Lunar New Year at West
Published: Thursday, January 31, 2013
Updated: Thursday, January 31, 2013 01:01
Red decorations displayed on the village doors froze the dragon-like creature in fear. Cautiously resuming its hunt for children and livestock, the monster moved closer. Then, by beating drums, lighting firecrackers and burning candles the villagers scared the monster back into the mountains.
Fending off the mythical creature, Nian, sparked the traditions of the Chinese New Year. The 15-day event is the longest and most important event in the Chinese calendar.
In celebration of this holiday, Ring of Fire, located in Marketplace West, will serve a special menu on Thursday, Feb. 7, prepared by celebrity chef Jet Tila from Los Angeles.
Tila has appeared on Iron Chef America and the Food Network. Even with running his own restaurants in California and Nevada, and juggling various appearances on radio and television, Tila will make time to come to Oregon State University.
“It’s all because of Jay Perry,” Tila said during a phone interview.
Perry is Chef de Cuisine at Marketplace West. He met Tila two years ago at University of Massachusetts Amherst, where Tila was one of the lead chefs in the World Chef Culinary Conference.
“[Coming to OSU] is something that’s fun and offbeat,” Tila said.
University Housing and Dining Services’ “Lunar New Year: A Journey Through Culture and Cuisine” is part of a series of cultural dinners. Last year, University Housing and Dining Services held three cultural dinners featuring Mediterranean, soul food and indigenous cuisine. This year, however, Perry was looking for something “more eventful.” That’s when he emailed Tila.
“That’s why I like OSU,” said Mikalyn Martinez, a student employee at Southside Station in Arnold dining center. “Students have more access to try new things.”
Pulling from his traditional Thai and Chinese cooking background, Tila will teach and prepare lunch and dinner alongside Ring of Fire staff.
“He’s a teacher of food,” said Perry. “[Tila] will be able to teach our staff his experience in the Asian cuisine, and he’ll be able to demo that to all of us.”
From 12:30 to 1:15 p.m. and from 6:30 to 7:15 p.m. Tila will demonstrate his knowledge of Asian cuisine.
“We don’t really know what to expect,” said Perry. “We’re pulling out all the stops on this. We’re even trying to get Benny the Beaver.”
The event is open to the public. Perry has reached out to the culinary programs at Linn-Benton Community College and even University of Oregon.
“If [Tila] showcases what Chinese New Year is about — and it’s not Americanized — it’ll be good,” said Shaele Wesely, a history major working at the Asian & Pacific Cultural Center.
This year, the first day of Chinese New Year is Feb. 10. Most people in Asia take time off, and most government agencies will close for the break to celebrate the Year of the Snake.
“It’s like the American holiday break,” said Mai-Yee Yuan, a microbiology major working in the Asian & Pacific Cultural Center. “It’s a really festive time.”
Traditionally, the holiday is about coming together with family and the community to share food.
“It was the only holiday my family would stop and actually share it together,” Tila said. “The Chinese New Year is tradition. You get your hair cut before the new year. You pay off all your debt. It’s a time to reflect.”
Tila grew up in his father’s Thai restaurant in Los Angeles. Throughout his childhood his grandmother also exposed him to traditional Chinese cooking. With these inspirations, Tila attended Le Cordon Bleu to complete his culinary education.
“Food is the least political and confrontational way to introduce someone to culture,” said Tila. “If one student comes away with learning Chinese culture, I’ve done my job.”
Megan Campbell, forum editor