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Saturday, September 30, 2023

Life + Arts

Hilton home to diverse passions

Passion drives many hospitality students’ work with food as chefs, restaurant managers or resort managers, but their discovery of that passion is filled with unique experiences.

For hospitality junior John Price, discovering that passion was as easy as watching his mother cook and learning how to make quesadillas and pizzas, which motivated a lifelong study of hospitality since he was six.

‘This past summer, I learned Mexican cuisine in Mexico City and then went to China to work in the food and beverage services at the Olympics,’ Price said.

For others, uncovering that passion did not come right away. Some students were recommended to the Conrad N. Hilton College of Hotel and Restaurant Management by relatives and friends.

‘For years, I wanted to be an event planner, and a friend’s dad suggested the school to me,’ hospitality freshman Shelley Stelter said, ‘and I walked on the campus, fell in love with it, and I found out it was No. 2 in the nation and so all the pieces of the puzzle fit and I loved it.’

Hospitality senior Jim Curtis knew he wanted to use his passion for food ever since high school.

‘I’ve always wanted to be a chef and my mom told me that if I wanted to be any good, I had to be business-savvy first and recommended the Hilton College to me,’ Curtis said.

While completing the curriculum hours of the hospitality school, students learn that the hotel and restaurant industry is one in which fine dining and respectable service are essential components.

‘After I came here, I realized I didn’t want to be a chef anymore – not because I don’t respect the culinary craft, because it’s great what these people do,’ Curtis said, ‘but it’s really difficult and it’s a drain on your life, and I much rather have cooking as a hobby than as a career.’

For many years, Stelter wanted to be an event planner, but spending one semester at UH opened her eyes to other opportunities.

‘Now I’m here and I’ve learned there’s so much more to it, and I don’t know what exactly I want to do yet,’ she said.

Despite his passion for cooking, Price chose to study restaurant management.

‘I can know what it means to be a chef, but I’d like to eventually move from cooking to paying the chef’s paycheck,’ he said.’

Curtis said going to class and paying attention is only half the batle – honing skills for the future and taking advantage of the internships is what really prepares students for the real industry.

‘You’re always expected to be spontaneous at all times,’ Price said. ‘One of our teachers is found to be saying, ‘If you don’t have a meth problem, you’re not working hard enough.”

Hospitality faculty said it is experience coupled with the right personality that helps move students toward finding success in the hotel and restaurant industry.

‘I try to impress my students, but you do need to have the proper attitude that’s outgoing, that is able to face various circumstances…that’s part of the job,’ hospitality managerial accounting and hotel development professor Ron Jordan said.

Human resource management professor Juan Madera said the restaurant environment is the most difficult because employees work during holidays and weekends.

Although the current economy may affect the hotel and restaurant industry, food service production and operations professor Gloryvee Ramos said that overall, profit margins are still standing and companies are riding out the current recession.

Jordan said he knows from his own life that being successful in the industry requires dedication even in tough times.

‘Personally, I’ve had 35 to 40 years of experience in the industry, and I’ve certainly shared the ups and downs and I’m here to talk about it,’ Jordan said. ‘I have survived, and those people that are willing to survive and have enough ambition to make it in the world, whether it is a down time or good time’hellip; they’re going to make it.’

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