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360 Guests Come Home to Hilton College for 40th Anniversary of Gourmet Night 4/11/2013

Student-run soirée delights with Wizard-of-Oz-themed food, drinks and entertainment

HOUSTON—They say there's no place like home, and that may be true. But at Hilton College, one thing is for certain: There's no night like Gourmet Night.

A posh crowd of 360 alumni, faculty and friends of the University of Houston's Conrad N. Hilton College of Hotel and Restaurant Management were treated to a Wizard-of-Oz-themed evening of fantastic food, fine beverages and bewitching entertainment—all meticulously planned by students—at the 40th anniversary of Gourmet Night on April 6, 2013.

The annual event, a treasured Hilton College tradition since 1974, gives hospitality students an opportunity to showcase their skills in event planning, food & beverage management, service direction and the culinary arts.

The 13-member student management team spent nearly 12 months planning this year's Oz-inspired soirée, which was held at the Hilton University of Houston and included a Kansas-themed silent auction and cocktail reception; an Emerald-City-themed five-course dinner; and special guest appearances by Dorothy and the Wicked Witch of the West.

More than 300 student volunteers staffed the event, working behind the scenes in the kitchen and logistics, and out in the ballroom as wine stewards and synchronized servers.

"The 40th Annual Gourmet Night was one that our guests will never forget," Dean John Bowen said. "The creativity and execution shown by the students was remarkable. I couldn't be more proud and grateful to the people who ‘came home to Gourmet Night' for this milestone evening in the event's history."

Erin Oeser, executive director of Gourmet Night, said expectations were high, but the students were up to the challenge.

"Each year, the students raise the bar and the night becomes more and more sophisticated. It's a great opportunity for them to demonstrate what they've learned at the College to their peers, professors and the hospitality industry in general," Oeser said.

"Gourmet Night is such an incredible learning experience—and for me personally, an opportunity to become a better leader. It was an honor to be a part of the 40th anniversary of such an important Hilton College tradition. It doesn't get any better than this," Sarah Robinson, a senior and general manager of the student team, said.

As always, silent auction and ticket proceeds benefitted Hilton College's educational and scholarship programs.

Taylor Wiley