'Veggie-dogs' a hit in Spitalieri's community barbeque

SAM RAO
Sunnyvale, Calif.

IN what has become a tradition over the years, local politicians and leaders across the nation throw open at least one community barbeque to celebrate their camaraderie with neighbors. The event held at Ortega Park on July 18 was a free event hosted by the current Mayor of Sunnyvale Tony Spitaleri and was open to the public.

The day was memorable, thanks to the ‘veggie-dogs’ prepared by master chef Deepak Bhardwaj, which served as a welcome invitation to the growing Indian American and vegetarian population of the city.

Though the event was slated for 11 a.m., the behind-the-scenes activity began at around seven in the morning, with volunteers like Arley Marley, Rotary International District 5170’s Assistant Governor and Amarjit “AJ” Singh, a member of Tony Spitalieri’s steering committee, pitching in.

To make sure the Sunnyvale residents were treated well, Amarjit, liaison to Indo-American community, made sure that chef Bharadwaj was available from the crack of dawn.

As day broke, early visitors to the park, including the morning walkers, players and nature lovers were greeted by the wafting smell of preperations for the community BBQ.

The message that was intended to be conveyed was: ‘Come meet Mayor Spitaleri and learn about the future direction of Sunnyvale’. The community responded as a steady stream of well wishers, supporters and community leaders poured in, with more than 500 people including former Mayor Julia Miller, Pat Castillo, friends, and several families showing up.

The presence of many firefighters, police and public safety officials was not surprising as Spitaleri himself was a firefighter for many years before embarking on a career as a public servant.

The free ‘veggie-dogs’ treat and prepared by Bharadwaj, with the help of the Indian American community. Also available were the traditional hot dogs prepared and served by Sunnyvale Public Safety Officers Association led by president Scott Prange.

The City of Sunnyvale has seen a tremendous increase in the number of Indian Americans in recent times, with the supplemental CENSUS numbers 2007 and other internal surveys estimating a growth of population of residents of Indian origin to almost 25% of the city population. This number includes the large influx of students studying at various institutes in the city.

The presence of several Indian American community members availing themselves of the Ortega Park facilities was pleasing to many city officials as well as volunteers like A.J. Singh who said, “We have cricket and volleyball players using the Sunnyvale facilities regularly and their visits as well as participation in all local events are always welcome.”

Sunnyvale has demonstrated a continued effort to involve the Indian American community, including past Mayor Otto Lee and the City council members, some of whom were present at the occasion.

The presence of Mayor Otto Lee at the barbeque, on a two-week furlough from his active service duty with the US Armed Forces in Iraq, was greatly appreciated.

Apart from welcoming remarks, the event highlighted how easily approachable Spitaleri was and his continued commitment to engage all community members in an open and transparent fashion. “I went to the BBQ and met the mayor, and want everyone to know that I found him personable, open and sincerely caring about Sunnyvale. I spoke to him about my concerns, about overbuilding and keeping trees and natural areas and he was very receptive,” said Laura, a visitor who had read online about the event, over an email.

Bharadwaj, a renowned Indian American chef has several years of experience under his belt with stints at top hotels and restaurants in over 10 countries. He also a recipient of numerous prestigious awards at the 2003 and 2005 Sonoma County State Fair Cookoff. “I appreciate all the kudos and will participate in every chance I get for community service,” he said at the end of the day.

Special Thanks, courtsey The Indian Express, WESTCOAST Newsline


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