On March 20th I departed the Emerald Isle for the Emerald Isle. Let me explain: I had been invited out by Julie Doyle (and her team) to the Ferris State University Hospitality Gala which had the Emerald Isle theme. As the trip grew closer over the recent months i had a mixture of delighted, excitement and nervousness in equal measure but all that being said, there i was sitting on the plane and i’m off..up, up and away!!!
I had my itinerary, which looked good and busy (just the way i like it) and now that i was on route i was greatly looking forward to the trip. I had an eight hour flight to Chicago with Aer Lingus-of whom i could not speak highly enough. From the moment I checked in at Terminal 2 in Dublin until they deposited me back safely again almost a week later they carried out their tasks with military precision and with the grace, charm and panache for which they are renowned. When i got to Chicago i had a three hour stop over before i took my connecting flight to Detroit.
I had been told by Julie that someone would be waiting to meet me at the Airport and true enough when i arrived there was a gentleman holding an ‘Edward Hayden’ banner. I always wanted to see this (just like at the movies) and now here it is… Yes that’s me!!
The gentleman driver took me to Sheraton Detroit Airport Hotel which was a wonderful venue for my first night. It was now evening and i was pretty wrecked so i had decided that i was going to go straight to bed to prepare for the following day. The management team had left lovely welcome notes in my room and the chef had prepared a wonderful anti pasta platter which was lovely to nibble on.
The next morning after breakfast as i waited in the Lobby the full management team, headed up by Rich Fenton, came out to meet me and chat about my trip. This was really lovely and i was delighted to have my photograph taken with them.
Amy Dorey, Professor at the Ferris State University together with Brittany came to collect me and brought me to the Henry Ford Museum where Jennifer Lizbinski escorted us around and showed us the full museum and explained to us the different elements on display. It was a most interesting trip. After that Jennifer told us about a very authentic American bar where we went and had the quintessential hamburger & fries. I felt like i was in the burger joint in the film ‘Grease’. Incidentally our waitress was a little like Rizzo!
After that we headed to the Auburn Hills Marriott Pontiac Hotel at Centre point where we had to prepare for the NACE March event. This is the national conference of catering executives and i was giving a 90 minute presentation about myself, my education, and career and about the Irish food and hospitality industry. I was also giving a little cookery demonstration of my deep filled apple 7 rhubarb crumble cake.. They loved it! The evening went very well, it was great to meet the different people at the event and they all brought something different to the party; there were party planners, florists, chefs, musicians, managers, hoteliers and hospitality students.
Plans for Thursday was to head towards Ferris State University in Big Rapids to meet (again) the delightful Julie Doyle. Before that we stopped off in nearby Grand Rapids to have a look at some luxury hotels there and have some lunch. We toured the JW Marriot & Anway Grand Plaza hotels and they were really something else. Truly magnificent!
We then headed to Ferris state and it was great to meet with Julie again. Over the last two days on the road trip i feel like i had got a good insight into the work that Julie does and what i had discovered on those days (and indeed subsequent days of the trip) is that everybody adores her. She is suitably well connected and is the shining bastion of the hospitality department in Ferris State and has worked extremely hard through the years to create the programme that is there today.
Thursday afternoon was spent preparing for our exclusive cookery class the next morning. We were having an Irish themed cookery demonstration so we needed to prepare. After that i was brought to what was to be my resting place for the next two nights and that was The Rustic Gate, which was a most interesting venue indeed. That evening at the Rustic gate all of the chefs and some of the organisers were meeting for an informal dinner at the Rustic Gate. Sharon, the chef/patron had created a lovely supper of pulled pork & chicken, potato salad, feta cheese salad, hummus, crudités, brioche and some green salad. It was finger licking good and we dined, chatted and had a few beers on the terrace. It was truly sensational.
On Friday morning my assistant for the week (the lovely Kim) collected me and brought me to the university for the cookery class. The second part of the Julie & Sheryl group (i.e Sheryl) had arrived last night and was at the class today, as indeed was the wonderfully talent Sharon from the Rustic Gate. The class went really well and it was a really lovely group and we all dined on the food we demonstrated. Back to the Rustic gate to relax a little before the main event-The Hospitality Gala!
