HMT News

/HMT News/

Columns Cafe will debut Nov. 13

Columns Cafe will debut Nov. 13
Cafe will feature seasonal, locally-sourced cuisine.
By Leah Jackson

NATCHITOCHES – Northwestern State University’s Hospitality Management and Tourism program will debut the Columns Café Tuesday, Nov. 13. The Columns Café will be open once each month offering a four-course meal prepared by NSU culinary arts students.

The debut menu includes sweet potato and andouille sausage soup, autumn apple salad with maple vinaigrette, mustard-roasted pork loin with squash polenta and chestnut mascarpone with tuile. The meal will begin at 6:30 p.m. at a cost of $40. Seating is limited and will be directed so that all seats are filled. Guests can purchase tickets to reserve their spot online through the NSU Foundation by visiting or by calling HMT Professor Landon Amberg at (138) 357-5072. The Columns Café is located on the second floor of the Family and Consumer Sciences Building in the heart of the NSU campus.

HMT faculty said they have been planning the café about two years, benchmarking similar endeavors at other schools, but tailored to NSU’s logistics and location, Amberg said. The Columns Café is student-run with seasonal, locally-sourced meals prepared in the culinary arts lab and served by students.

The HMT program received support from Wings Over Natchitoches, an event the students catered, as well as alumni and industry partners to make the Columns Café possible.

“This is a great opportunity for our students,” Amberg said. “We already cater the alumni tailgate parties and other events on campus and this takes the classroom into the real world.”

“We center everything around experiential learning,” added HMT Professor Valerie Salter. “The food service industry is begging for qualified employees across the nation and around the world. This gives our students culinary experience and operational experience.”

Buy 2019, all the dates for the Columns Cafe will be listed on the HMT website, so patrons can purchase tickets for the date they want to attend. More information is available at

Chef Leah Chase speaks at NSU

HMT names Jeremy Aaron Chase Scholarship recipient
By Leah Jackson

NATCHITOCHES – “People have to eat,” said Chef Leah Chase, the well-known New Orleans writer, TV personality and ambassador for Louisiana culture and cuisine, during a guest lecture at Northwestern State University Sept. 19. Chase spoke to a capacity crowd, discussing her life, cooking and how food brings people together.

At 94, Chase lectures with sass, humor and wisdom. Since she began cooking in the 1940s, she has prepared meals for presidents, activists and international dignitaries in her family’s restaurant, Dooky Chase, but finds the most meaning in helping the everyday people around her.

“Presidents come and go, but it’s the regular people who make you. It’s the everyday people you feed and the food inspires them to do better. Then they are ready to go to work,” she said.

Northwestern State’s School of Business/Department of Hospitality Management and Tourism sponsored the lecture to raise money for a scholarship named for Chase. On hand to assist with the cooking demonstration was Terriann Marchand, a recent graduate of NSU’s culinary arts program who grew up in Chase’s New Orleans neighborhood. HMT students served Chicken Clemenceau and peach cobbler to guests at the lecture.

Chase went to work as a waitress in the French Quarter as a teenager, never having seen the inside of a restaurant before. After marrying Edgar “Dooky” Chase II, she worked to transform his mother’s poboy stand into a restaurant that not only became an important part of the Civil Rights movement and an anchor of the neighborhood but also advanced African American cooking and art.

“In my dining room, we changed the course of America,” she said, indicating that many plans were hatched there over a bowl of gumbo and fried chicken. The Dooky Chase restaurant flooded after Hurricane Katrina, but devoted supporters rallied to raise funds to help with the reopening.

Chase told students that the service industry is a good one and getting a business degree, along with a culinary arts degree is advantageous.

“Hospitality is what makes our state, our food and our hospitality. We have the best food in the country,” Chase said.

Chase has been the recipient of a multitude of awards and honors. She was inducted into the James Beard Foundation’s Who’s Who of Food & Beverage in America in 2010 and earned the James Beard Lifetime Achievement Award in 2016. She was honored with a lifetime achievement award from the Southern Foodways Alliance in 2000 and has received several honorary degrees.

HMT Administrators ended the lecture by announcing the recipient of the Chef Leah Chase Scholarship, presented to Jeremy Aaron of Natchitoches. Aaron is pursuing the culinary arts concentration in the HMT program and was awarded the scholarship based on a high GPA in culinary arts courses, leadership and teamwork in and out of the classroom.

Information on Northwestern State’s HMT program is available at

HMT has new agreement with Seychelles academy

NSU continues international outreach

By Leah Jackson

NATCHITOCHES – Northwestern State University is continuing to develop more agreements with international institutions that promote exchange opportunities, language immersion programs and experiential learning for students and faculty.

