By Emily Green
Would you spend $150 on an evening of appetizers, dinner and entertainment? Well, 256 guests already have making the 61st annual Les Gourmets officially sold out for 2012. Les Gourmets is a student-run dining experience that is hosted by the School of Hospitality Business at MSU.
The occasion is primarily run by students alone, although there are some faculty advisers to lend a helping hand and support during the preparation and actual event.
“We have guest chefs and faculty advisers who are there to be mentors, but students have the final say on decisions,” said chief financial officer and hospitality business senior Nicole Scherff.
Chef Sherwin also shared that some past students have gone on to work in the industry at some very well-known venues and cities such as the Waldorf Astoria Hotel in New York City, Event Planning in Las Vegas, New York, Chicago and Miami, to name a few.
The students involved in this event are very dedicated and enthusiastic about their work. They work hard to make the evening a success and a night that the guests will not soon forget by planning and hiring the entertainment for the night, as well as completely transforming the space, the Big Ten rooms in Kellogg Hotel and Conference Center. Through decorations corresponding to the theme that they have chosen for the year, the guests feel as though they have stepped into an entirely different world. Because the students have the responsibility of planning the entire event, they make sure it is well thought out and runs smoothly every single year.
Les Gourmets is a non-profit event that runs on help and several types of donations. Assistant executive director and hospitality business junior Sam Patterson said there are food donations that go toward the event, volunteer food donations which go to the people who are working and helping make the event happen (so they have something to eat while the event is going on) and cash donations that go towards paying for the performances and decorations.
Each year there is a theme chosen that will be represented throughout the evening. This year’s theme is Pure Michigan.
“The theme is hitting close to home, and we are trying to promote and provide locally for the event,” said Brittany Friddell, chief executive officer and hospitality business senior.
The theme is emulated throughout the night through decorations as well as the menu. Some local sources that may be providing resources for the event are the MSU Student Organic Farm and the MSU Dairy Store.
“I will definitely tell you that when guests walk into the Kellogg, it will be transformed into everything they love about Michigan, the trees, the water, etc.,” said director of marketing and hospitality business senior Courtney Johnson.
The arts and entertainment department posted a few hints on the Les Gourmets blog about the decorations for the occasion:
“We are working hard to capture the beauty of our state through décor and entertainment. Some interpretations you can expect to be literal, while others aim to capture the essence of great landmarks and pieces of Michigan culture… Guests can expect a nod to the natural beauty of our state (think beautiful greens and blues), and representations of the industrial city of Detroit in its “Motown” hay-day.”
Along with great decorations representing Michigan throughout the night, they plan and taste test the food for the night to make sure it both looks and tastes amazing. There will be various unique and flavorful foods showcasing the best of Michigan. The chefs are trying to get most of the food locally to go along with the theme.
“We are trying to find non-typical Michigan items for the menu, not just apples and cherries,” said assistant Heart of House director and hospitality business senior Freddie Wurster. Heart of House is the Les Gourmets department for chefs and cooking volunteers.
“Pure Michigan is a special theme for us,” said Heart of House director and hospitality business senior Nate Redner. “There are lots of great products across the state that we want to showcase. When thinking about Michigan made products, it’s imperative that we use our campus resources, especially the MSU Dairy, featuring cheeses and potentially an ice cream collaboration.”
Since the main students chefs are all from Michigan, they are trying to choose foods that remind them of growing up here. The chefs are still going over and making slight changes to the menu even now.
“We have a good idea of what we want, but need to make sure we can execute it,” Wurster said.
Anyone who attends the event will be able to see all the great local food they end up choosing represented in the nine hors d’oeuvres, which are small bite size portions of food that you can normally eat with your hands that are served before the meal, and the seven course meal, including dessert, that make up the dinner.
“Be on the lookout for unique Michigan dishes such as vegetarian pasties, venison brochettes, morel mushrooms, shrimp raised in Okemos, barley and sweet corn risotto and apple brandy sorbet,” said Redner.
Along with a massive hors d’oeuvre selection and a multi-course feast, there are plenty of performances that will be going on throughout the night. Some of the ideas they have planned for this year’s event are slam poetry, lyrical dance by the MSU Impulse Dance team, a jazz performance, the all-female a cappella group “Ladies First,” a Motown band and, “a special entertainment act, a wow factor,” Friddell said.
This is a big and extravagant event. The students in charge of organizing the event need some additional support which is why they hire on volunteers to give them an added hand helping out with the activities.
“The volunteers are mostly from the Hospitality Business College, but this year we did something new,” Friddell said. “We held a charity event at Gateway Community Center, and we invited some of the kids there who would be prospective MSU students to come and help out at the event. We also will be helping them by showing them what college is like and giving them jobs to do here that are related to their interests.”
Les Gourmets is an event that is planned and executed with massive amounts of hard work, dedication and love for what they are doing.
“I started with Les Gourmets my sophomore year as a volunteer, and it confirmed that this is what I want to do,” Wurster said.
“I love Les Gourmets and the challenges and lessons I will take from it will be with me long into my career — the relationships I have developed working with my peers as well as our faculty advisers are what I like best,” Johnson said.
With the positive experiences of the students who run the event, Les Gourmets can be a great environment for an aspiring chef or event coordinator to gain experience and meet other students who share their interests.
Les Gourmets will be held on March 31 at The Kellogg Hotel and Conference Center. The reception will begin at 5:30 p.m. with dinner following directly after at 7 p.m. Although Les Gourmets is sold out, there is a waiting list available if you are still interested. To check this out or to look up any additional information on the event you can visit its website.