March 12, 2007

Students Get a Taste of New Orleans

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Last Saturday night, Cornell experienced the culinary offerings of one of the south’s leading chefs, Tommy DiGiovanni. DiGiovanni is the Executive Chef of Arnaud’s Restaurant in New Orleans, an eatery that can seat nearly 1,000 patrons simultaneously and boasts the French Quarter’s largest kitchen. This is the second of three dinners to be featured in the 18th annual Guest Chef Series presented by the School of Hotel Administration.

The night’s dinner took place in the newly renovated Taverna Banfi in the Statler Hotel. The menu consisted of a five-course meal with a Belle River Crawfish Salad, Louisiana Snapping Turtle Soup, Roasted Quail, Sautéed Filet and Praline Crepes for desert. Each entrée was paired with a wine selection that was handpicked to go with the night’s meal.

Although many of the students at the dinner had never been exposed to this kind of dining, it was the peculiarity and novelty of the cuisine that many of them found exciting.

As Scott Westerman ’08 said, “The Turtle Soup was by far the best thing. I think it is something different and something not many people have had up here. It’s something new.”

To make the experience as realistic as possible, students in the hotel school went to painstaking lengths to replicate the kind of atmosphere that can be found in Arnaud’s Restaurant down in New Orleans.

“Everything from the server’s uniforms to the exact menus were replicated as they are in Arnaud’s,” said Charn Bak ’07.

Although the focus of the night was to present an enjoyable dinner, the evening was also an invaluable learning experience for the students in the hotel school, as DiGiovanni embraced the opportunity to get to know those students he would be working with.

“DiGiovanni wanted to be in the kitchen, meeting with the students, teaching them and learning what they had to say,” said Tessa Crompton ’08.

Even though these students are getting to work hands-on with one of the countries leading chefs, Bak pointed out that most Cornell students are unaware of what their peers are doing in the School of Hotel Administration.

“People don’t really know what we do until they have actually experienced it, and when you come to these events you really get to see what we do,” Bak said.

Still, the student attendance for this event was less than what it has been in the past.

“I think the turnout was really good this time, a little lower than last time with definitely a lot of faculty but few students,” Westerman ’08 said.

With a price tag of 125 dollars per person, Crompton pointed out that many students may have found the dinner too expensive.

“I think the problem is the day it is on. There are prelims, students might not have 125 dollars, and it is the weekend before spring break,” Crompton said.

These dinners offer more than just food, though; for many students, the event was a once-in-a-lifetime experience.

“I’m not going to go to New Orleans so it’s really my only chance to have this kind of experience,” said Faye Bradshaw ’07.