Auburn University’s Hospitality Gala offers opportunity for students to blend textbook learning with real-world experience

AUBURN – Students in Auburn University’s hotel and restaurant management program will put into practice what they’ve learned in the classroom when they host The Hospitality Gala on May 2 at The Hotel at Auburn University.

This year’s event, which benefits educational initiatives of the hotel and restaurant management program, is titled “An International Affair” and will feature the cuisine of three award-winning international chefs as well as silent and live auctions.

“This event is worthwhile for many reasons, not the least of which is that the employment placement rates for graduates from the Hotel and Restaurant Management Program is 100 percent,” said Auburn University President Jay Gogue. “In addition, students in the program have planned and organized the event themselves, working with various campus offices, and it promises to be something both the program and the university can take pride in.”

The event begins at 6 p.m. with a reception featuring a cooking demonstration and silent auction. A four-course meal will be served at 7 p.m. Throughout the meal, each chef will create and introduce one of three single courses; all three chefs will then collaborate on the dessert portion. A live auction will follow dinner.

This year’s featured chefs include Marco Bustamante, executive chef at Capella Pedregal in Cabo San Lucas, Mexico; John Ellis, chef at Capella Castlemartyr in Ireland; and Kenny Gilbert, executive chef at Capella Telluride in Telluride, Colorado.

Junior and senior students majoring in hotel and restaurant management have planned and will execute the event through their special events management class. With guidance from Auburn Assistant Professor Alecia Douglas and the program’s partners at The Hotel at Auburn University led by Managing Director Hans van der Reijden, the event allows students an opportunity to apply their textbook knowledge while gaining real-world experience. They are responsible for all facets of the event including set up, registration, culinary duties and overseeing the auctions.

The event is an extension of Auburn’s hotel and restaurant management program’s ongoing relationship with the West Paces Hotel Group, the Atlanta-based luxury hotel management company that manages The Hotel at Auburn University.

“We are excited to have our partners, the West Paces Hotel Group, working so closely with our students in this special events learning experience.  It should be a wonderful evening for every guest,” said June Henton, dean of the College of Human Sciences.

Members of the hotel’s executive management team also serve as affiliate faculty and team teach courses with Auburn professors. This unique relationship allows students to simultaneously receive classroom theory and laboratory practice based on a model of continuous quality improvements as part of their degree requirements.

“We are very proud of our close association with Auburn University and the support we are able to provide to the Hotel and Restaurant Management Program and its students. Thus, we are especially pleased to have the opportunity to support the annual Hospitality Gala,” said Horst Schulze, chairman and CEO of the West Paces Group.

Since 1992, students in the hotel and restaurant management program have hosted a formal benefit dinner and silent auction as an annual signature fundraising event for the program. Funds raised from the event will support educational development initiatives for hotel and restaurant management students and faculty, including student attendance at hospitality conferences and tradeshows, study tour programs, graduate student travel to research conferences, support for visiting professors and faculty development opportunities.

Individual tickets are $85. Tables of eight can be reserved for $650 each while sponsorships that include a table of eight are $1,000. For additional information or to order tickets, visit the Web site at, contact Douglas at (334) 844-1434 or e-mail

Contact: Katie Wilder, (334) 844-9999 (, or
Mike Clardy, (334) 844-9999 (