Alganesh Michael will prepare her acclaimed Ethiopian and Eritrean cuisine for the annual Around-the-World Community Dinner March 21.  

Bringing a Community to Her Table: Around-the-World Dinner Features the Cuisine of Alganesh Michael

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Thursday March 15, 2018

Since 2014, South Burlington resident Alganesh Michael has been sharing her love of Ethiopian and Eritrean cuisine with Vermonters in popular pop-up “Ethiopian Night” restaurant events throughout the state. At the Around-the-World Community Dinner in the Frederick H. Tuttle Middle School (FHTMS) cafeteria March 21, she will finally serve it to her neighbors.

“It’s a pleasure to bring this cuisine to my hometown, so that folks can gather to eat and experience the culture,” Michael says. “What better way to bring community together, to share a meal and get to know each other?”

At the free community dinner, Michael will cook some of the beloved dishes she grew up with in Eritrea, such as her favorite mild lentil curry and a spicy beef dish, all complemented by a hearty soup and salad bar from the FHTMS kitchen. Later, Michael will talk briefly and answer questions about the different foods and cooking customs of Eritrea and neighboring Ethiopia, both found in the Horn of Africa.

Michael moved to South Burlington in 2003 with husband Abiy Ambaye, a pathologist at the University of Vermont Medical Center, and daughters Lydia and Rachel. The former nurse then turned her energies to volunteering and cooking pursuits and hasn’t looked back since. She has been a mentor for the school district’s mentoring program (SB Mentoring) for six years, served as a guide for New American students, and delivered meals to her neighbors for Meals on Wheels
“Volunteering helps me connect with others,” she explains, adding it has “brought fun and fulfillment to my life, and also gives me a sense of purpose.”

The Michael-Ambaye family is also involved in fundraising for Beri Mayda, a Girls Hostel and Education Center facility in Ethiopia. Lydia and Rachel, both students at South Burlington High School, are spearheading the effort, which aims to make girls’ education more accessible and affordable.

Besides the pop-up dinners Michael and her cooking partner Mulu Tewelde hold regularly at ArtsRiot in Burlington and Big Picture Theater in Waitsfield, Michael teaches cooking classes and caters. She is also a partner and co-director of Culinary Heritage Arts at Clemmons Family Farm, an historic African-American-owned farm in Charlotte.

By teaching her neighbors about her homeland and its food traditions, Michael helps connect Vermonters not only to each other, but also the world.

“Hosting pop-ups wasn’t something I planned to do,” she admits, but she jumped at the opportunity because “I love to cook. I have met so many great people in the last four years and continue to enjoy the journey.”

By Alex Vignona, a student in Professor Joyce Hendley’s Community Development and Applied Economics Department class at the University of Vermont; the class is working with Healthy Schools this semester.


Community Dinner
Wednesday, March 21
5:30-7 p.m.
Frederick H. Tuttle Middle School, 500 Dorset Street

The South Burlington community is invited to attend Ethiopian/Eritrean Night with chef and resident Alganesh Michael. While the event is free to the community, seating is limited and reservations are required. Donations are greatly appreciated.

Ethiopian/Eritrean Night is part of the Healthy Schools South Burlington School District’s Around-the-World Dinner series with the mission of sharing foods and information from countries around the world based on recipes from our community’s own families.

For more information and reservations, contact Susie Merrick, 802-652-7035, or email