PULLMAN, Wash. — Not only do the 20 students on Washington State University’s Catering Team learn to manage, market and handle human resources during their business education, they also become gourmet cooks and event planners. This semester, these hotel and restaurant administration majors will share their knowledge in some delicious ways with event planners and the public from the Pullman area.

“Starting in February, we have four thematic dinners planned plus a special noon-time tasting,” says Melanie Schaad, a senior from Port Angeles and HRA Catering Team marketing director. “We’re in charge of preparing about two dozen intriguing hors d’oeuvres, spectacular entrees and mouthwatering desserts for these events this semester. And though we don’t expect to turn a profit, the hands-on experience we’ll gain is invaluable!”

The first event — “Taste of Excellence” — will be from 11 a.m.-2 p.m. Friday, Feb. 2, in Todd Hall. Specially designed for WSU college and department event planners, the noontime tasting will feature bite-sized portions of many kinds of foods prepared by the catering team.

“At this tasting, we will encourage WSU event decision-makers to try our foods and experience our commitment to service and hospitality,” Schaad says. “We are anxious to see old friends and meet new customers.”

Starting in February, the students will also host a new “Spring Dining Series.” It consists of four Friday evenings of four-course dinners and replaces the popular “Café Curricula” multi-course meals served in recent years by HRA students to the public. The series meals are built around innovative menus designed to complement wine, beer, tea or coffee.

“We are inviting regional beverage specialists to be guest lecturers at the series, so the meals will be educational as well as delicious,” says Chef Gene Fritz, culinary instructor in HRA. Scheduled for Feb. 9, March 2 and 30, and April 13, the meals all will begin at 6 p.m. in Todd Hall, Room 268. The Dining Series is open to the public. Only those 21 years of age and older may attend the events when alcohol is served.

At the evening featuring wine — April 13 — the guest speaker will be from Arbor Crest Winery of Spokane. “They plan to kickoff the debut of a new line of wines at this dinner,” says Fritz.

At the March 2 dinner, Portland’s Bridgeport Brewery will sponsor Todd Curle, general manager of Frontier Distributing in Pullman, to discuss beer as it complements the food items, Fritz says. Guest lecturers for the coffee and tea dinners will be announced soon.

“This Dining Series will give us a different style of cooking and catering than the Taste of Excellence or our usual catering events,” says Schaad. The students in catering services are all HRA majors who are paid for their work, and must complete 1,000 hospitality internship hours before graduation. Statistics for 2000 show that HRA graduates get an average of more than four job offers, and 96 percent have career positions upon graduation — 53 percent start in hotels, 37 percent in restaurants and food and beverage jobs, and 10 percent in other hospitality areas like catering and airlines, for example.

For more information about the tasting and the dinners, and to make reservations, contact Schaad at hracater@wsu.edu or phone and leave a message at 509/335-EATS (3287).

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