Students Showcase Unusual ‘Academic’ Skill

by Elizabeth Davis

The next Wolfgang Puck or Rachael Ray could be attending Transylvania University.

The hospitality management division of Transy’s business program is instructing its students in the art of fine dining through a hands-on approach – the preparation of a series of dinners in the Rafskeller for faculty and students. These meals, which have in the past ranged in theme from Mexican to a Keeneland kickoff, are part of the division’s course entitled Quantity Food Production Management (HRT 3144).

Professor Michael Pepper explained that “the students have to feel the responsibility on their shoulders. They have to do an accounting report for the next week, prepare a theme, menus and a trial meal, and make sure they are within the budget.”

Students are allotted approximately $8 per person to cover costs; in addition to meal preparation and planning, they must also pick a venue, supervise the event and clean up post-dinner.

Students must also attend a seven-hour lab in the Rafskeller on Tuesdays.

“Preparing yeast bread or snapping off green beans for portions takes a while,” commented Pepper.

“The program is unique,” he continued. “Not a lot of schools give opportunities to plan and execute meals.”

Each dinner is comprised of an appetizer, an entrée and a dessert; three of the 10 students enrolled serve as managers, who then pass on their expertise to the next group of managers. Students not enrolled in the course are trained for such jobs as hosts and kitchen staff members.

“What customers see is only one part,” Pepper related with regards to the preparation process. “I always say if you think you’ve thought of 100 percent, you’ve probably only thought of 80 percent.”

Aja Price, one of the managers of Tuesday night’s dinner, said, “I feel as if the most important thing that I have gained so far from the HRT concentration and this class in particular is being able to communicate efficiently and effectively with my co-workers (fellow students) and with people. I have grown within this program, and I am so thankful that Professor Pepper was able to teach this class!”

“I thought the dinner was wonderful,” said Dr. Tiffany Wheeler. “The presentation was excellent and the food was delicious. The students did an excellent job, and I will definitely be going back!”

The dedication of Pepper and his students to the program is undeniable.

“It’s like a student giving a recital. It’s a performance,” Pepper said. “You prep, you plan and you perform. You’re on stage.”

The next meal is scheduled for Tuesday, Feb. 23, in the Rafskeller, and the entire Transy community is welcome to attend.


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