FusionFest is a nonprofit in Orlando aimed at celebrating the diverse cultures and heritage that can be found around Florida.
“Our whole mission is for people to learn about different cultures — like to showcase and share their backgrounds, but also learn from different cultures,” Thali Sugisawa, the executive director of FusionFest said.
As part of that mission, the organization has developed Diversitastic Dining.
“Each month we celebrate a culture,” Sugisawa said. “We kind of try to align with whatever celebration is going on at the moment. So for Hispanic Heritage month will try to do a Latin/Hispanic restaurant. For Asian and Pacific Islander month we would try to do an Asian restaurant.”
The monthly events offer more than just food.
“What we do is we go to a restaurant and we talk to the owner/ managers/chef, and we say, ‘Hey, we would like to bring a lot of people here that had never tried your food,’” Sugisawa said. “‘In addition to that, we will bring some entertainment, some artists and we’re going to have some storytelling, could you put together a full course menu, starting with appetizers, and then different entree options, and a dessert and a sample of a drink. And, and then we’ll just organize everything and bring those people here.’”
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The events can get fairly specific, focusing on just one region of a country.
“In January, we did India, and but we did Punjabi area — which is totally different from other areas, the northern part of India,” Sugisawa said.
FusionFest then had the chef explain the difference in the cuisine and other guest speakers and entertainment were brought in to illustrate the culture of the region.
All of the upcoming Diversitastic Dining events can be found here.
In addition to Diversitastic Dining, the organization runs a yearly festival in downtown Orlando which celebrates the cultures of Central Florida.
“We’re just so excited to have this festival,” Sugisawa said. “So then we will have about 15 food vendors and we curate all of them. So you will not see three vendors selling tacos or empanadas. We will have the best empanada and the best taco and the best sushi and the best of all regions.”
On the latest episode of Florida Foodie, Sugisawa talks about her favorite region she has sampled during a Diversitastic Dining event. She also talks about how she never expected to be working in the nonprofit sector.
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Florida Foodie is a bi-weekly podcast from WKMG and Graham Media that takes a closer look at what we eat, how we eat it and the impact that has on us here in Florida and for everyone, everywhere. Find new episodes on Apple Podcasts, Spotify or wherever you download your favorite podcasts.