Dine another day: Paul College presents latest dining experience

By Max Sullivan
On April 8, 2014

  • Students of the Peter T. Paul College served patrons at the James Bond-inspired dinner over the weekend. Cameron Johnson/Staff

Students in the Peter T. Paul College of Business and Economics' hospitality management program got some of the best hands-on experience of their four years this past weekend. They put on three days of "License to Dine," a Bond-themed weekend of banquets inside the Paul College's Great Hall, culminating Sunday with the college's first ever brunch.

With most of the guests being Paul College donors, faculty, staff, family members and some students, the banquet was completely organized and hosted by the college's 667, 403 and 567 hospitality management classes. The students worked every position of the six-course banquets, from waiting tables to acting as manager and head chef.    

Twenty-year-old Lucy McGinty, a junior, worked feverishly all weekend as general manager to make sure the meals went as planned. Only after she concluded the Sunday brunch with a speech at 2:30 p.m. was she able to stop, smile and reflect on what an important weekend this was for her and her classmates.

"It's incredible experience and a great thing to be able to talk about in future job interviews and on your resume," McGinty said. "It's real life situations in a classroom. You don't get to do this in any other major. We're spending real money; these are real guests. How much more real world can you get?" 

"We have created this dinner from the very bottom to the top," said beverage manager Evaline LaCasse. "So it just gives us a taste of what you need to do when you go into the real world in our major."

Managerial experience does not come easily in the "real world." Most students who work in the hospitality field while attending classes are at the bottom of the food chain, paying their dues as hosts, waiters and prep cooks. With that in mind, the Paul College gives the 667 students a unique opportunity to hone these skills before hitting the job market, having them manage the freshmen and sophomores from the 403 and 567 classes.

LaCasse, a senior who is preparing for an internship this summer with the Nantucket Yacht Club, is glad to have this experience.

"We are in charge of two younger groups of students in 403 and 567," LaCasse said. "We have training sessions, we bring them in and we manage them, we train them [to do] everything that they're doing out here today."

Marketing was also handled by the students. Dennis Oleson and Carolyn Kelly have been making phone calls the entire semester, getting sponsors and creating a budget for the dinner. Until he started working on it, Oleson didn't realize how time consuming it could be or how time sensitive the work was. The final version of the menu was not ready to be printed until Friday, the day of the first dinner.

"The time that you put into it," Oleson said. "You just think, 'Okay, it's just putting some tables out and inviting people,' but there's so many small factors that can go wrong at any time."

Some of the students got jobs this weekend that they didn't expect. Greg Gottlieb, a junior from Atlantic City, N.J. who hopes to work in casino management, was initially stunned and disappointed when he found out he was appointed executive chef for the banquets. He barely had any experience with food. What he found though, was that the experience he gained by managing a fast-paced kitchen for three days straight would probably translate to what he wants to do after he graduates.

"Even though my interest in food and beverages isn't necessarily as existent as my colleagues," Gottlieb said, "food and beverage is in casinos so if I make it to where I want to be in executive positions, I'm going to have the ground level experience from my college education, which is awesome. It's great."

Even the theme came from the students in the classroom. Students in 667 wrote ideas on the board at the beginning of the semester and then voted. Cory Kramer, one of the weekend's beverage managers came up with the idea of the Bond theme. The idea came last minute and the class loved it.

As for creating that 007 atmosphere, courses included the GoldenEye sweet potato soup, the Skyfall pan seared duck and the Live and Let Die banana foster trifle. A favorite dish of many was the Goldfinger braised short rib. Of course, the menu featured a vodka martini, shaken not stirred. As guests entered, Bond themes played on a loop. Once seated, the cool jazz featured in so many Bond films played. The room was colored in black, white and red, and the bathrooms were labeled "Bond agents" and "Bond ladies."

Michelle McEwan, a teacher's assistant in 667, attended on Sunday and was proud of her students for what they'd accomplished that weekend.

"This is pretty impressive, doing three six-course dinners in a row, all weekend," McEwan said. "They've been working really hard."

The students didn't get through the weekend without a few bumps in the road. On Friday night, the kitchen was a little backed up. Sunday, there was a shortage on coffee, requiring Chief Financial Officer Jessica Warren to make a run to Breaking New Grounds down the street. By the end though, the team had overcome much of the learning curve.

"It's a lot of hard work, but there's a great payoff at the end," LaCasse said. "Seeing everything come together and seeing all of the students doing a great job."

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