Sticky Rice Lao Street Food cooked up a big win at this year’s FusionFest, receiving the $1,000 grand prize in the multicultural festival’s food contest. Kevin Phanhvilay, chef and owner of the Orlando quick casual restaurant, earned the top prize for an original recipe that combined ingredients from many regions – just as the festival itself brought together more than 100 local heritage communities in its second annual edition, which was held November 30 and December 1 in the heart of downtown.
The winning dish was a Lao rice congee topped with Caribbean spice panko hamachi and yuzu shiitake mango pico de gallo. That’s quite a mouthful in more ways than one, and the festival’s panel of expert judges was duly impressed.
“I wanted to hit the five flavor profiles with this dish while also incorporating different ingredients from different regions,” Chef Kevin says. “I started off with the Lao-style rice congee as the base and the starch for the dish (Laos/Bitter). I battered the hamachi (Japanese fish also known as yellowtail) with a Caribbean spice rub (Carribean/Savory and Salty). I panko fried it (a Japanese technique of frying with bread crumbs). I glazed the plate with a drizzle of sweet soy sauce. And I topped it off with yuzu pickled shiitake mushrooms and mango pico de gallo (South American and Japanese fusion/sweet and sour).”
For its creator, that original recipe was a tribute to both the spirit of the festival and his own diverse background.
“I was excited to enter the FusionFest competition because I represent what the festival and America are all about: a melting pot of cultures,” Chef Kevin says. “I am an American who is ethnically Lao, and trained in Japanese cuisine. I was born in California but raised in North Carolina, and spent three years living in Laos and Thailand before moving to Orlando in 2009.”
Approximately 15,000 people attended this year’s FusionFest, a two-day celebration of diversity that spotlighted innovative collaborations in the areas of food, music, dance, fashion and other forms of cultural expression. The festival’s philosophy of cooperation and camaraderie was deeply appreciated by Chef Kevin:
“I love it when the community comes together and supports each other,” he says. “I got to speak with other chefs and connect on a personal level.” He also valued the feedback of attendees who came by to sample his wares. And from a spectator’s vantage point, “The music from different countries and outfits everyone was wearing were all amazing.”
Chef Kevin is on both platforms as chefkevin407:
FusionFest will return to the Seneff Arts Plaza at the Dr. Phillips Center for the Performing Arts and the Orlando City Hall Commons Plaza for its third annual edition, scheduled for November 28 and 29, 2020. For more information, visit: fusionfest.org
The festival is a project of the Downtown Arts District, with support from Orange County Government, the Orlando Downtown Development Board and the Dr. Phillips Center for the Performing Arts. In its inaugural edition, the event received the Award of Excellence in the Downtown Orlando Partnership’s Golden Brick Awards, and took first place in the “Community Outreach Program” category of the Florida Festivals and Events Association’s SunSational Awards.