Aurora, Colorado Launches Global Flavors Competition | Westword

Aurora Celebrates Its Diverse Dining Scene With New Global Flavors Competition

Nominations are now open and winners will be announced at the city's annual Global Fest event on August 17.
Aurora's food scene includes everything from Korean barbecue to Mexican street tacos and beyond.
Aurora's food scene includes everything from Korean barbecue to Mexican street tacos and beyond. City of Aurora
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The City of Aurora is plenty proud of being Colorado’s most diverse city, where about one in five people are foreign-born and more than 160 languages are spoken in its schools. For eleven years, the city has showcased its global diversity at its signature event, Global Fest, a one-day festival complete with food vendors, two stages for music and dance performances, the Parade of Nations, a fashion show, an international market and more.

This year, the event will take place on August 17 — though the action kicks off this month with a new Global Flavors competition. 

The Aurora Municipal Center Great Lawn, where Global Fest is held, can only hold so many vendors, and that’s always bugged the city’s organizers. “We can have only probably twenty local restaurants on site during Global Fest. ... I wish we could have even more restaurants on site and participating the day of the event," says Ricardo Gambetta, manager of Aurora’s Office of International and Immigrant Affairs. “We are very excited, because every year we try to find something new, something fresh, something that can enhance and expand our festival. And this year is amazing, having this Global Flavors idea."

The competition runs throughout July, and the winners will be announced on stage at Global Fest. Food businesses in Aurora are invited to nominate a “globally inspired” dish, drink and/or dessert by July 15. Other than being a business located in Aurora and being in good standing with all regulatory agencies, the entrance criteria have been kept intentionally loose to allow food providers without brick-and-mortar locations an opportunity to enter.

For its first year, organizers have left the finalist selection criteria for Global Flavors a bit open-ended. “We’ll take a look at all the information; what’s the size of the restaurant? Is it locally owned? ... We’ll take a good look at all the elements to make sure there's a fair spectrum of finalists,” explains Michael Brannen, Aurora's senior media relations strategist for the communications and marketing department. Depending on the number of nominations, “it’s entirely possible that every nomination that comes in could be a finalist simply because we’re looking at a range of ten to fifteen [finalists].

“We’ll have a website that will list all the finalists, and our plan is to add photos of the food, descriptions of the foods, descriptions of the restaurants, and we’ll encourage people to actually go to these restaurants or the food trucks or the caterers who are nominated to make opportunities for people to try their food,” Brannen continues. Finalists will also be provided promotional materials about Global Flavors, directing customers to vote for their dish, drink or dessert online.

For the first year, the Global Flavors organizers will be keeping it simple so there likely won’t be discounts, a passport system or non-monetary incentives involved, and voting will probably be open to all metro-area residents. The goal is to give small mom-and-pop restaurants an opportunity for exposure and awareness. "We know there are so many great places to eat and not all of them have the same staffing or communications and marketing teams to get the word out, so this is one way we, as a city, can really help them out,” says Brannen. “And you know all the money spent in Aurora, it’s good for the economy, so we want to encourage people to dine out more.”

The winner of each category will be recognized at Global Fest. "To be on stage and have your dumpling dish or your fajitas or lamb burger being shouted out on stage in front of thousands of people, that’ll attract a lot of attention,” Brannen notes. The winners will also be featured on Aurora Now, a weekly show on the government-operated television station AuroraTV, and it will be promoted on Aurora’s social media platforms and be included in the Aurora Eats Food guide.
click to enlarge two women sitting at a fold-out table under a pop-up canopy
Lady Dee's Authentic Nigerian Cuisine booth at a previous Global Fest.
City of Aurora
With two weeks until the nomination deadline, one Aurora food business has already gotten its application in. Ngozi Onyeali, owner of Lady Dee’s Authentic Nigerian Cuisine, says her hope is to “just expose different food systems because, you know, I don’t have a restaurant. I cater privately and I do Global Fest."

Originally from Nigeria, Onyeali immigrated to Denver at age eighteen and was a hairdresser for forty years before retiring. She started her catering business twenty years ago, dishing up Nigerian home-cooking staples such as goat curry, Nigerian meat pies and jollof rice, a stewed rice dish with bell peppers, onions, tomatoes, and spices that she travels to procure directly from the source.

For Global Flavors, Onyeali nominated her heritage red stew with beef and white rice. While she doesn't have a brick-and-mortar where voters can taste the dish, she says, “Anyone who wants to try, come over and I’ll make it for you. I enjoy cooking and feeding people. ... My kitchen, that’s my therapy room. If anything is bothering me, I’m in the kitchen, frying plantain or making stew. I don't think of anything else but 'How can I make this food taste so good?'”

Lady Dee’s is exactly the type of food business that Global Flavors hopes to help. “I think it complements very well the goal of Global Fest, and that is to celebrate the diversity in our city,” Gambetta concludes. “We are the most diverse city in the whole state of Colorado, and we have an immigrant integration plan, and one of the key priorities for our office is to promote their small businesses.”

Global Fest takes place Saturday, August 17, from 11 a.m. to 6 p.m. at the Aurora Municipal Center Great Lawn,
15151 East Alameda Parkway. For more information on the event and Global Flavors, visit
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