LONGBOAT KEY -- For Kyle Bailey, hospitality means more than just serving tables or cleaning hotel rooms.
It also involves critical thinking skills, business savvy and hands-on experience.
Bailey, a 29-year-old Venice resident and hospitality management student at University of South Florida Sarasota-Manatee, and dozens of other College of Hospitality & Technology Leadership students got hands-on experience Tuesday night during the fifth annual "HospitaBull Evening" at The Resort at Longboat Key Club.
"We didn't just put together a program. We put together an experience," Bailey said.
This year's "A Taste of Israel" dinner showcased Israeli cuisine and featured special guest Chef Yaron Azuolay, who oversaw demonstrations and training for live cooking with Nyga Chef in Nordia, Israel. More than 200 guests feasted on date syrup and cardamom-roasted chicken drumsticks and seam bream filet, along with a host of traditional cuisines.
Event planning, organizing and cooking was all done by students.
"These students will be managers and leaders in this area," said USFSM Dean Cihan Cobanoglu. "They need to have the experience."
Planning begins each fall for the event normally held in April, Cobanoglu said. The date was pushed up to accommodate Azuolay's schedule, adding another layer of difficulty for students. Before the 6:45 p.m. event, students scurried through the venue, making sure plates, forks, napkins and drink glasses were in place. In the kitchen, students shouted to one another as they quickly prepared the dishes alongside Azuolay.
The event is a fundraiser for students in food preparation and event management classes at the new USFSM Culinary Innovation Lab on Main Street in Lakewood Ranch. Ticket sales and sponsorships raised $50,000 before the first plate was set down and Cobanoglu expected to raise between $60,000 and $70,000.
There are more than 300 students in the college from 18 different countries.
For Sonja Langley, a 32-year-old Sarasota resident and hospitality management student, the night was a chance to really show her stuff. As a student team captain, Langley worked with a small group of student servers.
Langley once was a graphic artist. When laid off, she started working banquets and events at a golf course, which motivated her to pursue a degree at USFSM.
"It reiterates the knowledge you have," Langley said.
The university gave Langley the opportunity to earn a degree, and allowed her to learn from Azuolay, a world-renowned chef.
"Some people who work in the hospitality industry never have that experience," she said.
Azuolay has more than 20 years experience as a lead chef and specializes in seafood preparation and French and Spanish cuisine.
For Azuolay, it's important to give back to the community.
"I think anyway you can transfer your knowledge in food to the people who want to learn, that's good," he said.
Meghin Delaney, education reporter, can be reached at 941-745-7081. Follow her on Twitter @MeghinDelaney.