By: Kane Van Ee

Hospitality and tourism students will be displaying their skills to about 450 of Ottawa’s biggest hotel and restaurant players as they give recognition to the “stars” of Ottawa.

Industry VIPs will convene Oct. 24 for the “Stars in the City” gala at Algonquin College to give recognition to service professionals who have gone above and beyond the call of duty.

The college has been working with Ottawa Tourism to host this event for over a decade.

“It’s a nice connection between what Stars in the City is and the business that we’re in,” said Dan Halden, chef instructor and executive chef for the event. “That’s producing students that will be going into the hospitality industry both in culinary and hotel management. The students actually get to see a lot of the people in the industry who are considered excellent at their job.”

Many of the “stars” were nominated by the public over the past year with ballots that were available at most Ottawa hotels and restaurants, as well as online. The ballots are a chance for a guest to tell a story of an outstanding industry professional. A nominee of the “Host with the Most” category, Tereza Ropetska, from Southway Hotel & Conference Centre, is an Algonquin College graduate herself. She graduated from the hotel and restaurant management program in spring, 2011.

Ropetzka was nominated for loaning her own personal bike out to a guest who was unable to find one due to low availability during the busy tourism season of summer.

“We’d just like to celebrate the end of the stars’ year that has noticeably gone above and beyond,” said Allison Dubeau, the membership co-ordinator of Ottawa Tourism. “The event is not just about the finalists, it is about everyone that was nominated throughout the year and letting them know how important their jobs are in Ottawa tourism.”

The Algonquin cafeteria will be transformed into a formal black and white adorned banquet hall that will potentially serve over 500 guests. In order to accomplish this dozens of students from various programs will be there to cater. These programs include baking and pastry, hotel and restaurant management, bartending, and event management.

Originally, it was only a cooking program event, yet for the last decade, it has grown to encompass nearly the entire hospitality department to put all of the skills they study into practical application.

The culinary program, tasked with preparing and cooking the four-course meal, will include several haute cuisine dishes. They will prepare a wide selection of appetizers and spiced pumpkin soup with sortilege before an entrée of grilled Ontario beef tenderloin, coupled with local sweet onion compote and Cabernet Franc reduction and local vegetables with smashed red potatoes or the vegetarian Korma with Paneer and peas with basmati rice. And to finish, a trio of desserts from the baking program.

The hospitality program students, those who work closely with Restaurant International, will be running dishes and serving the guests. The bartending students will provide beverages, aside from the wine at the tables.

“We utilize only students who have taken the restaurant operations courses,” said Enrico De Francesco, an Algonquin hospitality and tourism professor and floor manager for the event. “We give them the service skills, they practice them in the restaurant.”

The students serving have been going through the theory and practice of banquets since the end of September in preparation for the event.

“The ones who do have the experience – most of it is American style service – so it’s not formal dining,” said De Francesco. “You have to teach them the formal, but at least the mechanics are there and they understand the concept. It is just polishing them with a little more sophistication.”

“It’s always been something we’ve done at the college and a great resource for us to run with the students, they’re the ones that are doing the work,” said Halden.

The event is open to the public and tickets can be bought for $53.50 per guest via the Stars in the City website.