and red pepper flakes.) It will be served in a pita slice with tahini sauce, chopped tomatoes and a side of hummus. Not only is this a healthy dish, but delicious!

Sara Smith

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

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.

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

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