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August 2013

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Tony Vallone
Learning From the Best: Fine Dining With Tony Vallone
A group of aspiring restaurateurs will have the chance to learn from a fine-dining legend once again this semester, with the return of the Fine Dining Operations class, taught by Tony Vallone himself. Vallone, who’s been a fixture in the Houston restaurant scene since 1965 with his signature Tony’s restaurant and numerous other successful endeavors, has served such greats as Tony Bennett, Karl Lagerfeld, Luciano Pavarotti, Oscar de la Renta and Farrah Fawcett—not to mention seven U.S. presidents and other heads of state, like Margaret Thatcher. The secret to his success? Attention to detail. Through his course—which is tailored to undergraduate and graduate students interested in careers in upscale dining at restaurants, hotels and clubs—Vallone will share his experiences, pull back the proverbial curtain on the industry and provide his class with an unrivaled experiential-learning opportunity. The students will learn about purchasing, restaurant design, menu-planning, wine-and-food pairing, service excellence, food preparation, hiring and more, culminating in the creation of their own fine-dining menu. “It’s exciting to work with the students—I like teaching, sharing and hearing their ideas. It’s a lot of fun. [The fine-dining business] is not easy work, but it’s very rewarding,” Vallone said. Many thanks to Tony for taking the time to share his experiences with the future leaders of the restaurant industry! (Photo: Taylor Wiley)
NACE Experience 2013
Students, Alumni Shine Bright at National NACE Conference
The National Association for Catering and Events (NACE) held its annual conference in Chicago this July, but thanks to the seven awards and three scholarships brought home by members of NACE Houston and the UH student chapter, it seems the Bayou City was the real star of the show. The awards are given annually for work accomplished in the previous year, so the most recent honors were handed out for 2012. We’re especially proud to announce that Curtis Bell (’13) was the third Hilton College student in a row to win the coveted Student of the Year award. In fact, since it was established in 2010, it’s been awarded exclusively to our students, with Krystal Peay (’10) and Brittany Brown (’12) taking it home previously. Not a bad winning streak! But Bell, pictured above with NACE Faculty Advisor Erin Kenyan Oeser (’98) on the left, Brown (center) and Peay (right), wasn’t the only big winner. Kat Creech (’99) of Kat Creech Events was named Event Planner of the Year, and NACE Houston won the prestigious Chapter of the Year award. Meanwhile, three current students—Katie Proctor, Clara Snelson and Diego Cardenas—were awarded $2,500 NACE scholarships. Three of our faculty members—Peay, Dr. JéAnna Abbott and Monique Studak—presented at the conference, and Peay earned her CPCE (Certified Professional in Catering and Events) designation—the catering and events industry’s most prestigious professional certification. Congrats to our student members, alumni and friends at NACE Houston—let’s keep this great winning streak going! (Photo: David Jones Photography)
Rudy Casparius Day
Hilton College Legend Honored by City of Houston
When you’ve been in the tourism industry as long as 94-year-old Rudy Casparius, it’s tough to surprise you. But the folks at the Mexican Consulate did just that last month when they presented him with a certificate from Councilman Ed Gonzalez and the City of Houston, proclaiming him the “Father of Latin American Tourism.” Casparius, the College’s director of Latin American hotel and hospitality management programs, thought he was just attending a ceremonial ribbon-cutting for the Southern United States & Colorado Mexican Tourism Board, a new department at the Consulate. But after he and the Consul General cut the ribbon, Consulate officials gave him the certificate in front of a crowd of 40-50 onlookers. And the honors didn’t stop there—Mayor Annise Parker designated July 11, 2013, as “Rudy Casparius Day” in Houston, to recognize all of the contributions he’s made to the industry in his lengthy and successful career. Congratulations, Rudy! You make Hilton College proud! (Photo: Taylor Wiley)
Aquaponics Lab
The Science of Food: Campers Explore Aquaponic Farming
Local high-school students are getting hands-on experience in food science and horticulture right here at the College, thanks to the aquaponic-farming project Drs. Jay Neal (’91, MS ‘04) and Sujata Sirsat are working on with Houston Community College and Dayton ISD. The joint project is funded by a USDA grant for Hispanic-serving institutes. The system consists of a 600-gallon tank housing 200 tilapia and three plant beds bathed in the light of hanging LED grow-lamps. About 1,800 gallons of water run through the system, starting with the fish, filtering down through the first bed and into the two floating beds. The plants feed off the constant water supply and nitrogen from the waste of the tilapia. The result? A completely self-sufficient indoor farm that produces clean, organic produce. The first group of campers came through in early August. They learned about how the aquaponics system works, toured the College’s kitchen and lab facilities and planted all kinds of produce, including squash, bok choy and spring lettuce. Neal hopes their experience in the aquaponics lab will stick with them, and they’ll lead the way for the next generation of food professionals. (Photo: Taylor Wiley)