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Studying, sizzling and serving: HRTM students get their hands dirty

Sometimes, students get so wrapped up in their classes that it may seem like they eat, sleep and drink school work. Now, some students from the School of Hotel, Restaurant and Tourism Management at New Mexico State University will get to do that - and you can join them.



Students from the School of Hotel, Restaurant and Tourism Management and Human Nutrition Food Science prepare food in the food production lab for the opening of 100 West in Gerald Thomas Hall. The restaurant will serve a la carte meals on Wednesdays and Fridays and buffets on eight different dates this semester. (NMSU photo by Darren Phillips)

Students from HRTM and Human Nutrition and Food Science began serving up a la carte meals from the school's new food production lab on Sept. 27. The restaurant's name, 100 West, is also its location in Gerald Thomas Hall.

"The purpose of 100 West is to give the students a hands-on facility. Instead of reading on how to cook and serve the public food, they actually get to do it," said John Hartley, college assistant professor for HRTM. "It gives them practical experience and exposure to the public that they normally don't get in the classroom."

The restaurant will open from noon-1 p.m. on Wednesdays and Fridays. Lower level classes will also begin offering buffets on eight separate dates this semester, with the first one scheduled for Tuesday, Oct. 3.

"The facility is designed for three purposes," Hartley said. "It has little kitchenettes in it, so we can get a large group of students and divide them up among several kitchens. That way, they can all get their hands dirty and work on the same project.

"It's also set up to be a functional restaurant, so we can serve the public," he added, "and its also set up so it can be a demonstration kitchen."

Hartley said more is on the way for the food production lab, including cameras in the main cooking line and monitors in the dining area that will allow people to see their food being cooked.

Money raised from the food sales will be used to offset the class cooking lab costs, which includes the food being prepared for the meals.


Although the students are excited about the chance to get hands-on experience, there is a little fear added to the mix.

"I'm scared," said Melanie Foutz, a senior nutrition student. "I'm pretty confident on the cooking side, but it's the serving side that I'm not sure about. I've never done this before, but I think once I start doing it, it will be fine."

"It's a lot to take in," said Mike Martinez, an HRTM senior, "especially knowing you're cooking for a group of people. It's not just for you; it's for students, teachers and faculty. These are people you see every day, so it's a little intimidating."

Martinez, who also plays on the NMSU football team, said he is proud to be one of the first students to use the new lab.

"HRTM has the most student-friendly faculty and staff on campus," he said. "So, it's really cool to see the school doing so well now. We all deserve it."

Ivan Saenz, also an HRTM senior who has worked in restaurants for 14 years, said he's learned more at HRTM than he has on the job.

"Here, you actually learn the process from beginning to end ? find out what the whole experience at a restaurant is all about," Saenz said. "You get to experience a broader view and see a lot more things."

Although he's only been on campus since July, Hartley was an HRTM faculty member for six years before a two-year stint at Fresno Pacific University and is not surprised by the school's rapid growth.

"I was actually one of the people dedicated to designing this lab," he said. "I got the floor plans going and helped with some of the funding, but I left right when ground was being broken.

"I was able to come back just in time to watch the tile get laid," he added, "but that's only part of the success at HRTM. For example, we have a great placement rate, so they are getting jobs, good jobs, when they graduate.

"It is a good feeling to be part of something with this kind of success," he added.

First photo is available at http://ucommphoto.nmsu.edu/newsphoto/hrtm_kitchen_01.jpg.
CUTLINE: Students from the School of Hotel, Restaurant and Tourism Management and Human Nutrition Food Science prepare food in the food production lab for the opening of 100 West in Gerald Thomas Hall. The restaurant will serve a la carte meals on Wednesdays and Fridays and buffets on eight different dates this semester. (NMSU photo by Darren Phillips)

Second photo is available at http://ucommphoto.nmsu.edu/newsphoto/hrtm_kitchen_02.jpg.
CUTLINE: Preparations are made for the grand opening of 100 West in Gerald Thomas Hall on Sept. 27. The restaurant features food prepared by the students in the School of Hotel, Restaurant and Tourism Management's new food production lab. (NMSU photo by Darren Phillips)

Victor Venegas, Broadcast/Media Coordinator
Sept. 29, 2006
(505) 646-6528
vvenegas@nmsu.edu