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July 2014


Saying Goodbye to Our Chef
Everyone loves Chef Abbas Jaffari. He’s been the heart of culinary operations here since 1996, managing the kitchens in both the Hilton University of Houston and Hilton College, teaching catering and food styling courses and mentoring student chefs and managers at Gourmet Night and Hall of Honor. And now, he’s moving on to a new opportunity. Chef Abbas stepped down as executive chef in June to pursue a new career as a corporate chef for Tramontina in Sugar Land. And while we’re happy he’s found a new role that will give him more personal time, the entire Hilton College family—from faculty and staff to students and alums—is sad to see him go. Chef Abbas is a natural in the kitchen, but you might be surprised to learn that a culinary career wasn’t always his plan. He graduated from UH with a degree in mechanical engineering in 1981 and briefly took a job with Exxon before he realized his calling was in the restaurant industry, where he’d always worked as a student. He went back to the American Culinary Federation to become a Certified Executive Chef, and the rest is history. After working for more than a decade in some of Houston’s finest restaurants, he came back to his alma mater, signed on at the College and immediately made an impact. Though he’s worn many hats here over the past 18 years, Chef says the thing he’ll miss the most is working with the students. “I had to learn things the hard way in the kitchen, so it’s been really rewarding to be able to make things a little easier for these students and guide them, so they can enjoy what they’re doing and learn,” he said. “I’m going to miss them. I wish them the very best!” The feeling is mutual. Best of luck, Chef Abbas! (Photos: Taylor Wiley & Michael Scott)
Search for New Dean Under Way
The search for the new dean of Hilton College has begun. The University has chosen the search firm of Greenwood/Asher & Associates to help with the recruitment process, and the Provost has assembled a selection committee comprised of faculty, staff, students and others to evaluate applicants. Dean Bill Monroe of the Honors College and Dr. Ki-Joon Back, director of Hilton College’s Graduate Program, will co-chair the committee. This national search is expected to include both internal and external candidates, but the committee will initially keep the process confidential to protect the candidates’ anonymity. Once the committee has had a chance to review all of the applicants, they will publicly announce the top candidates and invite them to campus for interviews. Typically, the committee then presents the top three candidates to the Provost, who makes the final decision on who to hire. While there is no specific timeline for this process, the committee is excited to get to work to find the College’s next leader. Dean John Bowen will continue to lead the College until his successor is named.
Big Honors for a Texas Restaurant Icon … and Proud Alum!
As the former CEO, president and chairman of the board of Brinker International, Doug Brooks (’75) has earned his share of accolades over the years, and 2014 is no exception. In June, he became just the second Hilton College alumnus—after the late Gerard Cace (‘76)—ever inducted into the Texas Restaurant Association’s Hall of Honor, the highest recognition a restaurateur can receive from that organization. On top of that, he was given UHAA’s Distinguished Alumni Award earlier this year. But Brooks, pictured above with TRA President Bernay Sheffield, is quick to say it’s not just about him. “I accepted the Hall of Honor recognition on behalf of all the exceptional restaurateurs and associates I’ve worked with over the years,” Brooks said. “Working for the same restaurant company for 36 years is something I’m really proud of. I’m a Brinker person until I leave this Earth. To be able to have an impact on a company that’s provided more than 2 million jobs, that’s something special. That’s an honor.” Though Brooks has officially retired from his post at Brinker, he still does consulting for the company. He’s also a member of the boards of Southwest Airlines, ClubCorp and AutoZone and is extremely involved in nonprofits, serving on the board of advisors for St. Jude Hospital, the Limbs for Life Foundation and the Kenny Can Foundation. And, of course, he’s part of the Eric Hilton Distinguished Alumni Club here at the College. It’s a pretty busy retirement, but Brooks wouldn’t have it any other way. He says he’s looking forward to applying the knowledge and skills he obtained in hospitality to other industries, and—as always—continuing to mentor the future leaders of the restaurant world. “If you want a career in hospitality, you have to enjoy taking care of others. If you like that, there’s no better place to be,” he said. “I was a busboy when I was 13, and then eventually became a CEO. That can happen in this industry.” (Photo: Texas Restaurant Association)