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Wednesday, October 4, 2023


Hilton College prepares to dazzle with ‘A Night of Jazz and Gin’

Over 300 students worked for months on Gourmet Night, which will host 360 guests and feature dinner, dessert, wine pairings and live entertainment. | Courtesy of the Conrad N. Hilton College of Hotel and Restaurant Management

Hilton College students will soon be able to showcase their culinary artistry and event planning abilities at the annual Gourmet Night on April 1.

The event, which began in 1974, is planned and executed solely by students. This year’s iteration, “A Night of Jazz and Gin,” will be held in the Conrad Hilton Grand Ballroom at the eponymous on-campus hotel and will feature a cocktail reception, silent auction, a multi-course dinner with wine pairings and live entertainment.

“The nine student managers responsible for planning this five-course dinner gain incredible hands-on experience in the culinary arts, event planning, beverage management and service direction,” said Debbie Maurer, director of communications at the Hilton College.

Gourmet Night won the “Best Event Production for a Budget Under $50,000” award from the National Association for Catering and Events for its 2013 event, “There’s No Place Like Home,” a Wizard of Oz-themed dinner and live auction fundraiser.

NACE awarded Hilton College students Clara Snelson, Caitlin O’Brien and Hannah Ballard scholarships for their work on the event.

The students are responsible for every aspect pertaining to Gourmet Night — from budgeting, theme and menu to logistics, service direction and beverage management.

“We have been able to successfully work as one big team with our 300 student volunteers who are dispersed in different departments,” said restaurant management Sania Ahmed, this year’s general manager of Gourmet Night.

Gourmet Night requires months of planning, executive director Erin Oeser-Goodell said, and the Hilton College’s network has helped them make the event possible.

“Our industry connections have helped us improve the quality of our event,” Oeser-Goodell said. “That leaves us with more money at the end of the end of the day.”

Proceeds from ticket sales and the silent auction benefit the Hilton College’s educational programs and scholarships, and Gourmet Night regularly sells out. This year, the event sold out in record time, Oeser-Goodell said, having reached their guest limit of 360 in three days.

Maurer said Gourmet Night functions as a learning opportunity for the students involved and provides them with experience that will be applicable in their industry. This is Oeser-Goodell’s last year as the event’s executive director, which could be the reason for the quick sell-out, as regular patrons come and say their good-byes, Maurer said.

“We’re all working towards the same goal of making Gourmet Night a night to remember for our guests, for our general volunteers, and of course, for our student managers.” Ahmed said.

Marialuisa Rincon contributed reporting.

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