This week, a very brave Vita Nova student allowed us to follow her around for an entire day so that we can show what a day is like as a student in Vita Nova. Liz Engrassia is a Senior graduating this May. She has just returned from a semester-long Disney Internship, and has signed up to be one of the students in Vita Nova Dinner Lab Spring 2016. Typically, most students have a very easy last semester with free electives and a part-time status, but Liz starts everyday with a full schedule of classes and goes to Vita Nova lab until later at night. She is an example of how hard-working and self-sacrificing our Vita Nova students are.
Liz starts her day around 8:30am. She gets up to make herself breakfast and get her life in order before her first class at 10:10am. After a calm morning, Liz arrives to her first class. Her class is one of the many HRIM classes that a Vita Nova student is required to take. At 11:00am, class is over and Liz must rush to her next HRIM class that starts at 11:15. Accompanied by many students that also take Vita Nova lab, Liz learns about strategy in Hospitality until 12:05pm.
From there, Liz has some down time to finish up homework, eat lunch, and prepare for her shift. At 2:45pm, Liz packs up her things, takes off her nail polish, and makes sure that her makeup and hair are presentable for lab. She walks to lab to change into her service uniform and attend pre-shift meeting by 3:30pm.
At 3:30, the pre-shift meeting begins. Liz learns about all the guests that will be dining today, watches a presentation from the manager-of-the-day, listens to the Vita Nova Managers talk about important topics to note, and then shuffles into the dining room to set the tables. Until 5:00pm, Liz works fast and perfectly to create the Vita Nova dining room atmosphere that the lab demands. At 5:00pm, Liz goes with her fellow students to eat dinner prepared by a student sous chef-of-the-day. She has 30 minutes to eat before the first guest arrives.
From 5:30pm until the last guest leaves the building, Liz works tirelessly to execute the 25 steps of service and the level of perfection fine dining requires. When the last guest leaves, it is time to take apart the tables, polish silverware, set up the lunch buffet for tomorrow, and attend a final meeting about the service given that night. By the time Liz leaves lab, it is late and she has been running around since 8:30am. The amount of effort our students put into the lab is incredible. The fact Liz spent her entire day in class just shows how much the students care about their program and school. So the next time that you see a Vita Nova student, remember that underneath their professional demeanor and big smile there is a college student who is working as hard as they possibly can. All in all, it's just another day in the life of living the Vita Nova.
If you haven't already heard, Vita Nova had a very special guest last week. Tori from the show Tasting with Tori on CBS News Philly came and did a segment on Vita Nova last week. Tori is a food critic, and goes to local restaurants around Philly and looks at everything from the food to the ambiance of a restaurant. As you might have guessed, this show was a big deal to the students and faculty at Vita Nova. Today, I will take you behind the scenes to show you how our students prepared for the big day.
At around 3pm, an anxious buzz could be heard throughout the Vita Nova locker room and prep area. The big day had finally arrived and Tasting with Tori was coming to film. Chef whites were bleached, front of the house uniforms were pressed, and the students came in looking more polished than ever awaiting their debut on television. Prep lists were made, and the students quickly got to work preparing for the dinner service. The restaurant felt even more serious than ever before as the students quietly focused.
What would Tori think of a restaurant made up of college students? Would she be as impressed with us as the general public was? Would she find our food as good as the food made by professional chefs? At family dinner the students prepared for what could be the most important day of their college careers.
After about 3 hours of preparation, the students anxiously waited the arrival of Tori and her camera crew. The tables were set, the kitchen staff was prepping the food, and the managers and scholars were making sure that every little detail was perfect. The only thing the students could do now was what they do every night; bring perfection to everything they do. The anxious jitters were starting to subside, and instead there was a sense of calm that took over. The students of Vita Nova knew that no matter what happened during that dinner service, that they rose to the occasion and did what they do best.
Tasting with Tori aired immediately following dinner service on the news. Tori loved Vita Nova, and was so impressed by how great the student leaders of the restaurant are. She even wore the University of Delaware's Mascot on the air as a show of her excitement towards the program. This amazing review is just a testament to how hard the students work day in and day out. We are not just a class, we are not just students, we are Vita Nova.
As many of you now know, Vita Nova is a restaurant with many moving parts. What is most surprising to many of our diners, is that the super-professional waiters and waitresses serving them at their table are the same students that you can catch at Grottos on a Friday Night. How does one maintain the professionalism and etiquette of a fine-dining restaurant while still being a college-aged student? For the students of Vita Nova, it has been engrained in them since their first day as a Hospitality in Business Student.
The running joke for a HBM student is that they have more business professional attire than an average working professional. Every guest speaker, seminar, educational trip, and career fair demands a plethora of pressed suits and a professional demeanor. In fact, when admitted into the Hospitality program, each student receives a packet that goes over what dress is expected of them for every situation.
In Vita Nova, everything a professional Hospitality in Business student knows is amped up and put to the test. This fine dining atmosphere demands pressed shirts, no slack on your tie, your hair slicked back and in a neutral color, pressed pants, and our dining room manager's favorite: long black socks. This attire may seem extreme, but it sets the stage for a upscale evening.
Once the scene is set with the waitstaff's attire, proper etiquette, language, and attitude is addressed. Words like "yeah", "okay", "sure", and the phrase "you guys" are thought of as bad words in front of our guests. Words like "certainly", "my pleasure", and "ladies and gentlemen" are the only proper alternatives to these bad words. If you ever want to test out how hard of an adjustment this is for our students, try going a day without saying any of the bad words mentioned. It takes a couple of weeks to really train the students to speak in the proper vernacular, but once they have caught on, these words only amplify the guests upscale experience.
Once proper dress and verbiage are tackled, the student must also learn proper table setting and table etiquette. This means that each table setting must look identical and pristine. It also means that each of the waitstaff must remember the 25 steps of service and what side of the guest they must stand to take an order, serve and clear plates, serve and clear beverages, place menus, and more. All of these practical approaches to waiting on a table finishes the final touches on making it an upscale experience to dine at Vita Nova.
So now that you know a little bit more about the transformation from regular college student to upscale Vita Nova waitstaff, we hope that you come in and observe the little touches that the students execute. We also hope that this gives you a newfound appreciation for these college students who are running through a mental list of rules and etiquette from the moment the guests arrive to the moment they leave. Vita Nova is more than proud of the work that the students put in, and how each student leaves this semester with more professionalism than one can expect to learn in a lifetime.
The students of the Hospitality in Business program at the University of Delaware share their experiences at Vita Nova