The Mercyhurst University Hospitality Management department opened its doors to the public on Sept. 22 for its annual fall dining series, in the J.W. and Alice Marriott Cafe, a state-of-the-art working classroom..
In running the dining series, one group of students prepares the food, while another learns to serve the handcrafted meals.
The cafe is located on the lower level of the Center for Academic Engagement and acts as a fully functional restaurant where students gain experience in the food industry. Each student enrolled in Advanced Foods develops two three-course meals, each of which is then presented to the public throughout the semester.
Each meal has a theme, ranging from “Lovin’ The Lavender” to “Wine Wednesday” to “Hello Pumpkin.” The themes ensure that there is something to tempt the tastebuds of every guest.
Aaron Ellis, senior Hospitality Management major with a concentration in Hotel Management, opened the fall series with “A Blackberry Dream.” The meal began with a garden salad served with a blackberry balsamic vinaigrette.
The main course consisted of balsamic honey and mustard pork chops with blackberry jam. Served alongside the pork chops were garlic mashed potatoes and parmesan roasted asparagus.
The meal was finished off with a dessert of white chocolate mousse served with a succulent blackberry jam.
“I built my menu around my pork chop entree, and went from there hunting down recipes that not only included blackberry, but also complemented the pork chop,” Ellis said.
Ellis is a perfect example of a student who not only developed his dinner around an original idea, but also successfully managed the kitchen for the first time. Jack Eaker, adjunct faculty for Hospitality Management, is a new addition to the department and in charge of supervising operations within the kitchen.
“I’m excited to be part of the team. We have a great group of young culinarians,” said Eaker. “They are excited and enthusiastic.”
Eaker encourages staff and students to participate in the dinner series and “let these young culinarians practice on real palettes.”
Ellis was thrilled with the outcome of his first dinner for the fall series.
“The meal went so well. I couldn’t have asked for a better team,” said Ellis. “I was very anxious going in, but as the night went on it blew me away with how well it all went.”
Many Hospitality Management students look forward to the opportunity to create these dinners.
“It was my first time doing the leadership activities. I’ve been so excited to do it since sophomore year,” Ellis said.
Dinners are served every Monday, Wednesday and Friday, beginning at 5 p.m. Reservations open two weeks in advance, starting at 9 a.m.
Reservations can be made by calling (814) 824-2565. While there are set meals, the Hospitality Management department is more than happy to ensure the satisfaction of its guests by offering chicken, fish and vegetarian options at the time of the reservation.