Hospitality students host annual gala

The Hotel at Auburn University is calling all lovers of food and wine to attend its 26th Annual Hospitality Gala on Thursday, April 11, at 5:30 p.m. for a grand night of both wining and dining.

The gala, hosted by students, will feature four award winning chefs and winemakers from around the world, silent and live auctions for one-of-a kind items and honor Agustin and Valeria Huneeus by awarding them with the 2013 Horst Schulze Award for Excellence in Hospitality.

"It's the largest single-night fundraiser in Auburn's history," said Hans van der Reijdan, the managing director of hotel operations at the Hotel at Auburn University and Dixon Conference Center. "Last year we did $247, 000. It is all to benefit students in hospitality management."

Students from the hospitality management program are organized into three teams to plan the event: operations, marketing and auction. Each team collaborates with approximately four members of the hotel staff for direction.

"The students make all of the decisions about colors for the event," said Gwen Lloyd, the class instructor. "They work with the office of communication and marketing to come up with the invitations, programs and the gift tags. They choose the linen and the flowers and the arrangements. They do as much as they can."

The event begins with the chefs passing out hors d'oeuvres paired with wine while the silent auction takes place. The chefs this year are Kevin Sbraga, Philidelphia; Sean O'Toole, Nappa Valley; Marco Bustamante, Mexico; and Adam Thomas, Colorado.

The accompanying wine for the evening will be provided by Aurelio Montes and Agustin and Valeria Huneeus. All the award-winning winemakers are from Chili.

"So it's the three chefs, not the pastry chef, the three chefs and the winemakers will be passing hors d'oeuvres, wine and champagne at the reception, and then we go into dinner," Lloyd said. "Each chef is responsible for a different course and they are each paired with a wine."After dinner, the live auction takes place. They are auctioning off luxuries such as a seven-night stay at the five-star Constance Halaveli in the Maldives, trips to Greece, an African safari, a painting poem depicting Toomer's oaks and a 16- person golf trip, according to Reijden.

Students like Mary Ryan, senior in hotel and restaurant management, were in charge of not only organizing and promoting the event, but also getting donations for the auction.

"Probably the hardest thing we have had to do is go to businesses and try to get them to donate things," Ryan said. "When they say no that they can't donate that's kind of that rejection factor. It's a learning point for us."

Ryan said it was a great experience working on the gala, and that it opened her eyes to see behind the scenes of what goes on when planning a large scale event like this one.

"It's kind of a real world job like if you are doing event planning, because we do everything from the start to the end," Ryan said. "We do have people to guide us for like direction, but everything we plan is up to us."

Tickets are $150 per person and are limited in number. For more information or to purchase tickets visit

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