Dec. 4, 2013, Valley Forge, Pa.— Students in Montgomery County Community College’s (MCCC) Introduction to the Hospitality Industry were treated to a special tour last month, and the “gamble” paid off. Though they were just entering the field, it was an eye-opening, first-hand view at many aspects of the field.
Jim Lynch, hospitality management instructor at MCCC, connected with an old friend to make the visit possible.
Nick Waller is now the Director of Conventions and Catering at the Valley Forge Casino Resort. After meeting in the late 1980s, Lynch stayed in touch.
“He shared his story with the students,” Lynch said of Waller. “He was born and went to school in England. He had his education there and was a Captain at the Savoy Hotel in London. He told the students about the special space they had there for the royal family, and of his experience coming to the states.”
From the renowned Mansion on Turtle Creek to the Hotel DuPont in Wilmington, Waller had much to share with the intro students.
“He told them of his local experiences in Delaware, Philadelphia and his overall progression in the industry.”
Just a short drive from the Blue Bell campus exposed the students to a bright new world.
“[We] had an incredible experience,” said Lynch of the visit. “Students just starting in hospitality tend to think there is just lodging or food and beverage. I think this really showed them that there is so much more.”
Waller escorted the students on a full tour of the facilities, in what Lynch called a “mixed bag of treats.”
“We toured the full facility,” he said. “We got to see where special events take place, food and beverage was included in the restaurant tours and, though the rooms were all booked, they got to see the hotel flavor, too.”
The tour didn’t stop there. The group ended their day with a big surprise. World-renowned celebrity chef Tony Clark shocked the visitors with an astonishing visit.
Clark presented a private cooking demo and had the students assist him in making lunch, which included red snapper, saffron risotto and minted asparagus.
“He was so good with the students,” said Lynch of Clark. “I had never met him, but he was so great to walk through it all with them. He kept the tone very pedestrian, so the students really understood what they were being shown.”
Clark has announced recently that he’ll now head up the Casino’s famed restaurants. He is now the Executive Chef for both Pacific Prime, the resort’s fine dining chop house, and Viviano, the casino’s Italian hot spot.
Clark is no stranger to the area, cooking in such restaurants as Agiato, Tapestry and the Philadelphia-based Belvedere Restaurant Group, not to mention Executive Chef of the Four Seasons Hotel in Philadelphia and Harry’s Savoy Grill in Wilmington, Del.
It was an honor for the MCCC students to be able to cook with such talent, according to Lynch.
“What a great day [it was] for the students, and a great chance to meet an internationally known chef and cook in his kitchen!” he said.
Overall, the students took a lot away from the day’s events. Such hands-on experiences can really progress the student’s learning. Moving from a classroom setting to the real-deal kitchen means a lot to Lynch’s students.
“I hope they took away, and I think they did, that there are broad opportunities in the hospitality industry,” he said. “There is so much to offer.”
# # #
Photo: Students participate in a cooking demo with celebrity chef Tony Clark during their visit to Valley Forge Casino Resort last month.