I heard so much about the hospitality gala event but i was still unsure of what it actually was. What i did know that this year’s event had the theme of ‘An Evening at Emerald Isle’ and i am making a key note speech? The event was entirely student led and it was absolutely fantastic. In my mind i thought about the stereotype that we have and i was expecting dancing leprechauns and green as far as the eye could see. When i went into the dining area (having walked through the lush enchanted forest) i was gobsmacked! The room was laid out fantastically. The room at the hotel looked like it was set up for a medieval banquet. It was truly breath taking. The band was on stage singing ‘Dirty old town’ and ‘the rocks of bawn’-the students had left no detail to chance and everything was superbly organised and executed.
As people mingled around the room they were served traditional mead, Irish stewers (skewers with lamb, carrot, onion), oysters, quiches, sausages, puddings etc before being seated for the formal dinner. The meal was fantastic and again everything was 100% authentic and student led. (see menu below).
An entire ensemble of Irish Dancers took to the stage with a wonderful performance. It felt just like home. I had some lovely company at my table and we all had a wonderful evening. My speech was short and sweet and covered a little about Irish Culture, cuisine & hospitality.
Also at the event was a live twitter feed, a silent auction, flaming Irish coffee demonstrations and some presentations to students and faculty members. A night to remember and the party continued into the night!
The next morning, after the alumni breakfast, i headed on the next leg of the journey to Chicago with Ben Powell who was going to give me a whistle stop tour of all the hot spots. Everyone had old me i would have a great time with Ben and indeed i did. We took in some light retail therapy before heading to the very prestigious Signature room which was on the 95th floor overlooking the whole of Chicago. We had a wonderful dinner there. We shared a Shellfish tasting platter for two for starter, i then moved onto a surf & turf (steak & Lobster) with sautéed sprouts and carrot bread pudding followed by a delicious chocolate opera cake. Ryan our waiter for the evening had told the chef i was visiting from Ireland so the chef send out lovely greetings and an Irish flag on my dessert. After dinner (instead of retiring fro the evening) we went to a late night comedy club where we saw ‘The Second city’s history of Chicago’. It was really funny and was a perfect end to a lovely day.
The next morning after breakfast we drove to a very exclusive members only country club, which we toured and enjoyed a delicious lunch. After that we headed to the airport and as i was all glammed up for the country club i changed my clothes (very glamorously in the airport toilet!) and boarded the plane for home! It was a superb trip which i thoroughly enjoyed.
Before i conclude this piece i want to thank most sincerely (and i hope that i leave no one out) The wonderful Julie Doyle for inviting me over and organising the entire trip for me (and also for waiting patiently for my delayed email & Skype responses!), Amy Dorey for all her kindness and hospitality, Mickey Albright , Kaky and the full team at the hospitality section of Ferris State University. To Amy & Brittany & Ben who were riding shot gun on all the road trips thanks so much! Thanks also to Kim for picking me up and collecting me during my time in Big Rapids! To Ben for definitely showing me all Chicagos hotspots full credit and heartfelt thanks!
Also full credit and thanks to the students for all their hard work and for making me feel welcome and part of their gala event. To Adam, Brianne, Steven, Kristen, Chelsea, Brittany, Garrett, Carmen, Anthony, Micheal, Andrew, Kim,, Katie & Ketelyn thanks you so much.
Finally thanks so much to the Sheraton Detroit Metro Airport Hotel, Auburn Hills Marriot Hotel & to the three lovely ladies at the Rusctic Gate. Sharon, Pat & Marcia have a wonderful business and do such a wonderful job and during my time there made me feel most welcome. Their chats, delicious food and warm hospitality shall never be forgotten.
And so there is is..my report on my ‘American Dream’!
Evening in the Emerald Isle
March 23rd, 2012
Assorted homemade sausages
(Seafood, lamb, and Beef)
Traditional irish stew on a skewer with a pickled onion
Irish Bangers in a Blanket
Mussels with Bacon and irish Ale onions
Creamy Braised Leek & potato soup
with oatmeal croutons
Roasted Sweet Apples & Golden Beets Salad
Served on a Bed of Kale with Cashel Blue Cheese & Honey Vinaigrette
Traditional Tri-Color Irish Flag
Flavors are Represented in Kiwi, Mango, & Coconut
Scallops in Lobster Sauce Shepherd’s Pie
With fresh fennel, citrus zest and roasted Garlic mashed Potatoes
Guinness Irish Pork Loin on Warm Apple Slaw with Irish cream Glaze And roasted vegetables
traditional corned beef topped with lemon parsley sauce
served with sautéed Brussel Sprouts & Potato Medley
Planked salmon with Jamison glaze colcannon
Assorted Savory truffles
Guinness Stout, Irish Whiskey, & Banana Toffee
Authentic Flaming Irish Coffee