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Tangy travel: HRTM students take your taste buds for a ride

Lots of people would love to spend just a little time enjoying the Mediterranean or some other international location, but not everyone can afford it. Now, thanks to some students of the School of Hotel, Restaurant and Tourism Management you can do that without leaving campus - and for just $30.



Edgar Romero, right, looks on as Stephen Culler prepares carrots on Oct. 12 for the first International Dinner at the food production lab in the School of Hotel, Restaurant and Tourism Management. Two more dinners are scheduled during the fall 2006 semester. (NMSU photo by Darren Phillips)

Well, at least your taste buds can take the trip at one of the two remaining International Dinners being put on by students in the food production lab inside Gerald Thomas Hall.

"They pick the menu theme, they make the actual menus and they take care of all the labor and table arrangements," said Frank Cordero, college assistant professor who oversees the dinners. "In the back, they prepare and cook all the food and do all the presentation."



The next dinner is set for Thursday, Nov. 2 and will feature food from the Southern Wetlands. The menu includes Shrimp Crostini, creamy corn chowder, braised pork tenderloin, apple tart and homemade vanilla ice cream.

"During the first week of class, we had a round robin discussion to come up with ideas on themes, and then I decided which ones we would do," Cordero said. "My decisions were based on which ones were feasible within the constraints of labor, budget and things of that nature. Some cuisines are easier to buy for than other cuisines."

Most of the students involved currently work or have worked in restaurants. Laura Kelley, a senior HRTM major, said this gives students the chance to learn about all aspects of the hospitality business.

"This class is more hands-on and you actually get to see what the real world has to offer," Kelley said. "If you've never had experience in the kitchen, you get to be in the kitchen. If you've never had experience in the front of the house, you get to experience in that."

Plus, she said, it makes learning more interactive and brings the lessons from the textbook to life.

"It makes learning fun because we're not stuck in the classroom, just writing on the blackboard," she explained. "We're actually getting to do something. In our major, the book can only tell us so much. It's experience that matters."

Cordero said the emphasis of the class is on restaurant management skills.

"I try to make the experience for the students something that they can relate to in their real world jobs, but it's also a learning experience," he said. "I also try to make sure they're having a good time while they're here, something a little bit different than actual work, so they can have a good learning environment."

HRTM senior Andrew Parry, who works as a chef at NMSU Player's Grill, said there are other benefits as well.

"You get a chance to work with a lot of people who have been in the industry," Parry said. "Plus, once you get stuck in a restaurant doing short orders, you're only making the same thing time after time. I get to come in here and make something new every time I'm in here. I don't think I've done the same thing twice."

This year's dinners are more elaborate, thanks to the opening of the school's food production lab in Gerald Thomas Hall. The lab is also home to the new student-run 100 West restaurant, which offers a la carte meals and buffets.

"We used to run it out of the Home Economics kitchen," said Cordero, who has been at NMSU for almost three years. "When we moved down here, it not only expanded the possibilities for the menu, but it also gave us a brand new facility to work out of, so out menus got a little more complex. We have new equipment that has never even used before. It opened up a whole other world."

There last dinner of the semester is set for Nov. 9, with the theme of "Patagonia." Grilled shrimp with polenta cake, avocado chicken soup, prime rib and chocolate mango crème brulée with espresso torte are on the menu.