Activities & Organizations

UH goes gourmet for an elegant evening

Students were dressed to impress employers they make for post graduation.| Courtesy of

Students were dressed to impress employers they make work for post graduation. | Courtesy of

Students at the Conrad N. Hilton College of Hotel and Restaurant Management will wine and dine their financial supporters and guests at the annual, student-run Gourmet Night Saturday.

Guests will be transported back through 40 years of UH tradition. The team of students has been hard at work executing the event.

“These students work very hard for nine months planning and making sure every detail is up to par,” said Erin Oeser, executive director of Gourmet Night. “This is a class A event and nothing but the best is given to our guests, and the students make sure this happens.”

Students who are interested in the managerial team go through an application and interview process with faculty. The selected students receive credit hours towards their major. Some expected the large work load, but welcomed it.

“When we are applying for these positions, we are told just how vigorous the workload is and to expect to put a lot of time into it,” HRM senior Matthew Euresti said, one of the two event managers. “Even though we are extremely busy all throughout the year, I love it. The whole planning process is something I really enjoy. Seeing the ideas that we came up with come to life is a surreal feeling.”

HRM junior and marketing manager Cali Smith said that this year’s inspiration for the theme, The Wizard of Oz, comes from many different places.

“We are going for an elegant, rich, dark, diamonds and rubies kind of night,” Smith said. “Coincidentally, the Great and Powerful Oz movie just came out last month so we were able to draw a lot of inspiration from it for the event, and the 40th anniversary gem stone is a ruby, which reminded us of our Cougar red.”

Aside from all the planning buzz, one of the main highlights of the night is the food. HRM junior Daniel Capetillo is the executive banquet chef this year, a coveted position he has transitioned to since serving as a sous-chef for last year’s Gourmet Night.

“The main difference is the scope of control and power I have with the menu and volunteers,” Capetillo said. “As sous-chef, I was tasked with scaling and costing the recipes for the event last year. This year I have final say over the menu and honestly it’s very rewarding to have transitioned to this position.”

The menu ideas are thought up by Capetillo and his two student sous-chefs, who then prepare two tastings for the executive committee, who then approve or disapprove. Once approved, they convert each course from small scale, for about 10 to 15 people, to large scale, for about 360 to 380 people.

Capetillo said he hopes his menu will go beyond what is expected and what has been seen in the past.

“This event is a way to market what talent the school has to offer and to showcase what we learn here,” Capetillo said. “So you know, no pressure.”

The team is made up of about a dozen students, and Smith said that this year’s general manager, Sarah Robinson, oversees the entire team and makes sure every part of the process is running smoothly.

“She’s our boss,” Smith said. “We would be a mess if she wasn’t keeping us in check, along with our individual advisors.”

Oeser said that the students are prepared and anxious to see the results of their work this weekend.

“Nerves are present, but so is the excitement,” Oeser said. “They have been eating and breathing this event for the last year and now for five hours all of their hard work is going to unfold. Talk about a tough final exam.”

The hard work pays off as the money raised from Gourmet Night, the college’s biggest fundraising event, is used partly for the budget for next year’s event. The rest goes to HRM scholarships for students.

Once the event is over, it’s back to the drawing board for next year’s team, which is chosen almost immediately.

“As soon as the event happens, the applications for next year’s team goes out that night,” Smith said. “This year’s event is April 6, and next year’s event team will be selected April 24. Then you have your first meeting and you start brainstorming different themes.

“Then over the summer everyone kind of relaxes and as soon as you get back you really get into the planning process. It’s intense.”

Oeser, who has been director of Gourmet Night for the past nine years, said that it is being with the students at the very end of the night that she looks forward to the most.

“I feel like a proud mama watching her little chicks fly from the nest.”

HRM senior Mehak Adamjee, who is president of the National Association for Catering and Events Houston Student Chapter and event manager this year, said that Gourmet Night brings a sense of unity within the community.

“This event really brings our entire college together,” Adamjee said. “It is unspoken, but the week of the event, some classes are canceled or they may end a little early. With over 300 of our 1,100 students at the college volunteering, this event brings professors, faculty, alumni, and students all together under one roof for one night of magic.”

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