H ouston, we have a party. UH was not left on the sidelines when Super Bowl LI delivered an estimated 140,000 out-of-town visitors, 1 million participants and $350 million net economic impact to the city of Houston. Instead, the University played site-host and partner to the culinary event of the year and gave students a unique opportunity to learn firsthand the coordination necessary to produce a large-scale event.
The Taste of the NFL: Party with a Purpose, the premier Super Bowl-eve fundraiser dedicated to hunger relief, was hosted under the stars on UH’s Gertner Intramural Fields and provided hundreds of Coogs the opportunity to contribute to an important cause.
All 32 NFL cities were represented at the grand tasting event, which paired an NFL legend with a nationally renowned chef to serve more than 3,000 attendees. Famous faces, including 2017 Miss America Savvy Shields, chef Andrew Zimmern, Olympic gold medalist Simone Biles, chef Richard Blais, actress Alyssa Milano and former NFL cornerback Dante Wesley, mingled with guests and notable Houstonians, including Chester Pitts and Carl Lewis. The evening ended with a live auction and a performance from Grammy-nominated performers The Band Perry.
Event attendees were seeing cougar red—UH Dining executive chef Brent Gorman and UH Hilton executive chef Mark Riley served light bites, and student volunteers contributed to every aspect of the event, from production assistance to working as sous chefs alongside industry legends.
The Hilton College of Hotel and Restaurant Management offered a specialized “Taste of the NFL” course, open to students from every college. Based on the tenets of the Taste of the NFL nonprofit, the experiential curriculum combined culinary skills with lessons about food deserts (areas lacking healthy food options) and the impact of poverty on hunger in America. The course allowed students the opportunity to cook with celebrated chef Robert Del Grande, practice knife skills with chef Georgea Pappas and the Taste of the NFL: Party with a Purpose really was just that. The event brought a national spotlight to UH, gave students invaluable experience and the Cougar community scored a major touchdown in the fight against hunger.