Surrey Fusion Festival brings people together with virtual cooking challenge

The online challenge encourages participants to try new recipes and practice culinary skills

Surrey Fusion Festival encourages people to try new foods from different cultures. (submitted)

Surrey Fusion Festival encourages people to try new foods from different cultures. (submitted)

Even during a time when people are separated from each other, folks are still finding ways to connect through food. This year’s Surrey Fusion Festival is hosting a digital cooking challenge that anyone can participate in by submitting their home-cooked dishes from Sept. 27 to Oct. 24.

Each week, a theme is presented for people to follow as they prepare appetizers, drinks, desserts, and a dish they have never made before. The challenge is part of the festival’s “Culture Days,” designed to showcase and help people experience diverse cultures.

“When you go to the Surrey Fusion Festival, you really got to try a lot of new foods,” says senior marketing and events specialist Jenna Kuzemski. 

“We really want to encourage people to try new foods — even though they’re not at the festival — by cooking different dishes at home and then learning from people of other cultural backgrounds, and trying to make dishes that maybe they’ve never made before, or they’ve had at a restaurant but never tried to cook themselves.”

Participants can enter by either posting a photo or video of their dish to Facebook, Instagram or sending a photo or video to

By entering a dish each week, participants can submit up to four entries in a draw to win one of four $250 Central City Shopping Centre gift cards. The draws for the prizes will start after Oct. 24. 

To help inspire people, the festival has also had social media influencers from around the Lower Mainland show up on live streams to showcase dishes for each week. 

“The first week was appetizers, and we had an appetizer pumpkin dip made by the Food Gays,” says Kuzemski. She also says, “there was a featured red bean drink by Pigout YVR” for the drinks theme during the second week.

According to Kuzemski, participant submissions for the challenge so far have included dishes like spring rolls, fried chicken, prawns, kimchi-fried rice, and beverages like matcha and Brazilian coffee.

Since it began, Kuzemski says that public reception to the digital cooking challenge has been positive during a time when restrictions are still in place due to the pandemic.

“It’s been really positive,” Kuzemski says. “I think that people understand the circumstances that festivals and events are facing and have been facing since the pandemic, so we’ve seen really positive responses from people.”

As to whether the cooking challenge will be back again next year, Kuzemski says they are “looking forward to hosting an event in-person,” though there are unique benefits to hosting the challenge online.

“I think the one thing that’s really beneficial about having virtual programming is how inclusive it is, you know? Anyone can participate from their homes,” she says. 

“So, whether or not it will be virtual next year — and it’s a bit too early to tell — but I can tell you that we’ll definitely do our best to make all of our programming inclusive for people to participate in.”