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Student Chefs Preparing and Serving Dinner at Virginia Tech’s Donaldson Brown Hotel and Conference Center
BLACKSBURG, March 25 — The leap from graduation to that first full-time job is often daunting to college seniors, but that transition will be much easier for students in the Department of Hospitality and Tourism Management (HTM) program at Virginia Tech’s Pamplin College of Business, thanks to hands-on labs at the university’s Donaldson Brown Hotel and Conference Center. 

Junior and senior students now enrolled in two courses are preparing and serving dinner for the hotel’s Old Guard dining room under the supervision of sous chef and lab instructor Mike Arrington. Since the Old Guard is now open to the public for dinner Monday through Saturday from 5 to 8 p.m., the students work under the same conditions they will face when they start their first jobs. 

The HTM classes, which meet for lectures twice a week, divide into five teams, and each team has its restaurant lab one evening each week. Students in HTM 3414—Purchasing, Production, and Management --rotate through different positions in the kitchen, learning the fine points of frying and sautéing, grilling, and salad and vegetable preparation. Students in HTM 4414—Food and Beverage Management --run the restaurant premises, serving customers, handling reservations or seating, and bussing tables. The result is that students finish the semester with a good understanding of restaurant operation from creative cookery to disposal of the final crumbs.

“The student-managed fine dining labs at Donaldson Brown are nightly testimonies to our undergraduate HTM program’s ranking as one of the finest in the United States,” David Venne, Donaldson Brown’s food and beverage director said. “The camaraderie and aggregate intelligence of these student teams is something you rarely if ever find in a private sector restaurant. I invite everyone to come experience dinner in the Old Guard. You will not only receive an excellent meal, I believe you will leave proud and inspired by what our students are accomplishing.”

Students are enthusiastic about the opportunities offered at Donaldson Brown. Mary Beth Baker, of Woodbridge, Va., a student majoring in human nutrition, foods and exercise in the College of Agriculture and Life Sciences, said, “We’ve cooked in labs for each other before, but never for so many people. This is a new perspective.” 

Teena Felton of Chesapeake, Va., also a human nutrition, foods and exercise major, enjoys the chance to apply lessons learned in the classroom. “At the Old Guard, we’re learning to prepare food for the public while maintaining public health standards and good nutrition.” 

Jeff Werner of Yardley, Penn., a student majoring in hospitality and tourism management, has been working in restaurant kitchens for years but still finds the class to be an adventure. “It’s a different menu, different people, different emphasis, and that’s what I’ll encounter after I graduate,” he said. The three students all reside in Blacksburg.

Virginia Tech’s Donaldson Brown Hotel and Conference Center
chef Mike Arrington demonstrates his vegetable julienne
techniques for students in the Hotel and Tourism
Management Department’s applied course in
restaurant operation. 
The student operation of the Old Guard offers the public an opportunity, too—the chance to sample the culinary creations of tomorrow’s superstar chefs. Dinner is prepared and served by students Monday through Friday evenings. On Saturday evenings and for the new 11:30 a.m.-1:30 p.m. Sunday brunch, the regular restaurant staff takes over. The expanded Old Guard services are part of the Hilton Hotel Corporation’s strategy to smooth the transition for Donaldson Brown staff to operation of The Inn at Virginia Tech and Skelton Conference Center when it opens next year.

The university’s hotel and conference center properties are administered by Outreach and International Affairs.

Hilton Hotels Corporation, which manages the hotels for Virginia Tech, is recognized internationally as a preeminent hospitality company. The company develops, owns, manages or franchises more than 2,100 hotels, resorts and vacation ownership properties. 


Susan B. Felker
(540) 231-7188

Also See: Larry E. York to Head Virginia Tech’s Donaldson Brown Hotel and Conference Center / March 2004
Virginia Tech Expands Relationship with Hilton Hotels Corp. to Manage the University's New Hotel, The Inn at Virginia Tech / Sept 2003

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