On Friday, March 27th, I was lucky enough to attend the Gourmet Dinner, New Orleans: Unmasked, on behalf of the UNH Social Team. I enjoyed a night full of music, conversation and most importantly – food. The food was more than impressive and the ambiance allowed for a night like no other. I kept forgetting I was in PAUL College and not a 5-star restaurant, dining with the stars. This is an event for the masses – students, alumni, parents, and community members love to come to campus to enjoy a night of fine dining put on entirely by students in the Hospitality Management courses. At my table alone, I sat with faculty members, current students, and a local family that has been coming to Gourmet Dinner for the past two years.
The Gourmet Dinner is put on by a Hospitality Management Class within the PAUL School. While the management team runs the event, the students of HGMT 405 AND 567 learn by working as the wait staff and running the event floor. The most amazing part of the event is that while it is put on by students that are running an event like this for the first time, you would never be able to tell. From the management, to the servers, to the food – the students seem like theyhave been doing it for years. It is that well run!
The night began with a tough choice for me – what am I going to have for my first course? It was between roasted carrots, prepared with Tahini yogurt, carrot puree, bar nuts and ash or Muffuletta, made with Italian cured meats, mozzarella, piperade, cucumber relish and arugula. I went with the Muffuletta, as any Italian person would agree, I cannot turn down mozzarella. It did not disappoint!
For the next course, guests were given two choices again. It was between Ham Hock which was made up of creamy grits, parmesan and kale or Yaka Mein, which was braised skirt steak, pickled shiitake mushrooms, radish, scallions and boiled egg. The Ham Hock was my final decision and it was delicious.
Believe it or not, we still had room for more and moved onto our next course, again between three choices. The first choice was Creole Shrimp, which was fried okra, squid ink jasmine rice, and roasted garlic chive oil. Option two, you could get Pork Two Ways which was espresso rubbed tenderloin & BBQ pork belly, yukon potato puree, broccoli and gochujang BBQ glaze. The third choice was Chicken & Sausage Gumbo, prepared with onions, peppers, and white rice. For this course, I went with the Creole Shrimp, to spice things up and it was a very unique meal that I wouldn’t normally order – but it was great nonetheless!
Last but not least by any means: dessert. The two choices for this course were Beignets, consisting of poached pear, cinnamon, and floral thyme or Bread Pudding with bourbon sauce and cranberry chutney. I went with the Beignets and they were easily my favorite part of the meal. All of the plates were beautifully prepared and all the guests at my table and I got different things, and we all were very happy with each course.
Senior PAUL College student Diana Lo, Director of Marketing before the dinner and the expeditor in the kitchen during the event, was nice enough to invite me to the first night of Gourmet Dinner this semester. Diana did a great job with marketing for the event, and played a huge role in making sure the dinner ran smoothly. According to Diana, this Gourmet Dinner stood out to her amongst the others. Lo commented, “I think what sets this experience apart from the previous dinners is all the little things. Yes, of course we had the curve balls of having a completely different menu set up and needing to work around that, and using a point of sale system for the dinner for the first time, but we also paid attention to the little things.” This was very clear to the crowd. I felt as if they were just serving me the whole night – and that feeling comes from their attention to the little things. Not only was this an event Diana put so much time in to to ensure it ran smoothly, but she grew to have a personal attachment to the event throughout the semester. “I cried for two hours on Sunday evening because I had been so moved at how well our HGMT 405 and 567 students performed, and I was so sad that the dinner was actually over.” This event clearly meant so much to Lo, and the whole team just wanted to make sure the event ran smoothly. “We communicated, worked it out, and made this an amazing experience not just for our guests, but for us as well.”
Diana Lo was just one of the many amazing management team members for Gourmet Dinner. Senior PAUL College Student Sacha Cavezzali was the General Manager for the Gourmet Dinner and did a remarkable job at managing the event. Cavezzali commented on how much she loved working on the Gourmet Dinner, because of the people involved. “The group of students we had the pleasure of working with will do great things, both with their Gourmet Dinner in the future and in their careers down the road. I look forward to coming back and seeing what they create when it is their turn.”
At the end of the night, I left stuffed and fully impressed. These students knew what they wanted for this event – and they made it happen. It is great to see students come together for one common goal, and witness their success. It was a night full of unexpected conversation and delicious food. Thank you to Gourmet Dinner team for allowing our UNH Social Team to crash your party for a night – it was a delight to say the least!
All photos taken by Emmet Todd ’17, UNH Social Student Intern