In the latest of these, NSU and the Seychelles Tourism Academy in the Republic of Seychelles signed a memorandum of understanding that will facilitate exchanges between STA faculty and those in NSU’s hospitality management and tourism (HMT) program and help each institution place students in internships and other training opportunities for the hospitality industry.

Three recent graduates from NSU’s HMT program, Tommy Remsen of Baton Rouge, Terrian Marchand of Natchitoches and Laura Saucier of Alexandria, have secured internships in Seychelles and will work in a luxury hotel for 4-6 months where they can network with other professionals. The school is connected to tourism hubs around the world and will provide many networking advantages for NSU students.

“This is the first agreement; it is not the last,” said Georgina Dhillon, who represented Seychelles at the signing and noted there are more opportunities for NSU to have a presence on Mauritius and other islands in the Indian Ocean. “Our point of view is about relationships, diversity and inclusion. You will learn that international students from all over the world are studying there.”

NSU’s relationship with Seychelles began through the Creole Heritage Center when Dhillon visited Louisiana in the interest of Creole studies and discovered the presence of the Creole culture in New Orleans and in the Cane River region. Creole culture features prominently in the Seychelles where the official languages are Seychelles Creole, French and English.

After meeting with Loletta Wynder, project coordinator for NSU’s Creole Heritage Center, Wynder directed Dhillon to Marcus Jones, vice president for University Affairs, who has taken a lead role in developing international exchange agreements with other institutions. From there, a conversation with faculty in NSU’s Department of Hospitality Management and Tourism began.

The Seychelles Tourism Academy is a training institution established by that country’s government, where students may complete their training either on a full-time basis or through an apprenticeship. The academy is a leading hospitality and tourism training institute that prepares individuals for careers in hotels, guests houses, restaurants, airline offices, airports, travel agencies, cruise ships and more. Since gaining independence from Britain in the 1970s, tourism has been a significant industry for the island nation, which is located in the Indian Ocean east of the African coast and is home to numerous beaches, coral reefs, nature reserves and exclusive resorts.

The Seychelles Tourism Academy has fostered affiliations with several international hotel chains, such as the Hilton group and Le Meridien Group, as well as with other institutions that specialize in training professionals for the hospitality and tourism industry.

Per the new agreement, STA will coordinate internships for NSU students that can last between three and six months, during the summer or during a regular semester for students working at one of the main island’s four- or five-star hotels where they will live with other students. NSU will reciprocate by providing academic training to STA students seeking training in management, entrepreneurship and, for faculty, student counseling.

Earlier this year, NSU signed two new agreements with universities in Mexico, Universidad Veracruzana, and Universidad de Quintana Roo, with NSU students participating in a 4-week summer language immersion program with Quintana Roo. Administrators have in place an agreement with Universidad Veracruzana to transfer credits into the engineering technology degree program and are working to finalize a dual degree agreement with that university. One student from Veracruzana is already participating in the transfer program.

Also, for the second summer in a row, NSU sent a group of students to the Université d’Angers, France, to participate in a 4-week language immersion program.

According to Dr. Keith Dromm, director of study away programs at NSU, many opportunties are available for the Spring 2018 semester through the International Student Exchange Program (ISEP).  NSU’s internal deadline is August 21st. ISEP makes it possible for NSU students to study at any of 300 schools in over 50 countries around the world. Students pay NSU’s costs for tuition, housing, meals, etc., but live and study in a different country. Students’ financial aid and scholarships can be applied towards these costs. Credits earned will transfer back to NSU. Opportunities are available at universities in Northern Ireland, Japan, Ghana, Austria, Norway, Vietnam, Australia, India and Nicaragua, to name a few.

Find more schools and the application at

Participants in any study abroad program are eligible for NSU’s global studies minor. Additional study abroad opportunities are available through the International Student Resource Center.

Last semester, NSU had more than 100 international students from 22 countries on campus and the number is growing. In response, NSU opened the International Student Resource Center on campus, which assists not only international students enrolled at NSU, but also students interested in studying abroad. The center, located in Russell Hall Room 227, helps international students navigate a new environment and become more involved with student life on campus.

For information on international study, contact ISRC director Telba Espinoza-Contreras at or (318) 357-5939.

HMT students attend Chicago expo

By Leah Jackson

NATCHITOCHES – Two students from Northwestern State University’s hospitality management and tourism (HMT) program participated in the National Restaurant Association’s NRA Show 2017, an international foodservice expo and marketplace held in Chicago every May that is the largest annual gathering of professionals and providers in the restaurant, foodservice and hospitality industry.

