Ritz dinner celebrates silver anniversary

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Photo by A. Sue Weisler

Leading the festivities are this year’s executive chef, Abigail Holland, center, and event co-chairs, Elizabeth Lincoln, left, and Serita Randall.

Like a good wine aged in oak and brought out on special occasions, the annual Puttin’ on the RITz black-tie dinner is sparkling and delectable. This year’s event hosted by RIT’s School of Hospitality and Service Management, scheduled for March 27 at the Radisson Riverside Hotel, will prove equally rich.

For the silver anniversary event, Abigail Holland, a third-year food management student leads the staff of chefs, waiters, waitresses and hosts. As executive chef, she is responsible for the coordinated dance of preparing, cooking and presenting meals to hundreds of hungry guests. 

With event co-chairs Elizabeth Lincoln and Serita Randall, Holland and the 13-member executive committee have been looking through the archives of previous events to put together a vintage dinner with a contemporary twist. Previous dinners have had themes such as Mediterranean Mirage and Spritz of New York; dinners have featured exotic, international foods to heart-healthy selections. 

This year’s menu is still under wraps, says Holland who is putting the finishing touches on the multiple-course menu. She brings several years experience to the prestigious appointment. “This is my third year working on the RITz,” says Holland. “My first year I was part of the kitchen staff; and last year I was the sous chef. I’ve been working my way up. I feel it’s critical to have prior RITz experience in order to do well in the role of executive chef because then you know what to expect.”

The RITz dinner has grown considerably from its first dinner in 1986 with 60 guests at Henry’s Restaurant on campus to more than 200 served in 2009. The event has also been the start of many hospitality students’ careers. Jeff Yaniak, a hospitality and service management alumnus, now serves as executive chef at the Radisson Riverside Hotel. He will open his kitchen and banquet facilities to the hospitality students for this year’s RITz dinner. 

Jeff Rowoth ’81, ’91 (hotel/tourist industry management, hospitality and tourism management) will be master of ceremonies for this year’s dinner. George Alley, the former director of the food, hotel and tourism management program, will join Rowoth as guest emcee.

Lincoln and Randall chose the theme Aged to Perfection to reflect the long tenure of the event and the continual maturity of the dinner—and the planners. Over the 25 years, each committee and RITz Dinner staff has left guidelines for their succesor’s team. “This is a collaboration of so many people,” says Randall, who explained that the volunteer servers for the event cross all RIT colleges, not just CAST. “It’s cool to see what we can do all together.” 

“One of the most important things I have learned is not to become too stressed,” Holland says. “The executive chef from last year, Rachelle Danno, left me an excellent hand book with tips on food budgeting and that sort of thing.”

Danno and many of the other students and guests who have attended RITz dinners over the last 25 years are being invited back to celebrate the department’s significant milestone. It will be a chance to renew acquaintances and celebrate the 25-year tradition together.

All proceeds from the RITz Dinner go toward the RIT Hospitality Education Fund. Tickets for the event can be purchased at www.rit.edu/cast/ritz/home.