Erwin Wittke, Karen Villano, Eunha Myung, Terri Mann-Lamb
and Laura Smart gather
in the kitchen of NIU's Pheasant Room.
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Contact: Mark McGowan, NIU Office of Public Affairs
September 18, 2006
DeKalb — Two familiar ingredients – the Chandelier Room and the Pheasant Room – are being stirred together and spiced with a new concept to offer a unique alternative to campus diners this fall.
Students from Northern Illinois University's School of Family, Consumer and Nutrition Sciences will move their operation from Adams Hall to the Holmes Student Center next month, leaving the buffet behind in favor of sit-down table service.
Chandelier Room fans will choose entrees from eight themed menus Tuesdays and Thursdays, starting Tuesday, Oct. 3, in the Pheasant Room.
Lunch service is from to 11 a.m. to 1 p.m., and the price of any full meal will not exceed $8. Credit cards are accepted. Regular lunch seating is welcomed on a walk-in basis, although reservations are accepted at (815) 753-1763 and recommended for groups of 10 or more.
The Pheasant Room will remain open Mondays and Wednesdays under Chef Erwin Wittke, who will advise the FCNS students when they’re at the stovetops.
Industry leaders who serve on the school’s hospitality administration board recommended the transformation to a sit-down restaurant, FCNS Chair Laura Smart said.
“All of the executives who are running pretty high-end food operations said to us that we needed to change our Quantity Foods class so it would be more in line with what they want our grads to do,” Smart said. “The industry is out there with jobs, and they need us to produce their future leaders. The students need to learn how to manage this type of restaurant.”
“It’s a benefit to everybody: to the program, to the student center and to our customers,” HSC Director Mitch Kielb said. “It’s a great opportunity for students to learn and get practical experience, and we’re really pleased that we can offer our customers something they don’t normally get. These two dining rooms were very similar, serving the same clientele. It really makes sense not to have two of them.”
The move also solves another problem: space.
FCNS, housed in the College of Health and Human Sciences, enrolls 73 students in its hospitality administration emphasis and 176 in nutrition and dietetics. Just four years ago, those numbers were 20 and 55 respectively.
“We were outgrowing the Chandelier Room, and I was just sleepless over that,” Smart said. “How were we going to have room for all the students flowing into our program – into this little, old-fashioned kitchen that holds only 10 people?”
Enter the Holmes Student Center.
Karen Villano, director of food services for the student center, worked with hospitality administration students last spring during an FCNS-taught workshop on meeting and event planning.
“That was how Karen found out about our program,” Smart said. “In May, Mitch Kielb approached us and asked us if we’d be interested in partnering with them and sharing the Pheasant Room facilities. They’d been impressed with what our students were doing, and they wanted to get more involved on the academic side. It was a perfect match.”
“It’s a great idea. They can get used to working side by side to an actual running operation,” Villano said. “In addition, a lot of the businesses out there, like your Hyatt and Marriott, are looking for people who are trained in this area. They can’t hire enough people who have graduated from this program soon enough for all the positions they have.”
A third ingredient crucial to the recipe arrived during the summer.
Eunha Myung, a new FCNS professor who is teaching the class this semester only, said her curriculum gives students a real-world taste of owning and operating restaurants.
Students will assume different roles, including general manager, executive chef, dining room manager and wait staff. They must make decisions regarding staffing, themes, menus, nutrition, allergies, portion sizes and profit margins, marketing, dining room layout and décor and even silverware placement and napkin folding.
Myung has split her students into eight teams of five; each will present (and repeat) two themes and menus during the semester.
“They are doing great. It’s really exciting,” said Myung, who previously taught a similar course at the University of Nevada Las Vegas. “This is a great opportunity to plan their own businesses – to plan their own restaurants.”
Joan Quinn, longtime quantity foods instructor, will resume control of the program in the spring. Terri Mann-Lamb, food lab assistant, remains with the program in her advisory and support role as sous chef.
Meanwhile, the Chandelier Room will continue to offer catered events and will continue as the site of the dean’s annual holiday party.
“This move is great for the community. They’ll be a little more pampered than they used to be, and we’ll just be able to offer better service,” Smart said. “I’m totally thrilled. This is just the answer to my prayers as a chair.”
“I really enjoy the high energy level the students have. We are the student center, so it’s nice to be working alongside students,” Villano said. “This is good for NIU and should be a lot of fun.”
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