Gourmet Night Offers a Toast to Hilton College's 40th Anniversary

Four hundred guests-including industry leaders, alumni, faculty, parents of student leaders and friends of the Conrad N. Hilton College of Hotel and Restaurant Management (HRM)-recently packed an elegantly decorated ballroom at the Hilton UH Hotel to celebrate the 37th annual Gourmet Night and HRM’s 40th anniversary.

The guests, who included UH President and UH System Chancellor Renu Khator, were greeted by a gorgeous sight-tables draped with black, red and white fabric, towering centerpieces of fragrant red roses and white hydrangeas and an array of wine glasses sparkling in the candlelight. And soon, the attendees sat down to partake in a sumptuous, multi-course gourmet meal, meticulously planned and executed by student chefs with the oversight of guest chef Craig Meyer, executive chef of the Royal Oaks Country Club.

The menu included glazed Gulf shrimp on cheese polenta, pork and duck breast terrine, a salad of beets, bleu cheese and baby lettuces, rich beef Wellington served in a puff pastry and accompanied by a baked black truffle  and pequillo pepper macaroni and cheese. And for dessert, an upscale twist on homemade s’mores with blackberries and 24-carat gold. The food was the true centerpiece of the evening, said student general manager Jessica Choate.

"Every single person who said they’d been to Gourmet Nights in the past said that this year’s food knocked them off their feet," said Choate, who graduates in May and accepted a job offer as catering sales manager at the Westin Galleria and Westin Oaks the Monday after Gourmet Night. Choate’s new boss was among the night’s guests.

More than $20,000 was raised during the silent auction. The evening’s cuisine was meant to evoke feelings of nostalgia but also include the flavors of spring, student leaders explained.

"We wanted to take them back. . . but also push boundaries and be more innovative," said Choate, who managed a team of 11 student directors and 250 student volunteers under the guidance of executive event director and alumna Erin Kenyan Oeser.

This year’s Gourmet Night offered attendees the chance to mingle, reminisce and reflect on Gourmet Nights past and their experiences at the college.

"It’s been a blessing to see the last 40 years of Hilton College and to see it grow and prosper," said alumnus Bob Raulston, the only student to ever serve twice as general manager of Gourmet Night.

Graduate student Daniel Jacob, who served as this year’s banquet chef, said he and graduate student sous chef Barbara Lebold and the kitchen team had begun planning the menu in May 2009 and spent a year perfecting it.

Melissa McEver