Hazell Nut Café Dedicated in Honor of Successful Restaurant Owner, Entrepreneur
Hazell Nut Café Dedicated in Honor of Successful Restaurant Owner, Entrepreneur

by Dave Cranshaw
UNH Today Editor

Jeff Hazell ’83, owner of Bar Harbor Lobster Company, Florida’s largest distributor of New England seafood, concedes that the first time he meet President Steve Kaplan in 2006, the University’s hospitality and tourism management program was struggling.

When he was a student, the program was one of the biggest on campus. But a little more than two decades later the numbers had dwindled. Already a significant University donor, he pledged his support to build the program back up.

(L-R) Chair of the Board of Governors Phil Bartels, Jeff Hazell '83 and President Steve Kaplan. (Photo courtesy of Samantha Mathewson '14)

Today, UNH has one of the top hospitality programs in the region, and thanks to Hazell, they have access to a top-notch facility to practice what they learn in the classroom. During winter break, a renovation was completed on the Hazell Nut Café, and last week it was rededicated in his honor.

“I did not believe it could be done in that little space,” he said of the facility in Maxcy Hall that was originally opened in 2007. “They have done a fantastic job.”

The improvements included new equipment and an upgraded menu to provide a true restaurant-quality experience for students. “The entirely student-run operation has helped reinforce the University’s reputation as a national leader in experiential education,” said Kaplan.   

Hazell, a member of the University’s Board of Governors, learned firsthand about the importance of hands-on learning when he participated in a Disney World restaurant internship as an undergraduate. Soon after graduating, he opened his business with a modest lobster tank in his garage.

In addition to the Bar Harbor Lobster Company, he is the founder of Boston Lobster Feast restaurant with locations in Orlando and Kissimmee. He recently launched the Clawdaddy’s food truck that serves premium lobster rolls at locations throughout Disney World.

“Jeff is certainly one of our most successful graduates,” said President Kaplan. “It is a pleasure to recognize him for his longstanding leadership and generous support of the University and our students.”

In addition to the Hazell Nut Café, Hazell’s contributions helped establish Jeffery’s Fusion, the University’s fine dining campus restaurant. Both locations feature seafood, meats and other food donated by Hazell.

As part of the dedication event, students prepared and served pizzas, salads and other food. On display was a 13-pound lobster donated by Hazell. Before unveiling a new plaque, the student leadership team discussed their roles and responsibilities.

General manager Sarah Pethybridge ’15 oversees training and scheduling for the staff of 24 students; purchasing manager Samantha Hessler '15 is responsible for calculating food costs; marketing manager Ashley Cromwell '15 develops daily ads and specials; bakery manager Hannah Carty '15 starts baking each morning at 5 a.m.; pizzeria manager Cindy Ramos '13 creates ideas for pizzas, sandwiches and salads; and accounting manager Sarah Ambrose tracks purchases, balances the books and makes deposits.

“This experience, although difficult and challenging, has been inspiring for me as I work toward my goal of owning a business one day,” she said. “There were times when I felt discouraged, but I came back the next day because I knew the value of this experience.”

“Our hospitality and tourism management students say they come here to work in the Hazell Nut Café," added Juline Mills, chair of the hospitality and tourism management project, “because the experience is second to none.”

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