photos courtesy Savannah Reeves, Travis Tagala, and Justin Leung

As a junior majoring in hospitality and a new executive member for Epicurean Society, I am thrilled to have the opportunity to share one of the things I enjoy most: food! I had originally expected this organization to simply be a meeting of others who enjoyed food as much as I did. However, I was pleasantly surprised to find out it had so much more to offer. Epicurean Society offers networking opportunities, insightful learning experiences and always a new adventure.

One of my first steps into a leadership role was when I interacted and connected with students within our program. I was welcomed to a bi-annual event, Breaking Barriers, hosted by the Harrah College of Hospitality’s very own Eta Sigma Delta Honor Society. Traditionally, the event had been a social mixer for hospitality club leaders; however, this year’s event welcomed general members as well. Multiple organizations have maintained their presence in Breaking Barriers, including: The Hospitality Financial and Technology Professionals, Hospitality Sales and Marketing Association and the National Society of Minorities in Hospitality. 

It has always been Epicurean Society’s pleasure to provide small bites for the event. This year was no different. We prepared a group of cold dishes: a cold penne pasta salad with artichokes, caprese skewers, Caesar salad and tiramisu. Providing food at the event certainly sets the mood for positivity and sociality. Not only was it a wonderful opportunity to showcase Epicurean Society’s passion and appreciation for food, it also allows us to network with like-minded individuals and a passionate student body. 

Through these social events, Epicurean Society has had the opportunity to establish a connection with other organizations while simultaneously continuing to mentor and guide our general members. To supplement the experience, Breaking Barriers has always been a time and place for clubs to present their ideas and upcoming events. This social aspect allows the clubs to discuss and coordinate details as one team. 

On the note of teams, I wanted to better understand some of the driving forces behind them: the students themselves. I interviewed Epicurean Society’s very own President, Deanna Wong and Vice President and Journalist, Justin Leung: two individuals that have an infectious passion in the food and beverage industry. I wanted more insight on how being involved in student organizations has developed them personally and professionally. Also, as graduating seniors, I wondered if they had any advice for students involved or wanting to be involved into the industry. 

Deanna Wong will be receiving her Bachelor of Science in Hospitality Management. After graduation, she will be leaving to Florida to participate in the Disney College Program. When asking about her goals, Deanna wants to “expand my horizons and explore the various areas this growing industry has for me.” Deanna has always worked in food and beverage and she mentions how living in Las Vegas for the past four years has allowed her to “explicitly see what the industry is like behind the scenes and as a guest.” Deanna also adds that she has a newfound interest in events and potentially pursuing catering. 

Being the President of Epicurean Society for the past three semesters, Deanna notes how much the organization has taught her about responsibility, communication and networking. She adds how meeting people from various backgrounds has “opened my eyes to the different cultures we have here in Las Vegas.” When asked about her advice to students, she advises to “never get comfortable.” She adds, “Set your eyes on a goal, but be okay with change because not everything goes as planned.” 

Justin Leung will also be receiving his Bachelor of Science in Hospitality Management. After graduation you can find Justin pursuing the Food & Beverage track for the Management Associate Program with MGM Resorts International. Justin’s work ethic and passion for the industry stems from helping his parents with their restaurant, starting at the age of twelve. Justin’s goals are to always continue that passion while maintaining a strong work-life balance. He has maintained more than one role, developing his discipline. Justin states, “I am more aware of the kinds of interactions that happen within an organization and the importance of transparent communication.” 

Primarily, Justin advises that students in the industry should always “establish rapport and keep in touch with the people you meet.” He mentions how important it is to know you are not alone in the industry. He also reminds us that “the magic of hospitality lies in your never-ending love for what we provide.” 

Overall, I have found these student organizations to be an exceptional learning environment that brings together students whom all share the same passion for the industry. I sincerely look forward to sharing those experiences and expressing our appreciation for the local businesses that are the heart of this great city.