By JOY BROWN
The servers wore white gloves and tuxedos sporting French Republic colors, the guests were chimed in to be seated, and the guest of honor’s work requires him to attend events ranging from White House state dinners to galas for fashion greats.
No pressure, then, for University of Findlay and Owens Community College culinary arts and hospitality management students who on Wednesday were responsible for presenting a private reception with hors d’oeuvres and a formal lunch to Francois Delattre, the French ambassador to the U.S., along with his entourage and regional leaders from business and higher education.
Given that restaurants themselves and the word “etiquette” originated in France, Wednesday’s event was no small potatoes. It was also noteworthy for its inaugural collaboration between the two schools.
Owens students cooked, and university students were responsible for setup and serving for 60.
The main challenges were logistical rather than proper protocol adherence and creating a delicious meal, instructors at both of the schools said.
Because the food was made at the university’s Village building on Frazer Street, but was served across campus at the Mazza Museum on College Street, particular attention was paid to food temperature, timing and delivery.
“There is no way to cook (at the Mazza Museum), there’s not a lot of refrigeration, and so we had to think about the parameters of what was happening,” said Paula Wolper, assistant professor of hospitality management at the university.
But the food was obviously the star of the show.
The professors collaborated on a menu that focused on appropriate seasonal flavors, superior ingredients and French dietary tradition.
For the reception, French cheeses, house-made charcuterie with olive trio, a chilled mussels platter, and crostini of tenderloin carpaccio with capers were served.
Lunch included salade nicoise with tarragon vinaigrette, house-made baguettes, and poached pear and frangipan tarts.
The cold salad, with tuna and hard-boiled eggs for protein, “is so spring, it’s so French, and it works well with the complications we’re working with,” Wolper said.
The degree of student nervousness about the event depended upon the source.
Margaret and Louisa Kerrigan, identical twins enrolled in Owens’ culinary program who on Tuesday were slicing tomatoes and peeling garlic, said the assignment wasn’t rattling them. With intentions to open their own business one day, they said they already frequently cook for the dozen in their household.
“It’s such a wonderful opportunity that they have to serve someone they wouldn’t have the opportunity to serve otherwise,” Wolper said. “And it gives us a chance to show them a little higher level of service than we normally do.” One of those exacting standards required using a ruler for precise table setting placement.
“We’re teaching as we’re going along,” said Ed Gozdowski, adjunct instructor of culinary arts at Owens. “They’re handling some products that they normally might not see in an ordinary culinary lab.”
It wasn’t all seriousness, though.
“If they don’t like it, they can go to McDonald’s,” John Wolper, the university’s assistant professor of hospitality management, jokingly hollered to Owens students and staff as they plated the salad.
Gozdowski, or Chef Ed, as he is called, responded, “you deserve a break today,” in French, no less.
Conversely, the event also allowed the two schools to showcase their students and programs.
Under the Wolpers’ direction, the University of Findlay’s hospitality management major prepares students for careers ranging from catering to event planning. It is a part of the College of Business. The Village Cafe, which serves lunch on Thursdays for the public and requires reservations, is a part of the program.
At Owens Community College’s Perrysburg campus, certificates are offered in baking and pastry, and culinary arts; and two-year associate degrees are offered in culinary arts and dietetic technician. Its student-run restaurant is the Terrace Village Cafe. A Monday grand opening is scheduled for the school’s 14,000-square-foot, $3.1 million culinary arts center.
UF’s Hospitality Management Program: https://www.findlay.edu/business/hospitalitymanagement/
Owens Community College’s Culinary Arts Program information: https://www.owens.edu/academic_dept/health_tech/hri/culinary.html
French dining etiquette 101: http://cntrvlr.com/1k6gxfs