Guests gather for international flavor
May 6, 2008 9:58 PM
A grant of $600 started something special at SF State’s Vista Room.
That was all it took to inspire assistant professor Mehmet Ergul and his students in the Restaurant and Catering Management course to launch into the first international dinner. The Office of International Affairs granted Ergul the funds to kick-start an around-the-world experience hitting on popular and hidden cuisine.
“Food has a universal element. It brings everyone together,” Ergul said.
Friday night’s dinner brought department chairs and professors into the same fourth floor restaurant as friends and family of SF State students who were all willing to shell out $25 dollars for an eclectic meal, a good view and a three-string band.
“I loved it. I love this place,” said Jason Harris-Boundy, an assistant professor of management. “I think the food is consistently great.”
A seven-student committee met weekly to discuss the menu, decorations and logistics—possibly the only students on campus at seven in the morning. It may seem risky for Ergul to give the class freedom to choose recipes, menus and decorations but the committee is made mostly of seniors who, like Amanda Bolach, aren’t strangers to responsibility. Bolach, 21, works for the Westin St. Francis and her fellow classmates can boast similar internships, jobs and, they hope, careers.
“It really helps nurture someone who’s interested,” said Jansen Oblena, 22, a hospitality management major. Oblena was the lone committee member focusing on restaurant management, explaining his eagerness to escape the dining room for the kitchen.
Nearly every continent was represented during the three-course meal, with Greek Tzatziski, Bruschetta, Vietnamese spring rolls and southeast Asian-inspired papaya salad starting off the dinner. Other than drinks, gleeful guests only had to make one (tough) choice: Indian curry chicken, Seafood mixed grill with Chinese vegetables or Italian roasted pepper lasagna.
How does all of this food go together?
“It’s unique. It all complemented each other,” Matthew Dumaguit, 21, said. His friends agreed, including SF State biology major, Chris Melchor whose girlfriend was serving. Although he hadn’t eaten at the Vista Room before, Melchor complimented the chef on the good seafood, excellent bruschetta and rich desserts.
Ergul and the Vista Room’s head chef, Honan, advised the committee on the menu and recipes, largely taken from the student’s personal and family favorites. French mousse au chocolat, Filopino Halo Halo and Australian cookies rounded out the affair.
Most of the Restaurant and Catering Management students showed up to help with food preparation, serve the hungry diners and wash the dishes before they were given leave to enjoy their own samplings. More than just providing dinner to the guests, every student had hands-on experience with making an event happen, said department chair Janet Simms.
“This is fabulous experience,” Harris-Boundy said. “That’s what I try to teach in my classes. Planning and execution in a real situation.”
This includes when restaurant problems arise and the staff has to solve them without making it evident to the guests, Honan said.
“Its enriching, it’s good knowledge to have,” said Christina Tang, 26, a senior in hospitality management.
“All my students were wonderful. I’m really proud of them,” Ergul said. He added that he hopes to make this a regular event—but you’ll have to wait until next spring.
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