September 30, 2002

Hotel Students Open Rhapsody Restaurant, Serve International Menu

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Rhapsody, the School of Hotel Administration’s student-run restaurant formerly known as Themes, Cuisines and Beyond (TCAB), celebrated its grand opening last Monday.

Rhapsody, run by students of the hotel school’s restaurant management class (HA 305) offers “fresh food with a global beat” in a fast-casual dining environment.

The theme “Rhapsody” reflects the diversity and creativity of the students running the restaurant. The menu features a variety of fresh ethnic foods including Szechwan Don Don Noodles and Spanikopita, served with tzatziki and stuffed grape leaves, according to Barbara Lang, lecturer.

The menu also features “fresh favorites” such as Cajun cole slaw, sweet potato fries with a Hawaiian barbecue dipping sauce and warm cookies served with milk.

The musical term “rhapsody” is a blending of musical styles within the same composition, Lang said.

“The musical analogy reflects the restaurant’s food, a variety of diverse ethnic foods, designed and prepared by an international team of students, all under one restaurant concept,” she continued.

“Although the general theme is a casual fast service restaurant, the food quality and presentation is way above that of fast food,” said Vivian Kuo ’03, a teaching assistant.

One diner, Suvarna Sampale ’03, said she had trouble deciding what to order because “there were so many tantalizing options to choose from.”

“We finally decided upon an overflowing basket of warm nachos accompanied by a tangy, spicy three bean salsa and a hearty guacamole,” Sampale said.

Every year, the hotel school’s restaurant management class develops a branded concept within the first four weeks of class, Lang said. By the fifth week, the students are running a full-service restaurant.

The restaurant management course emphasizes experimental learning, as the restaurant is managed and run each evening by 30 students each night, four evenings a week, said Lang. The class consists of about 120 students who take turns running the restaurant from three to 10 p.m. each operating evening.

In addition to working one night a week at the restaurant, each student engages in a “management experience” where students can hone their skills and develop more knowledge in a specific disciple such as marketing, human resources management and information technology.

Each night, three different students take on the roles of dining room manager, kitchen service manager, and production manager, overseeing the restaurant and its entire operation from supervising servers and ensuring efficient service to monitoring the quality of food and its preparation.

Whereas TCAB in the past catered to the upscale customer with the check averaging over $20 per person, Rhapsody’s fast-casual dining environment is a less formal atmosphere.

Valerie R. LaMastro ’03, public relations coordinator for the class, said that the average check is eight dollars per person, with entrees ranging from $4.95 to $6.95.

Unlike TCAB, which featured “singular events that never had the chance of being repeated,” Rhapsody is a restaurant with a consistent theme “that can be improved on on a daily basis,” Lang said.

According to Kuo, since Rhapsody is a new concept this semester, the learning process has extended beyond the first week of the restaurant’s opening.

“Working in the kitchen, we constantly try to improve our assembly and cooking line to increase service speed,” Kuo stated in an e-mail.

“This is a good experience for everyone because as a future manager [in the hospitality industry], being able to fix the operational problems and increase efficiency is a critical success factor,” Kuo stated.

For the first time in the class’ history, a takeout menu will be available. Starting in two weeks, the takeout menu will include selected dinner items and whole roasted chickens with accompanying sides “for faculty and staff of Cornell that are not in the mood to cook dinner,” LaMastro said.

According to LaMastro, Rhapsody also caters to students studying at the library and students on campus in the evenings for extracurricular activities such as sports, rehearsals and work. LaMastro said that Rhapsody can provide a change of scenery for students tired of meal plan and looking for something different and affordable between breaks.

Sampale said that the prices were very reasonable. She said she was astonished to see “the noisy, lunched-tray packed Terrace transformed into a peaceful and elegant restaurant.”

“The managers’ professionalism made them appear more like expert restaurateurs rather than students in a class,” she added.

Some students were reluctant about changing the restaurant’s concept from TCAB to Rhapsody, Lang said, but they have realized that change is a real world lesson.

“In the working world, especially in our industry, change and reinvention are very common and realistic,” LaMastro said.

“The shaping of the class really prepares us for that reality,” she added.

Rhapsody is open evenings this semester from 6 to 8 p.m., Monday through Thursday in the Terrace Restaurant on the bottom floor of the Statler Hotel.

Archived article by Janet Liao