Ask any chef or parent — managing a kitchen involves more than just cooking the meal. Students enrolled in the MU Hotel and Restaurant Management Program’s commercial food production management class keep busy with planning, serving and etiquette in and out of the kitchen.
As part of their class, the students plan, prepare and serve four-course meals for their Dinner Series, which takes place on Tuesday nights ending April 27. The meals range in price from $19 to $21 and, while reservations are required, they are open to the public.
“The Dinner Series class is unlike any other class I’ve taken at the university,” said Sam Finazzo, a junior in hotel and restaurant management or HRM in student shorthand. “It requires you to utilize what you’ve learned up to this point. It is hands-on experience that you can’t gain from most other classes.” To put on the series, students are placed into six management groups of seven people. Each week, a group picks the theme of the menu and manages the dinner. The students on the team take on roles as the kitchen manager, the beverage manager, the staff manager and the service manager. The other students perform staff positions such as dining-room servers and cooks.
“The meal that my management team is in charge of is on April 20. I am one of the back-of-the-house managers for the evening. My responsibilities for the day include making sure the food is prepped properly and according to schedule throughout the day, making sure tickets are going out at the right times, making sure all the dishes are uniform in portion sizes and presentation, and just monitoring the flow of the kitchen in its entirety,” Finazzo said.
Students and teachers seemed to agree that putting on the series is an experience that enriches those involved.
“By having to plan the meal, set the tables, seat people and serve the food, the students putting on the Dinner Series are able to get a well-rounded experience,” said Jenne Powell, the teaching assistant for the class.
Putting on the series can be time-consuming.
“Since you start preparing these dinners at 8 in the morning and don’t get finished till midnight or later, I have gained a lot of new friends through this class,” senior Natalie Lakeman said. “You are with these people constantly in and out of class time. I was joking with my roommate the other day about how all I hang out with now is HRM students.” .To help the students prepare for the series, Mark Tiernan, general manager of the University Club at MU, gave a lecture on etiquette at the beginning of the semester.
Tiernan said his Catholic-school upbringing and military background granted him a depth of knowledge about etiquette.
“Etiquette is important because it says a lot about you, and it defines who you are,” Tiernan said. “Etiquette allows you to be respectful of other people and respectful of their culture and their customs.”
Tiernan gave the students tips about how to set the table, serve the food and interact with their customers.
One of the most important pointers students learned was wine etiquette.
“The one that was most interesting in my mind would be the process of wine service,” senior Travis McGee said. “There is a specific process that is followed when presenting, serving and opening a bottle of wine. I believe that this process is extremely important in any restaurant because of the money that can be made in wine sales.” .
Teaching people about etiquette is part of Tiernan’s job, and students say his lessons have come in handy.
“The Dinner Series has taught me the precise order that a four-course meal should be served and has allowed me to have a true upscale dining experience at the U-Club,” senior Kelley Kener said. “From that, I learned the host, or the person paying the bill, should initiate each course by being the first to sample the food. A huge pointer when serving is to lower food to the left of the guest and raise their finished plates from the right of the guest. This keeps the guest from being ‘crowded.’” Tiernan said he enjoys teaching the students and helping them put on an impressive dinner experience for their customers.”What I like about teaching etiquette is that it gives faculty and students ‘the edge.’ The people who attend the dinners are really impressed because the faculty and students present themselves better,” Tiernan said. “Also, part of my job as the general manager is to teach people working in a dining room that these are your services and these are the proper techniques to get the job done.”
Karen Shelton, director of career services at the MU College of Business, agrees that etiquette gives people a certain advantage.
“Business etiquette is much more than knowing which fork to use, although that can be very important,” Shelton said. “There is so much more to developing an overall professional presence. It is impression management and a blend of poise, maturity and consideration of others.”
Over the years, Tiernan has noticed some common etiquette blunders. For example, when eating bread and butter, one should take a roll and some butter, pinch off a bite-sized piece of the bread, butter it, and then eat it rather than cutting and buttering the whole roll at once.
“My favorite faux pas is when people leave the table and tell you where they’re going. Just say ‘please excuse me,’” Tiernan said.
For more information or to make reservations for the Dinner Series , call 884-3899.