Renowned Chef: Making Guests Happy Goal of Best Hospitality Students
Renowned Chef: Making Guests Happy Goal of Best Hospitality Students

by Karen Grava
Director of Media Relations

The goal of any restaurant owner, celebrity chef Scott Conant told guests at an upscale Valentine’s Day-themed event at the German Club, should be to make guests happy.

“Your guests should leave happier than they were when they came,” Conant said. “Service to the customer is the most important piece of hospitality.”

Conant, a judge on the Food Network's show Chopped, was the speaker at a program, “Love is… A Full Plate,” planned and prepared by students in the College of Business’s Hospitality and Tourism Management program and the Jeffery’s Fusion Student Catering Team. The students raised nearly $10,000, half of which will benefit Connecticut No Kid Hungry.

A fundraiser planned and executed by hospitality and tourism management students raised $5,000 for Connecticut No Kid Hungry.

The evening, which featured Conant’s talk and a book signing of his latest cookbook, took place at the German Club ballroom, which was transformed into an elegant white table restaurant. The event was executed by seniors as part of their capstone course. 

“This event is experiential education at its best,” said Juline Mills, professor and chair of the hospitality program. “Our students get the hands-on experience of not only planning and executing an event but also learning from the things that went well and the areas that need improvement. I see the look of accomplishment on our students’ faces, knowing that they have gained valuable knowledge and skills needed for the profession.”

The cocktail hour featured dishes inspired by Conant’s The Scarpetta Cookbook, which was given to every guest. The chocolate-inspired menu included an appetizer of white chocolate shooters, butternut squash ravioli and white chocolate-dipped smoked peppery bacon. The salad was baby spinach leaves with sliced pears and hazelnuts with dark chocolate balsamic vinaigrette dressing.  Chocolate was the centerpiece for the cocoa-espresso rubbed filet mignon and lobster tail main course, followed by triple chocolate chunk cookies sandwiched in organic whipped cream dusted with raw dark cocoa powder.

Conant, who grew up in Waterbury and almost became a plumber, owns a chain of restaurants with same name as his cookbook.  He doesn’t do what he does for money, he told the students. “I do it because I love it,” he said. “Happy cooks cook happy food.”

His proudest day, he said, is when his four-year-old daughter tells him “DaDa, this is delicious.”

The event was developed as part of a fall 2013 class in nonprofit event management. The students chose No Kid Hungry as the beneficiary of the banquet because more than one in six children in Connecticut lives in households that struggle against hunger.

Scarpetta is an Italian expression that means “little shoe” — or the shape bread takes when used to soak up the leftovers in a dish. It is also the name of Conant’s restaurant chain that opened in New York and Miami to rave reviews in 2008.

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