Fun with food

Elizabeth Rund

KSU hospitality management majors run their own restaurant

Smells of roasted pork, stewed chicken and fresh fruit filled the air at the IX Center’s Fabulous Food Show this past weekend.

By 11 am Saturday morning, more than 2,000 patrons had already made their way through the free By Hand Indoor Fine Arts show and into the main arena of culinary bliss.

Against the west wall of the Fabulous Food Show, nestled between the Chocolate Bar and a Taste of the Neighborhood, sat the Fabulous Bistro. While it’s menu boosted delicious entrees and deserts like smoked turkey and fontina panini, teriyaki glazed salmon and pumpkin crŠme brulee, the bistro was completely staffed by Kent State Hospitality Management majors.

Just over 50 students volunteered their weekend to cook, serve and buss tables throughout the run of the show. While some of the volunteers were told about the show in class, most came from the two professional hospitality programs: Professional Convention Management Association (PCMA) and the Club Managers Association of America (CMAA).

“(It’s) a lot of front of house and back of house experience,” said Chris Hebebrand, a senior Hospitality Management major and front of house manager. “We’re basically running a restaurant.”

While some of the cooking process is started by IX Center chefs, all the final prep work of the dish falls on the shoulders of the student volunteers. They are also responsible for serving and bussing tables.

Anthony Minelli, Director of Food Service at the IX Center said that 28,000 to 30,000 patrons attended the show last year and The Bistro served upwards of 1,200 meals in three days.

Minelli said that he suggested the idea of students running a restaurant within the show to Rob Heiman, assistant professor of Hostility Management, last year as a way to give back to the students.

“I felt that it would be good for hospitality management majors to be exposed to this kind of environment,” Minelli said.

Minelli said that working the bistro and the food show is good “on the job training” for students and is good for the university as a whole.

“We’re all beyond excited to be here and represent Kent State,” said Alison Panigall, a hospitality management major and General Manage of the bistro.

As a General Manager, Panigall was responsible for both back and front of house operations as well as scheduling students and making sure everyone was where they needed to be. Aside from a few minor hiccups on Friday, Panigall said everything ran smoothly.

“Hiccups are part of creation, things are going to happen and you’re going to have to go with it,” Minelli said. “That is what hospitality management is about, adjusting to people and accommodating them.”

Kent State University was one of more than a hundred exhibitors who graced the gold, blue and purple carpet. Ohio businesses like Miles Farmers Market and Brandt’s Candies joined businesses from surrounding states, like Sweet Margy from Chicago, Il.

Headlining this year’s food show was a string of talented and energetic Food Network chefs. The guest list included Guy Fieri of Diners, Drive-ins and Dives, Take Home Chef Curtis Stone; Paula Deen of Paula’s Home Cooking and her younger son Bobby Deen of the wheels searching the country for meals show Road Tested.

Rounding of the celebrity line-up was Cleveland’s own Michael Symon, owner of Lola and Lolita. Symon has been praised for the revitalization of the city’s taste buds, having been recognized by Gourmet magazine in 2000 as being one of America’s best restaurants.

As if running two success restaurants wasn’t enough, Symon won the Food Network cooking competition, The Next Iron Chef in 2008.

Mineili said Symon had been a demonstrator at last year’s show and had actually been giving a demonstration on the night it was announced he was to become a permanent addition to Iron Chef America.

Minelli said the great thing about the show is that the IX Center owns it; which means they are free to change the menu to market to different regions and accommodate the visiting chefs. He added that the show keeps changing and evolving with each year.

“We are always looking for new things for people to experience,” Minelli said.

Panigall said that the show was an excellent experience for students and especially for Kent State. Panigall added that being successful in this industry means that students need to have a little bit of experience in everything and the food show is a great place to start.

“It’s been a lot of work, but I think it’s worth it,” she said. “At the end, I take a step back and I am proud of everyone and proud of how it all turned out.”

Contact college of education, health and human services reporter

Elizabeth Rund at [email protected].