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HRTM students learn hands-on hospitality

What’s worse than running out of wine at a wine festival? Running out of wine glasses.

That’s exactly what happened during Denver’s third International Wine Festival, hosted by DU’s school of Hotel, Restaurant and Tourism Management (HRTM). Freshman students working at the event’s scholarship dinner were given their first lesson in adaptability.

“We didn’t have enough wine glasses [for all the different wines],” says Diana Ramos, a freshman HRTM major. “So we had to keep bringing the glasses back to wash them without letting the customers know that we were rushing them.”

The wine festival took place Nov. 1-4 in the HRTM building and the Driscoll Center. More than 30 DU students worked the weekend’s events, which drew 500 guests for a variety of wine and food tastings and seminars on wine, beer and bourbon.

Almost two-thirds of the students who worked the event were freshman enrolled in HRTM 1100—the introductory level class for all HRTM majors—and less than 10 weeks into their careers in hospitality.

“We produced a very high caliber event with students who have little experience [in the industry],” says HRTM school director David Corsun.

The introductory course requires all students to work two shifts at a school-hosted event.

“The hands-on aspect of the curriculum is about giving students basic skills so they will understand the work of the people they manage,” Corsun says. “We are not here to train chefs or servers. We are here to educate people who will manage them.”

This education comes from putting classroom theory into practice during real life events like the wine fest. But, that particular event came with a unique challenge: educating students who are under the legal drinking age of 21 about wine, an important part—and profit source—of the business.

“Wine is very profitable for restaurants,” says Assistant Professor Angelo Camillo, an HRTM 1100 instructor. “It is an investment, not just a bottle,” he says.

At the festival, he says, students had to “be able to open a bottle of wine, judge what a cork looks like, pour it, look at clarity and smell … to be able to explain the wine to the guests”—even if they didn’t taste it themselves.

Although she is underage and didn’t taste any of the wine, Ramos says she learned a lot about wine, as she had to serve, pour and field questions from the festival-goers.

“There was a wide range of ages and people who are eager to learn about wine,” Camillo says of the guests. “This kind of event shows the tremendous interest of students of getting into wine in their careers,” he says.

The hotel school caters to this interest and offers an upper-division wine-education class to those over 21.

Corsun hopes to expand the festival next year by embedding the event in a new management class that will give students the responsibility to plan and market the event from start to finish.

“It’s about bringing the material to life,” he says.


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