Hosted in the Northern Center, the Hospitality Club makes use of the kitchen that they have access to by having chefs come and demonstrate recipes and techniques for them.
The first of these chefs was Alex Palzewicz, head chief of the Northwoods Test Kitchen, and alumni of NMU. Her ‘demo’ showed her making tacos and simple pickling, both chosen for their ease and their ability to reuse leftovers she found in her fridge.
“Growing up, I didn’t really know how to cook and for me, it was really empowering to learn simple tips and tricks along the way on how I can cook for myself, simply and easily,” said Palzewicz. “I thought something affordable, something easy, something customizable for college kids and I just like getting here and being involved with the students because they are the future of the industry.”
Palzewicz took the students through the steps of using leftover ingredients for tacos, stating that experimentation and letting yourself make mistakes, while still following food safety guidelines, is important to becoming better at cooking.
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“I think a lot of folks get really intimidated of a big kitchen, but even intimidated in their own kitchen … I see folks really struggle with that they have a recipe, or they won’t make something because they’re missing one ingredient,” Palzewicz said. “So, I really just want to encourage folks to not be afraid to mess around. You will always learn a lesson even if you do mess something up, or you’ll figure out how you can fix things.”
Part of messing up, according to Palzewicz is also leaning into the creativity that cooking allows and trying new combinations to see how it turns out. This not only provides an extra element of fun, but is also a way for beginning cooks to become more confident.
“My biggest thing is just encouraging that creativity and just becoming more comfortable,” Palzewicz siad. “There’s no way you can become more comfortable without getting in there and just trying some things out.”
The President of the Hospitality Club, Trixie Maguran Jacobson, plans to host a lot more of these demos throughout the year. The Hospitality Club and the Hospitality program at NMU were impacted in a similar way to the industry during the COVID-19 pandemic, and it’s still recovering. Jacobson wanted to have this year focused on the students more, hence the live demonstrations with chefs. Along with having the demos, Jacobson has emphasized the Hospitality Club’s partnership with the American Culinary Federation which allows students to participate in events like Brewfest and the OSF Heart of Gold dinner.
“We got into this relationship about two years ago because my co-advisor, Chef [Derek] Estes,” Jacobson said. “He gave students the opportunity to have experience, and making that connection allowed us to open up with connections. It sets up the students who are in the Hospitality Club to know what they’re going to experience outside in the community.”
This year the Hospitality Club is participating in both Brewfest and the OSF Heart of Gold dinner, where they are coming up with a menu of their choice. In the previous year, the Hospitality Club won Project of the Year for their menu at Brewfest.
“We made almost 200 chai tea creme brulees with a walnut and date mixture on top, covered in a sugar dome,” Jacobson said. “We took about eight hours. We made them all day before we came to the event. We got to talk about why we paired it with the brew, and we got to talk to the people because a lot of people didn’t know about the Hospitality Club.”
Jacobson encourages students of any major to participate in the Hospitality Club, not just those in the Hospitality program.
“If you have a passion for food, but you’re not in the industry, or it’s not your major, you are more than welcome here,” Jacobson said. “I love surrounding myself with people who are also food lovers, and if there’s people out there that need that, we’re here for that.”
You can check out the Hospitality Club’s Hub page for information about meetings they have coming up.