Terrian Marchand of Natchitoches and McKenna Opbroek of Keithville, were selected by HMT faculty to participate in the expo after a networking opportunity arose during NSU’s spring seafood fund raiser, Flavor of Louisiana, according to Culinary Arts Professor Valerie Salter. Flavor of Louisiana, organized with the support of the Louisiana Seafood Board, drew chefs from all over the state to prepare and serve Louisiana seafood dishes alongside NSU’s culinary arts students who prepared desserts for the event.

Marchand and Opbroek accompanied Louisiana’s Kings of Seafood Blake Phillips (2016) and Mike Brewer (2015), who set up a booth at the expo and prepared and served two dishes each day to showcase Louisiana seafood. Marchand is an HMT major with a concentration in culinary arts. Opbroek is an HMT major with a concentration in hospitality services and a minor in culinary arts.

The annual NRA expo showcases products such as bakery items, kitchen tools, table ware, flatware, crockery, food service technology, catering paraphernalia, sustainable products, snacks and other products. The event is open to professionals involved in the restaurant, foodservice and hospitality industry.

“Each day of the show we assisted the chefs in preparing different dishes that showcased the diversity of Louisiana seafood,” Marchand said. “Both Kings won the annual Louisiana Seafood cookoff sponsored by the Louisiana Seafood Board. Along with cooking with the chefs, we got to explore the entire expo, attend culinary showcases featuring some of our favorite chefs, Duff Goldman and Stephanie Izard, the newest Iron Chef, and explore the city of Chicago.”

“The National Restaurant Association Expo was unlike anything I’ve seen before,” Opbroek said. “There were so many vendors ranging from kitchen equipment to food suppliers. It really opened my eyes to just how many details there are to creating a restaurant. Working alongside two of the Kings of Seafood for Louisiana was such a fun experience as well. Being able to cook for people and be there when they taste your food is such a rewarding experience that I can never get tired of. It was a once in a lifetime opportunity and I am so thankful to be chosen to experience it.”

Marchand and Opbroek share a passion for the food industry and culinary arts, frequently put in extra work in their classes at NSU and found invaluable experience cooking alongside Louisiana’s Kings of Seafood.

“The NRA show opened my eyes to the infinite possibilities in the food industry,” Marchand said. “Whether it’s choosing the right napkin dispenser, getting better flooring for your restaurant kitchen or buying a franchise, each vendor had something to offer for anyone in the food industry. I also got a chance to see how other people appreciated Louisiana food and culture. Working with chefs Mike Brewer and Blake Phillips was a very rewarding experience. They taught me how to be proud of my Louisiana roots and how to be more innovative when it comes to Cajun/Creole cuisine.”

For more information on NSU’s HMT program, visit

ACM recognize NSU volunteers

By Leah Jackson

NATCHITOCHES – The Academy of Country Music named a current Northwestern State University student and a 2015 NSU graduate as Volunteer Award winners for their contributions in making the 2017 ACM Awards and ACM Party for a Cause events successful. Hunter Horton, a senior from Benton, and Alex Oetken of Nashville, Tennessee, were among eight individuals recognized for dedication and service.

This year, the Academy had 88 volunteers from around the country take up ranks alongside ACM staff to host the 52nd ACM Awards and related events in Las Vegas. The awards were broadcast Sunday, April 2 on CBS. This was the third year in a row that students in NSU’s hospitality management and tourism (HMT) program volunteered with the ACM Awards.

HMT Professor Valerie Salter said the volunteer experiences exposes students to the logistics of a large event from planning, signage, marketing, branding, crowd control and security. Students were expected to be confident, professional and dependable.

“As a volunteer, I worked exclusively with the staff of the Academy of Country Music Awards to produce the Awards show but also events leading up to the awards show and charitable events for their philanthropic arm, Party for a Cause,” Horton said. “My specific duties were escorting artists during a ‘Radio Remote’ which was a high energy, fast paced interview scene of 60 radio stations that each gave 5 minute interviews. We were responsible for scheduling these interviews and escorting artists to each interview.”

Horton worked with artists Dan + Shay, Love and Theft and Keith Urban, the most nominated artist at the awards show, and served as an awards show rehearsal monitor, support staff for Party for a Cause at the House of Blues and golf cart driver for the red carpet in which he drove stars from the end of the red carpet to their talent entrance.

“Some highlights were definitely working with the big names on the radio remotes and also driving the golf carts for such talent as Carrie Underwood, Reba, Keith Urban and many more,” Horton said. “It was an experience that I’ll never forget and I’m so excited to be chosen for this honor.”

Returning for his second year as a volunteer Oetken worked at Virgil’s Friday rehearsal guitars on Saturday and red carpet drink bins on Sunday.

“Working the ACMs were completely different than my first year. The first year we were at the festival the whole time. This time we got to be all over Vegas and work all different areas,” Oetken said. “It was really cool to see how the rehearsals worked, as well as working the red carpet during the event.”

