February 24, 2003

Course Teaches Wining, Dining to Hotel Students

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Cornell Hotel School students wined and dined 114 members of the Ithaca community at Banfi’s restaurant in the Statler Hotel last night.

The evening was the culmination of weeks of preparation by a team of students in Hotel Administration 403: Guest Chefs, who are in charge of the marketing, production and service for the event, with the help of a renowned guest chef. The objective of the course, according to course coordinator Giuseppe Pezzotti, is to give students the opportunity to work in a professional environment and manage a culinary event.

“We want students to work with professionals and that’s the essence of the class,” Pezzotti said.

In the past, professionals such as Wolfgang Puck and Emeril Lagasse have come to work with the students. This time it was Chef Fritz Sonnenschmidt, one of only 53 certified Master Chefs in America. Sonnenschmidt received the 2002 Larry Conti Lifetime Achievement Award and has a 34-year tenure at the Culinary Institute of America. His influence has affected many of other great chefs today.

Sonnenschmidt, described as possessing a “unique classical style” by Christina Lofton ’04, prepared a meal inspired by Swiss and other regional influences.

The Swiss theme provided a “menu that fits the weather perfectly,” said Leo Renaghan, associate dean of the School of Hotel Administration, gesturing toward the falling snow.

The six-course menu featured Cheese Soup Uri, Spaetzli (a tradition rustic farmer’s dish), the Berner Schlacht Platter, an assortment of cheese and Kirsch Gateau from Zug (a classic layered cake) for dessert.

Sonnenschmidt was not the only one responsible for the atmosphere and quality of the meal. Co-Marketing Manager Jeff Baik ’03 described the guest chef as “more of a supervisory figure evaluating products and presentation.” The students themselves plan and implement the event.

Sonnenschmidt also stressed the students’ importance in the event.

“All I did was twiddle my fingers and look at the snow,” he said, smiling. Furthermore, “They spent days preparing for something that is enjoyed in five minutes,” Sonnenschmidt said.

The students in the class are divided into three teams, each of which is responsible for organizing and running the dinner under the guidance of the attending guest chef. As three chefs come each semester, each team works directly with one chef.

The teams are further subdivided into three groups. Each group is in charge of advertising the event to potential guests, helping with the actual production, or serving and presenting the meal. The remaining students in the class work with the team leaders in the production and service of the event.

According to the responses of many of the event’s guests, the students’ hard work produced a very successful evening.

“We came to support a bunch of our friends in the Guest Chefs class and we were very pleasantly surprised by the quality of the service,” Gillian Kasser ’03 said.

The quality of the meal also made an impact on students and guests.

“The food was fantastic, the wine was brilliant and it complemented the food very well,” Marissa McMahon ’03 said.

In all, Baik described his experience with the class thus far as “very real, very unique … It’s not your traditional classroom setting.”

The other two chefs that are coming to work with the class are Christian Delouvrier on March 9 and Neil Gallagher on April 27.


Archived article by Liz Goulding