Janine Lane remembers the year Karla Chajon gave her a Tres Leches cake. "It was the best birthday present ever," says the fifth-grade teacher at Fox Run Elementary School. "I sat at my desk with a spoon."
Lane and others got to sample Chajon's Costa Rican cake again Wednesday -- it was one of the dishes at the second annual Hispanic heritage celebration at the school. The event featured a convivial pot-luck dinner with favorite family dishes prepared by students' parents, followed by entertainment from the fifth-graders. Finally, a professional Hispanic group performed in the gym.
Lane started the event last year as part of her internship to earn a six-year degree in advanced administration. "It was so popular last year and so well-received that it's a great night for families to be together and come out to Fox Run," said Assistant Principal Elisa Nelson.
The buffet included Pepia de Pollo, Mexican Rice and a Venezuelan Quesillo made by Lisbeth Montenegro. "There's no cheese in it," said her husband, Oscar. "It's like a flan."
The celebration wasn't a cooking contest, but if it were, Mayor Richard Moccia would have pronounced Chajon the winner. "I had the greatest dessert in the world," he said, before talking about the culture of Costa Rica, including the fact that the country has no army.
Like others, Chajon said the recipe had been handed down through her family. The secret is simple, she said. "I cook with a lot of love and passion. It's not just put the ingredients in there, because you want to finish cooking with love."
Her son Pablo agreed that his mom's cake is popular. "That's part of how I'm known in the school," said the seventh-grader. "I really like it myself."
Click here to sign up for Daily Voice's free daily emails and news alerts.