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May 2015

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Gourmet Night
Haute Chocolate: The Greatness of Gloriumptious Gourmet
What a sweet success! On April 18, 360 golden-ticket-holding guests were treated to a one-of-a-kind celebration of fine food, beverages and entertainment—entirely orchestrated by students—at the 42nd Annual Gourmet Night, “Gloriumptious Gourmet: An Evening With the Chocolatier.” The event kicked off with a silent auction and cocktail hour, at which generous bidders helped raise an impressive $22,672 for the College’s scholarship fund. After an hour perusing items and nibbling on candy-inspired appetizers, guests made their way across the chocolate river into the main ballroom, reimagined as Willy Wonka’s famed factory. There, they enjoyed five courses of creative cuisine, cleverly tied to characters and scenes from the classic tale, and capped off—of course—with a chocolaty masterpiece that would have made Wonka proud! Kudos to the 2015 student managers led by GM Debbie de Kok and the hundreds of volunteers who made this night possible, and thanks to Erin Oeser Goodell and her executive committee for their time, guidance and expertise. We’re already looking forward to the 43rd Annual Gourmet Night on April 16, 2016 … See you there! (Photos: Taylor Wiley)
 
Alumni Awards
Standout Alums, Faculty, Friends Honored at Alumni Awards
An old tradition was reinstated on April 17, when the College hosted its first Alumni Awards ceremony since 2009 at the Hilton University of Houston. The evening began with a cocktail hour and networking—complete with some “sneak peek” Gourmet Night appetizers courtesy of the 2015 student kitchen team. Keeping with tradition, five awards were given out once the ceremony began. Clara Hough and Craig Kaplan, both longtime supporters of the College, received honorary alumni status. (Left) Jessica Howton (’11, MS ’13) was given the Distinguished Young Alumni Award, and Eric’s Club member (right) Ricki Oberoi (’86) was recognized with the Distinguished Alumni Award. (Center) Dr. Agnes DeFranco (’83) was also honored for her contributions to the College, taking home the Distinguished Faculty Award. Director of Alumni Wendy Ballard (’01) said the night would not have been possible without the tireless efforts of Carol White (Hon. ’88), who spearheaded the campaign to bring the awards back as an annual event. “We are so excited to bring back this great tradition and recognize our amazing alumni. It was a fantastic night and the perfect opportunity for our alums to make meaningful connections,” Ballard said. Congratulations to the honorees, and thanks to all of our alumni for staying connected and representing the College so well in the industry! (Photos: Michael Scott & Taylor Wiley)
 
Jeremy Wladis
Welcome to the Club, Jeremy!
The newest member of Eric’s Club is Jeremy Wladis (’86), owner and president of The Restaurant Group. Wladis, whose taste for the foodservice industry developed when he was a young boy working in his father’s grocery store in upstate New York, oversees seven successful restaurant concepts in New York City, Washington, D.C., and North Carolina, including Fuel Pizza, Custom Fuel Pizza, Amigos, Firehouse Tavern, A.G. Kitchen, Good Enough to Eat and Brad’s Brew. When he’s not in the office or helping run one of his 20 restaurant locations, Wladis serves on the board of the Young People’s Chorus of NYC and is active in helping public schools in New York, D.C., and Charlotte. Wladis took a break from his busy schedule and returned to his alma mater on April 16 to share his success story with students, faculty, staff and fellow alums during the 28th Eric Hilton Distinguished Chair Alumni Lecture Series. After his lecture, Wladis was presented with an Eric’s Club chair and posed for this photo with Dean John Bowen, incoming dean Dr. Dennis Reynolds and some of his fellow Eric’s Club members. Pictured left to right with Wladis (seated) are Dr. Reynolds, Ricki Oberoi (’86), Brad Schreiber (’80), Steve Goodman (’83), Al Gallo (’82), Doug Brooks (’75), Bob Planck (’71), Dorothy Nicholson (’77), Richard Weil (’78), Charles Dorn (’80), Nick Massad Jr. (’73), Dean Bowen, Sharmagne Taylor (’86), Bob Cowan (’76), Mary Beth Moehring (’80), Gregg Rockett (’86) and Dr. Clint Rappole. Congratulations, Jeremy! You’re in good company! (Photo: Michael Scott)
 
Okechi Nwabara
Alumni Spotlight: Setting Goals and Seeing Results
Okechi Nwabara (’14) hasn’t been out of school long, but he’s already on his way to a remarkable career in the lodging industry. Nwabara was named Manager of the Quarter for Spring 2015 at the Richmond Marriott, a White Lodging property in Virginia where he’s served as event operations manager since June of 2014. Though his responsibilities on the job have grown, one challenge has remained constant: How to effectively lead and motivate a team of associates ranging in age from 19 to 65 at the largest hotel in the city. “When you become a manager at a big hotel, you’re going to have associates from different demographics motivated by different things, and your job as a leader is to figure that out,” Nwabara said. “I’ve actually drawn a lot from what I learned in Dr. Priyanko Guchait’s leadership class—that advice really helped prepare me for ‘real world’ challenges.” One day, he’d like to be a GM at a select-service hotel, so he can move up in management but still have the kind of interaction with guests and associates that he enjoys about his job now. His advice for other aspiring young hoteliers? “Find a mentor; someone who is invested in your career, and let them be a resource. Talk to them about their experiences and career path,” Nwabara said. “It’s also important to set goals. Always have something specific you’re working toward, and ask yourself every day what you can do now to achieve that goal tomorrow.” It’s worked for Nwabarahe set a goal when he started his job to be named manager of the quarter within a year… and sure enough, he did it. Way to go, Okechiyou make Hilton College proud!
 
SLWAFA
SLWAFA 2015: Five Days of Fun for a Good Cause
Foodies from across the Houston area headed to Sugar Land in April for the 12th Annual Sugar Land Wine & Food Affair, a five-day festival of food and drinks co-produced by the Fort Bend Chamber of Commerce and Hilton College. Proceeds from the festival—the largest of its kind in the region—benefited the College’s Sugar Land Wine & Food Affair Permanent Scholarship Endowment. The event kicked off on Wednesday, April 8 with a VIP dinner, “La Dolce Vita,” featuring chefs from some of Houston’s top Italian restaurants and wines from Banfi. The next night, up-and-coming bartenders from the area competed for a $1,500 prize and bragging rights at the On the Rocks Bartender Challenge. After a pair of beverage seminars on Friday, the elegant Grand Tasting was held at the Sugar Land Marriott. Some of the country’s top vintners and chefs, including former White House Chef John Moeller, delighted attendees with their delicious culinary creations. On Saturday, the party continued on the grounds of the historic Imperial Sugar Factory at the popular Sip & Stroll, which boasted a live butchery demonstration by Chef Mark DeNittis of the Rocky Mountain Institute of Meat. The good times wrapped up Sunday with the Bistro Brunch in the Sugar Land Town Square, featuring live jazz performed by local artist Kelly Dean. In all, more than 150 students volunteered to staff the festival, setting up and breaking down various events, pouring wine and helping chefs prepare and serve food. Thanks to all of the sponsors, vendors, alumni, faculty and staff who supported the event, and congrats to Kevin Simon, director of Fred Parks Wine Outreach Programs, his student volunteers and our friends at the Fort Bend Chamber on another fantastic festival! (Photos: Shannon O’Hara)