It was a fun night out in the Big Apple on Saturday, April 5 for guests at Les Gourmets, the annual reception and dinner hosted by students in The School of Hospitality Business in the Big Ten Rooms at the Kellogg Center on campus.
This year’s theme provided a true New York vibe, with a reception featuring recreations of the Brooklyn Bridge, Fulton’s Fish Market, and Little Italy. Ice carvings of the New York skyline greeted the guests, who enjoyed dance performances by members of MSU Orchesis and MSU Dance Minors and live background music, including familiar songs about New York.
The dinner continued to bring guests into a New York state of mind. Big Ten Rooms B and C were decorated with a color palette of black, white, and red, and an enormous skyline cutout adorned the front of the room behind the podium and elevated dance area. Table centerpieces included tiny floating apples, atop a spray of Broadway “tickets.”
School Director Dr. Ron Cichy welcomed the 250 guests, who included family members and friends of the students, faculty and staff members, alumni, and MSU and surrounding community members. He noted three special people in attendance: Ernie Renaud (BA Hospitality Business ’57), founder of the the Les Gourmets club and dinner back in 1955 (the first dinner was in 1956); and Zoe Peckman Slagle (BA Hospitality Business ’59, MA ’64) and Susan McPherson Smith (BA Hospitality Business ’59, MS ’77), both of whom led early Les Gourmets dinner dances.
Les Gourmets CEO Kevin Pollack (BA Hospitality Business ’14) gave opening remarks, noting that the 2014 theme was very special to the 32-member Executive Board which planned for and presented the evening after a year of preparation. He said that 12 members of the board had had the opportunity to travel with 53 fellow School students to New York in November for Celebration of Leadership through generous sponsorships from alumni and School supporters. The trip had not only given them ideas for Les Gourmets, but it had also bonded them and helped make them a strong team. Kevin then introduced Reverend Richard Hawks, who gave the invocation.
The five-course dinner began with a charcuterie plate served family style, paired with a Terra D’oro Zinfandel 2010. Between each successive course, there were dance performances (jazz, modern, ballet) to popular Broadway tunes. The dinner included fresh diced apple salad; an intermezzo of lemon Italian ice; and a surf and turf duet entrée with prime rib, lobster thermidor in a bouché with roasted asparagus and baby bakers. These were paired with a choice of Trapiche oak cask chardonnay 2011 or Cupcake Vinyards cabernet sauvignon 2011.
The Les Gourmets dinner provides The School with an opportunity each year to recognize the year’s Chef Robert H. Nelson Les Gourmets Scholarship winners, who receive the scholarship funds the following academic year. This year’s winners were Joaquin de la Cerda Harlow (BA Hospitality Business ’15), director of Heart of the House; Taylor Steve (BA Hospitality Business ‘15), director of Human Resources; and Megan Rossomando (BA Hospitality Business ‘15), director of Arts and Entertainment. The School’s Scholarship Committee presented the awards: Mr. Jeff Yingling and Drs. Jae Min Cha (MS ’98), Seung Hyun Kim, and Lu Zhang.
Alyssa Haney (BA Hospitality Business ‘14), Les Gourmets CFO, gave closing remarks and introduced the dedicated members of the Executive Board. They were assisted by student volunteer servers. The dinner was also the result of guidance from Professor of Culinary Business Chef Allan Sherwin (BA Hospitality Business ’64), who spoke to guests about the creativity and laudable efforts of the student leaders, and of the invaluable contributions from Culinary Coordinator Chef Rick Brown. In addition, an entire team of guest chefs, working with students behind the scenes for long hours, helped assure a successful evening. Joaquin de la Cerda Harlow introduced each guest chef.
Finally, the students presented a video which not only invoked street scenes of New York, but allowed them to thank donors and faculty members, family and supporters – and to explain what the experience of Les Gourmets meant to them.
Dessert was delicious – and served uniquely: guest left their tables to return to the reception area which had been transformed into “Central Park,” where sweets were served as people strolled through. Parting gifts included mugs imprinted with the New York skyline.
“Tonight was the culmination of twelve months of hard work for our Executive Board,” said CEO Kevin Pollack after the event. “The talent and diligence of this team of student hospitality business leaders has been inspiring. Our experience tonight will be a memory we will cherish for a lifetime.”