Oetken graduated in 2015 with a degree in HMT and a concentration in business administration. He moved to Nashville in January and works for Bruce Pittman, a Nashville wedding planner.

“I would like to thank the HMT program at NSU for giving me the connections to be able to volunteer for such a great organization. They have put some amazing opportunities in front of us,” Oetken said.

Information on award winners is available at

Information on NSU’s HMT program is available at

International Festival of Cultures & Cuisines

The International Festival of Cultures & Cuisines will be on Tuesday, March 21, from 11:00 AM-1:30 PM in the Alumni Plaza Courtyard between A.A. Fredericks & Magale.  Join us for an afternoon of music, fun and wonderful food!

Ireland Italy and Greece

Ireland Italy and Greece

Explore Ireland’s cultural heart where its language, music, and dance traditions are alive and well, and discover the beauty of the Emerald coast.  Then journey to  Italy to haggle with merchants in the crowded Florence leather markets, travel to Italy’s Imperial Rome to see the ultimate symbols of ancient Roman civilization and visit the Vatican City’s museums., and explore the temple ruins at Delphi and Olympic ruins in Athens.

HMT Student Interns with the Academy of Country Music

Natchitoches, La. (NSU Press Release) For most college graduates seeking their first job, relevant experience will likely be replaced by flowery language about work ethic and dedication.

But Northwestern State University senior Leighann Westfall won’t have that problem.

The hospitality management and tourism major in the Louisiana Scholars’ College, interned with the Academy of Country Music awards show this past spring in Los Angeles before her summer internship with the CenturyLink Center in Shreveport.

Westfall wasn’t just on the West Coast rubbing elbows with some of her favorite country music stars — she played a key role in visible features of the show’s production and organization.

“I did the whole signage plan and the transportation for the awards show,” Westfall said. “I organized how artists got from the show to the festival and back to their hotel.

“I worked on the overview schedule throughout my internship as well. On the awards show side, it was just my boss and I. I had real projects and real responsibilities.”

Westfall communicated with artists and their managers to relay show details and schedules.

“In my NSU role working with first-year experience and being a freshman connector, you learn the details of putting on an event — things like how to set up a check-in,” Westfall said. “But I hadn’t interacted with business professionals on that level.

“It was really cool learning how to conduct meetings and phone calls, even write emails professionally.”

The groundwork for the ACM internship was laid at NSU when she and a group of 10 students volunteered at the ACM awards show in Dallas in the spring of 2015.

Westfall worked on the festival side that year, learning the ins and outs of the process while networking with NSU alums Dwayne Jones and Brandi Brammer.

“I knew how the event worked after that experience, and I learned about the series of events that were put on leading up to the awards show,” Westfall said. “We had a weekly operations meeting, and I was able to offer input (in Los Angeles) when some of the other interns couldn’t because I had been a part of those meetings (in Dallas).

“I met my (Los Angeles) boss in Dallas, and people like Dwayne and Brandi (former ACM employees) recommended me and told me what I needed to do to get the internship.”

Westfall’s dream is to be an event planner in the sports entertainment industry, and she transferred her awards show experience into a successful stint with the CenturyLink in Shreveport this past summer.

“Developing a signage plan and an overall plan were pretty similar between the two internships,” Westfall said. “The biggest difference is at an arena, people are coming to you for events. At the ACMs, I was reaching out to people to communicate details and schedules.

“Now I have experience on a few different sides of the entertainment industry.”

The Houston native would love to work for Minute Maid Park or NRG Stadium, home of the Houston Astros and Houston Texans, respectively.

Westfall wished her internships would have been closer to her graduation date so she could have accepted job offers from both places.

But she wouldn’t change anything about her college choice or experience, which she believes has prepared her for future success.

“One of the reasons I came to NSU was because I thought I would be able to get experience in so many different things,” Westfall said. “I’ve had so many roles in Phi Mu, being a freshman connector and with first-year experience.

“I don’t know if I would have been able to do all that at a bigger university.”

HMT & Culinary Arts Host 2016 International Cultural Festival

By: Kevin Shannahan

After a three year hiatus, the Northwestern State University School of Business Hosptality Management Tourism & Culinary Arts Program hosted its long awaited International Cultures and Cuisines Festival this past Tuesday on Front Street in Natchitoches. The street fair featured booths in which costumed NSU students represented various countries around the world, serving samples of wines and cuisines from that nation. The French contingent of Morgan Lasyone, Janna Baldwin and Demmi O’Donnell entertained the crowd with a can-can dance while Columbian international student Orlando Enrique Gonzalez Trucco and his band sang and played Spanish music for the enthusiastic & dancing crowd. Staff from the Cane River National Heritage Area and Fort St. Jean Baptiste offered crafts for the younger festival goers.