Service with a smile at hospitality school’s Annual Scholarship Dinner
Scholarship dinner guests arrived at their tables to find FDU-branded cookies to take home as favors. (Photos by Dan Landau)
By Kenna Caprio
It’s 2:50 p.m. on a Sunday afternoon in early March and students and guests mill around the foyer of the Park Avenue Club in Florham Park before cocktail hour begins at 3 p.m.
Students in The International School of Hospitality and Tourism Management greet guests and hand out lists of auction items while keeping an eye out for their family and friends. Guests sign in and receive their place cards for the sit down dinner. Some check their coats. Anticipation grows as family, friends, alumni, students, parents, faculty, staff and hotel and club managers enter.
It’s a big night for Fairleigh Dickinson University’s hospitality students: they have worked since last October on the school’s Annual Scholarship Dinner and auction. And in a few minutes, the doors will open and the evening will officially kick off.
“Our Annual Scholarship Dinner is a physical and practical application of the management and leadership skills we teach in the classroom. We’ve encouraged the kids to think of themselves as one body, and to conduct themselves at the dinner like a symphony orchestra, each knowing their own part, and each knowing when it’s their turn to blend,” says Ruth Hladyk, Director of Professional Development and Internship for the hospitality school.
From soup to nuts, from farm to table, the hospitality students run the show — each student has a place on an organizational chart created by co-project managers Jose Jerez-Vargas, 21, and Bryan Adelson, 22. Student roles range from servers and greeters to marketing director and operations manager, providing participants with a broad range of hospitality experiences.
“(The) overall mission is to benefit the students. To have our hands in the water, be doing our job and learning what to do,” says Adelson, whose goal is to work at a hotel post-graduation.
Part of the job of the co-project managers is to “hire” people, matching skills with roles and “putting people in the position they want or that they want to learn,” says Jerez-Vargas who aims to move back to his native Dominican Republic eventually to be a resort manager there.
This year’s marketing director, Theresa Dill, 21, worked her way up to the position. Last year, she happened to transfer into FDU as the “dinner was quickly approaching.” She landed on the auction team to assist where needed, “helping with some last minute solicitations and the silent auction. I guess they thought I did a good job on the team, so they asked me to be the director this year,” she says.
While the marketing team tackles facilitating the live and silent auctions, the creation of an auction website and soliciting table sponsors for the dinner, things heat up in the kitchen.
Student food service director Courtney Bishop helps organize student training and Joseph Masucci, culinary director, makes schedules and prep lists.
“I look forward to taking that deep breath after all the plates go out. I look forward to congratulating my team and telling them that they did a great job,” says 22-year-old Masucci, days before the event.
Masucci has been working closely with Park Avenue Club Executive Chef Arnold Kruck since January on the dinner. Kruck, who met Masucci through last year’s event, referred Masucci to the chef that he works for now, Chef Thomas Silvestri at White Beeches Golf and Country Club in Haworth.
To prep for the dinner Masucci has been working events and a la carte service at the Park Avenue Club to “get a better understanding of how the club flows and everybody works.”
Students are also incorporating the dinner’s theme into the evening: farm to table.
“All of the centerpieces are eco-friendly, (it’s) a plant and vegetable arrangement,” says Adelson. The arrangements will be donated back to Park Avenue Club so that they can make use of the vegetables.
More than 300 hundred people will see those centerpieces tonight, including hospitality alumni and industry leaders. Club and hotel managers may be on the lookout for future employees or interns and the students know it.
They put their most professional, polished selves forward and suddenly, the doors open to the cocktail hour. Time to mingle with future colleagues, dish out the fresh mozzarella, serve cocktails and local wines and communicate to student coordinators via headset. In other words, bon appetite!
Reflecting on a job well done a few days after the scholarship dinner, Dr. Richard Wisch, Director of The International School of Hospitality and Tourism Management expresses his gratitude.
“We are extremely appreciative for all that our partners at the Park Avenue Club did in allowing us to use their facilities for this event, and the assistance given by their dedicated staff. Special mention goes to Chef Arnold Kruck, and his team who provided guidance to students in preparing the cocktail and dinner menus,” he says.
“The support of industry contributors, as well as alumni, parents, friends, Professor Ruth Hladyk and Dr. Iris Gersh, and FDU community members allowed us to put on the dinner and fund 32 scholarships.”
Jose Jerez-Vargas poses with the organizational chart that he and co-project manager Bryan Adelson created during the planning stages of the event for students and staff to reference.