Perfect combination leads to an unforgettable evening
Coco Chanel would have felt right at home.
Had the French fashionista designed formal affairs in addition to women’s clothing and accessories, the result might have resembled A Reason to Taste: City of Lights, Ivy Tech Community College Northeast’s culinary fundraiser for student scholarships on Oct. 25—an event that grossed nearly $70,000 through ticket sales, fund-a-need donations, and silent auction items.
“It was also one of the classiest events I’ve been a part of in nearly 30 years of hosting events.” – Melissa Long, WPTA-TV 21Alive News Anchor
Chanel’s trademark style celebrates simplicity, elegance, and comfort, often in neutral colors. Using these black-and-white cues, along with slate gray linens and teal brilliance from strategically placed uplights, the College’s Student Life Center Gymnasium was transformed into a ’50s-inspired European lounge in homage to Chanel’s influence and the time period.
Not all elements of the College’s third-annual banquet were intentionally retro-chic in nature, however: Auction bidding went high-tech this year, allowing dinner guests to place and update bids through their smartphones and take advantage of charging stations, if needed, while socializing. They also had the opportunity to immortalize their playfulness in a photo booth near the fundraiser’s entrance.
Two familiar faces in Fort Wayne—WPTA-TV 21Alive news anchor Melissa Long and 21Alive sports director Tommy Schoegler—shared emcee duties.
“A Reason to Taste had delicious food and was beautifully coordinated,” Long said. “It was also one of the classiest events I’ve been a part of in nearly 30 years of hosting events. It was a fantastic evening all the way around, and I know Tommy (Schoegler) felt the same way.”
Clockwise from left: Numerous dinner guests opted to immortalize their playfulness at the fundraiser’s photo booth; this year’s silent auction featured 46 items for which 395 bids were placed. As a first for the event, dinner guests were allowed to place their bids electronically using a special smart device app; more than 240 dinner guests celebrated the evening over a six-course dinner, two wine samplings, and an open bar.
If imitation is the sincerest form of flattery, then the true beneficiaries of this gesture were the 243 dinner guests in attendance at A Reason to Taste: City of Lights.
Each of the fundraiser’s five courses, including dessert, was inspired by food presentations and tastings experienced by one faculty chaperone and eight students in the Hospitality Administration program during a study-abroad trip to France last May.
“Pretty much all of the courses we served were pulled from meals we had, replicating components or dishes we saw while there,” said Chef Andrew Smith, trip chaperone and adjunct faculty member.
Highlights from the nearly one dozen cities and towns visited included a lecture on the mating rituals of mollusks during a visit to a snail farm in Cormoz and a meal and cooking demonstration by celebrated chef and restaurateur Jean-Michel Lorain at his Michelin three-star restaurant, La Côte Saint Jacques, in Joigny.
Upon their return to Fort Wayne, Smith and the eight students played active roles in planning the menu and ultimately plating the courses while classmates served the dinner guests.
The tastes and textures of the evening’s haute cuisine and wine pairings were warmly greeted by dinner guest Cheri Becker.
“Restaurateurs from around the country should come to Fort Wayne when they’re looking to hire. These students are awesome,” said Becker, vice president of leadership and community engagement for Greater Fort Wayne Inc.
Clockwise from left: It took more than 100 individuals, from hospitality administration faculty and students to College staff and planning committee members, to stage A Reason to Taste: City of Lights; WPTA–TV 21Alive news anchor Melissa Long and 21Alive sports director Tommy Schoegler shared emcee duties; dinner guest Dar Richardson samples an hors d’oeuvre served by hospitality administration major Bethany Sorich.
Springtime in Paris is noted for its distinct charm. Songs proclaim it, movies portray it, and myths perpetuate it. And now Ivy Tech Northeast alumnus Bryce Verfaillie can verify it.
His journey to the City of Lights resulted from his 2014 winning entry in the College’s cooking-and-baking challenge each January, the Hospitality Administration European Competition. (Scroll to bottom of this story to read about this year’s winners.)
Verfaillie was selected as one of eight hospitality administration students to partake in the program’s annual two-week, study-abroad trip in May.
“If it weren’t for a job layoff, I don’t think I would have ever traveled down this road in life and attended college, so I’m thankful it happened because it’s been an incredible ride so far with plenty of road left to travel on,” Verfaillie said.
That road, as it relates to his time in France, involved bonding with classmates in a Lyon marketplace over beer, wine, and “the best lunch ever” to visiting a number of Michelin-rated restaurants.
“It feels good to know that others who don’t even know me or my story helped me earn a scholarship to achieve and learn more about a career I am passionate about,” he said. “The trip and training have helped me move up in my job as a food and beverage director and also has helped me become more knowledgeable in my career.”
Eight hospitality students win chance to study culinary arts in Europe
April Luna began preparation for the 4 ½-hour competition 4 ½ months beforehand. She started writing, sampling, and editing her recipes. She used her family as guinea pigs, feeding them dinner rolls until the rolls were a favorite dinnertime staple. She still made an error—one requiring a blowtorch to fix—but in the end, she was one of eight students to win a trip to Europe.
In its 18th year, Ivy Tech Community College Northeast’s Hospitality Administration European Competition, formerly the Mystery Basket Competition, pitted 23 students against one another for a chance to travel to Spain and France to study culinary arts in May. Culinary arts students received a mystery basket of ingredients on-the-spot to turn into an appetizer, entrée, and dessert in four hours. Baking and pastry arts students, like Luna, had 4 ½ hours to fill a decorated cake order, create a fruit plate, make a chocolate dessert, and bake six dinner rolls.
Kitchen judges watched and rated students as they worked, paying attention to technique and ability. Floor judges tasted the completed meals, not knowing which student made which plate.
“What I looked for mostly is, can they break down a fish? Are their knife cuts consistent?” says Glenda Hinton, a kitchen judge for the culinary side who graduated from the hospitality administration program last year and was a winner of 2014’s competition. “I knew what to look for because I had been on the other side of it. I knew the things that I missed.”
Because of the tight timeframe, contestants needed to be precise in planning out their cooking or baking schedule—which is where Luna tripped up. She waited too long to flip her double chocolate fudge mini torts; they stuck to the pan, requiring a blowtorch to remove.
“It was so rough,” she says, gesturing to a campus videographer who was taking photos during the competition.“He saw me lose my mind.”
But she pulled it together to win.
“There was so much great stuff presented here today,” Luna says. “I’m in shock that I was chosen.”