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February 2014

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JeAnna Abbott
Double Doctor: Our ‘Super Woman' Strikes Again
When it comes to workloads, Dr. Je'Anna Abbott's is nothing short of heroic. She's an attorney. She's a tenured professor. She's the first to hold the endowed professorship at Hilton College created by the Spec's Charitable Foundation. She's the faculty–staff ombudsperson for the entire University of Houston. She's helped develop more than 22 courses at the College and currently teaches three. And now, she's added another degree—her fifth—to her incredible résumé. This past December, Abbott received her PhD in Business Administration from the Bauer College of Business and was awarded the Bauer College Dean's Award for Academic Excellence. Abbott said she wanted the PhD because she's part of a research institution, and that's what's expected of a researcher. Also, she said she wanted to go through the PhD experience herself, so she could better relate to students pursuing their doctorates. Pretty impressive, isn't it? When Abbott isn't working, she's still on the move—she's an avid cyclist and triathlete who's completed seven Iron Man competitions. We don't know about you, but we're tired just thinking about that. Congrats, Je'Anna!! You never cease to amaze us! (Photo: Taylor Wiley)
Sugar Land Wine & Food Affair
Star Students Set to Shine in Sugar Land
The Sugar Land Wine & Food Affair is the largest festival of its kind in the region and one of the most anticipated events of the year. So it only makes sense that 15 of Hilton College's finest students are helping to make this awesome five-day event better than ever! Working in revamped roles under the expert guidance of director Krystal Peay ('10), each member of the 2014 team has a very specific area of focus within the event. They will also oversee the more than 200 student volunteers who will work in operations and help serve as intermediaries between the festival's producing partners, the Fort Bend Chamber of Commerce and Hilton College. Pictured above on the top row, left to right, are 2014 team members Katie Proctor, Kristen Brogden, Brandon King, Jacob Ortiz and Brandi Trieu. On the middle row are Corey Robicheaux, Hannah Ballard, Diego Perez, Calli Oreschnigg and Jeremy House. On the bottom row are Vi-An Nguyen, Ann Rewa, Quinn Farah, Kelly Le and Mandi Harrington. "These students went through a rigorous application and interview process and were selected for their unique and individual talents. With the expanded team and their new, tailored roles, we'll be able to provide the ultimate experiential-learning opportunity for these promising young leaders," Peay said. Another student, Samantha Dignazio—who served on the leadership team in 2013—was actually hired by the Chamber as the beverage director for the festival and will work alongside Peay this year. Proceeds from the Sugar Land Wine & Food Affair benefit a permanent scholarship endowment at Hilton College. If you'd like to "get uncorked" at the Sugar Land Wine & Food Affair, what are you waiting for?! It's happening April 23-27, and you can purchase tickets here. Hope to see you there … Cheers! (Photos: Taylor Wiley)
Gourmet Night
Gourmet Night 2014: The Ultimate Road Trip
Hey there, Daddy-O! If you're lucky enough to already have a ticket to the 41st annual Gourmet Night on April 5, start your engines: Your trip down "America's Main Street: The Highway to Gourmet" is right around the corner! If you haven't purchased a seat yet, you're out of gas—tickets are already sold out! The 2014 student management team has been hard at work for months, planning every aspect of this Route 66 classic diner-themed soiree. Pictured in the top row, left to right, are Brett Sanders, beverage service manager; Martina Bahr, sous chef; Yasmin Khan, co-event manager; Clara Snelson, communications resource manager; Cali Smith, co-silent auction manager; Andrea Fiumara, sous chef; and Cesar Hinojosa, food service manager. On the bottom row, left to right, are Caitlin O'Brien, co-silent auction manager; Andres Imperial, banquet manager; Sara Morrill, general manager; Daniel Capetillo, food & beverage manager; Jordan Grace, co-event manager; and Ali Taylor, banquet chef. We couldn't be more jazzed about this nostalgic evening and this team's gourmet twist to the iconic "Blue Plate Special." See you when the good times roll in April! (Photo: Taylor Wiley)
Donny Salvato
Alumni Spotlight: Recipe for Success at Cook & Collins
Donny Salvato ('04) has covered a lot of ground in the 10 short years since he graduated from Hilton College. He dove headfirst into the restaurant industry after he finished his degree, working in both front- and back-of-house roles at restaurants all over the country. He then spent several years opening new restaurants for Texas Land & Cattle, Mi Cocina and a small, family-owned fine-dining establishment in Houston, The Steamboat House. But when the IronCress Hospitality Group—the same people behind popular local spots like Pub Fiction and Crisp—decided to open a restaurant in Houston's Midtown, they knew Salvato was the ideal managing partner. Teaming up with Chef Jared Estes, Salvato opened Cook & Collins on January 20, and it's been full steam ahead ever since. The restaurant, which serves up creative American fare for lunch, dinner and weekend brunch, has been very well-received by critics and benefitted from plenty of press. Salvato's philosophy is simple: to be successful in hospitality, you have to be passionate about people. "People are what drive your business—not just the customers, but your staff, as well," he said. "Hilton College was a great start for me because the atmosphere, the sense of community, transfers well to the restaurant business. Everyone is focused on people." His advice for other alumni and students who'd like a similar career? "Take the experience. The money will come later." Great advice from yet another exceptional Hilton College alum! The next time you're in the area, show Donny some Cougar love and check out Cook & Collins. You won't be disappointed! (Photo: Taylor Wiley)
Fred Parks Christie's Auction
Christie's to Auction Fine Wines From Fred Parks Boardroom
The impressive collection of wines featured in Hilton College's Fred Parks Boardroom will be up for auction at Christie's on Monday, March 24. This remarkable collection includes all five of the First Growth Bordeaux wines and many of the other Great Growths of Bordeaux. Many of these wines are from the 1982, 1989 and 1990 vintages—all considered some of the top vintages of the 20th century. These wines have always been kept under ideal conditions in custom-built wine storage, and were just recently inspected by Christie's specialists and shipped via temperature-controlled truck to New York City for this auction. Many of these great wines are hitting their peak. The funds generated from this auction will be used to support and enhance our Wine & Spirits Program, which has grown from a single wine-appreciation class in the 1980s to the Beverage Management and Marketing minor we offer today. Plans are also under way to build a wine sensory lab, and a fermentation, brewing and distillation lab. If you would like to register for this sale and bid on any of these fine wines, click here. We are pleased that Christie's—the world's leading art auction house—is so excited to be working with our collection. Meanwhile, the College plans to invest in other wines more marketable for our Fred Parks Boardroom clientele.