There’s no such thing as fast food drive-through stops when it comes to road trips with Broad College of Business’ School of Hospitality Business. On Saturday, April 8, 140 guests, including Broad College deans and alumni, gathered for the sixty-first annual Les Gourmets, an annual student organization-run dining event. Themed “A Fork in the Road,” Les Gourmets was held at Spartan Stadium’s Huntington Club, and took guests on an experiential dining journey across the United States.

The “vintage road trip” theme inspired the student group to get creative in food choices and entertainment: a Route 66-era gas station pump housed a keg of Ellison Brewery’s finest, and two “stop light” bars with authentic traffic signals illuminated as guests received their red, yellow, or green drink. The creative event required took months of planning from Les Gourmets executive board, advisor Chef Allan Sherwin (BA Hospitality Business ’64), and nearly 100 additional student volunteers.

Deans Sanjay Gupta and Kathy Petroni join Bonnie Knutson and Les Gourmets executive board members at the sixty-first annual event.

Deans Sanjay Gupta and Kathy Petroni join Bonnie Knutson and Les Gourmets executive board members at the sixty-first annual the sixty-first annual event.

Les Gourmets CEO Sarah Lerche, CFO Stephanie Ragatzki, and COO Natalie Grimmer (all BA Hospitality Business ‘17) welcomed guests and discussed the hard work that students put in to planning their event, and reflect upon their experiences in the student organization. “In life, they tell you to expect the unexpected. In Les Gourmets life, we learn to expect the unexpected, the unpredictable, the unimaginable, and the unfathomable,” Grimmer said. The three e-board members announced Les Gourmets scholarship winners, who received cash awards and recognition based upon their application essays and dedication to Les Gourmets. The winners were Olivia Jewell, Delaney Nikolai, and Katherine (Kat) Crawford (all BA Hospitality Business ‘18), and Connar McLeod (BA Hospitality Business ‘17).

Guests were seated at tables surrounded by five “action areas,” or regions of the U.S., where entrees were prepared and served by students and guest chefs. Throughout the event, guests traveled across various regions of the country with the help of roadmaps to guide and outline the menu items, including:

  • Northeast delicacies – Steamed mussels served in an herbed garlic broth
  • Midwest comfort Miniature Chicago-style deep dish pizzas
  • Southern charmBBQ brisket live-torched and carved and spiced shrimp
  • Southwest flair Carnitas and smoked tofu tacos with homemade corn tortillas and a salsa bar
  • Northwest coastalFresh Pacific salmon atop a savory fried dough

“It all made for an interactive, participatory evening, with a blend of formality and fun,” says Lerche.  Guests wandered from region to region, sampling not just the food of the region, but special drinks, as well.  Furthering the vintage travel theme were license plate vases for table decorations, travel suitcases filled with flowers, and postcards and maps showing the way.

Students and volunteers at Les Gourmets

Over 100 student volunteers, faculty, and advisors contributed to Les Gourmets.

The evening ended with a served dessert course of rock n’ rye mini cakes made with Michigan favorite Faygo dusted with raspberry, and a variety of specialized bon bons from world-famous BonBonBon in Hamtramck, MI.  Several students traveled to BonBonBon to create the delicacies with the confectionery’s owner and alumnus (and former Les Gourmets CEO) Alex Clark (BA Hospitality Business ’10).

“This event is so much more than a meal. It’s an extravaganza for our department – an opening and a closing all in one night. Every detail is important, and every detail was managed beautifully,” said Bonnie Knutson, interim director of the School of Hospitality Business.