Students gain experience, work with Food Network Star

Adrienne Burch

Sitting through lectures all day and spending endless nights studying can make a real job seem distant for most college students. However, several University of Alabama students had the chance this past weekend to get a taste of what life outside of the classroom will be like.

Five UA students traveled to Dauphin Island Oct. 12-14 to work alongside Food Network star Martie Duncan in a culinary event. Duncan was a recent finalist on Food Network’s “Food Network Star.”

The team of UA students helped Duncan plan, set-up and execute the 2012 Seafood, Science & Celebrity event.

Diana DeFatta, a senior majoring in restaurant and hospitality management, was chosen to attend this event in order to give her experience in her field of study.

“I was able to have my first real world experience and hands-on experience,” DeFatta said, “which is something I could not get in the classroom setting.”

DeFatta was able to utilize her major concentration of meetings and event planning as she helped set up and work the event.

“I learned that there is a lot of work that goes into making an event,” DeFatta said. “There is a lot of physical work, lots of heavy lifting and lots of details.”

The involvement of Alabama students was coordinated by the new UA chapter of Meetings Professionals International. MPI is designed to help students gain industry experience and connect them to industry professionals before they enter the workforce. Alyssa Tilkin, co-founder of UA MPI, was the student leader of the event this past weekend.

“This was an incredible experience for all of our members,” Tilkin said. “One chef told me he thought we were event staff. He was surprised to find out we were students from The University of Alabama.”

Alexa Verroi, a senior majoring in advertising, recently got involved with UA MPI. She worked as a culinary assistant for the weekend, something she had never done before.

“I’ve had never done events before,” Verroi said. “So, I was able to experience the real life complete chaos that is event planning.”

In addition to all the hard work that went into this weekend, Verroi said it was a plus to rub elbows with a few celebrities, as well. The students not only met Martie Duncan, but also former UA football player Bob Baumhower and former American Idol winner and Alabama native Taylor Hicks, the featured performer at the event.