Walk through the back of the house in any restaurant and the smells are aggressive; practically tangible. There’s beef, dark, heavy and imposing. Sauces, lush and complex. The friendly pop of lemon, a surprising clearing in the jungle. And over, underneath and through it all, the kitchen’s own unique petrichor — seafood, long since prepped, cooked, and eaten, lingering like the pelagic ghost of an underwater Victorian mansion.
The test kitchen, the crown jewel of Hospitality Hall, is, for the moment, disorienting. It smells unnervingly new. The metallic tang of well-polished stainless steel, fresh ozone, and the dull odor of brand-new plastic tubs perfectly stacked in an otherwise blissfully uncluttered pantry.
Glassed in on two sides directly across from the dean’s office suite and with a view overlooking the Strip, the kitchen features 10 stations with all new equipment donated by restaurant equipment maker Welbilt. Conventional ranges, top-notch hoods, and cutting-edge combination ovens, are all perfectly lined up and attuned to the front of the class, where instructors will demonstrate techniques, meticulously detailed by a pair of cameras that broadcast to monitors mounted along the top of the kitchen.
When the students roll in Jan. 16, new experiences like the test kitchen will be the hallmark of Hospitality Hall. Not just in terms of new technology — though Executive Chef Mark Sandoval says pieces like the combination ovens will allow students to familiarize themselves with cooking methods they never could have mastered in Beam Hall — but fundamentally, in how students learn.
“In Beam Hall, you have a demo/lecture room and then the kitchen. It's actually two separate rooms. I would demonstrate all of the recipes and then we would go into the kitchen,” Sandoval said. “A lot of the times what ends up happening is that information is lost in translation. [Now] everyone will be on the same page, doing the same things at the same time, because everyone has the same equipment.”
The back of the house isn’t the only spot getting attention. Students will have ample opportunity in the front of the house with Rebel Grounds, a five-days-a-week coffee shop run by three student-managers. This semester, Kevin Ng, Katie Derr, and Austin January will manage a staff of 12 hourly employees in the new café that opens Jan. 25.
With a showpiece natural wood wall on one side and floor-to-ceiling glass on the other, Rebel Grounds flashes contemporary styling more common in high-end coffee shops than the utilitarian offerings on most public campuses.
Complete with smoothie maker, barista stations, and a selection of pastries and sandwiches, Rebel Grounds will afford students the chance to test their mettle against Starbucks or Coffee Bean & Tea Leaf. And it’s partnered with local roasteries Desert Wind Coffee, Vesta Coffee, and Colorado Coffee Roaster to provide the espresso, cold brew, and drip coffee, respectively.
Southern Glazer's Wine & Spirits will fit out a beverage lab, across from the test kitchen on the fourth floor, so the mixologists of tomorrow will have a dedicated space to shake up spirits and gather tasting notes from master sommeliers. The beverage lab will work in concert with the test kitchen to keep guests at events on the outdoor decks properly entertained, and afford students the chance to operate in a tightly integrated catering environment.
Golf Management Center
The golf management facility opens at the end of February. It's official name, pending approval will be the Dwaine Knight Center for Golf Management, after the longtime UNLV coach.
At the heart of the center is the swing lab. It uses a 3-D biometric system with 14 cameras mounted on an independent foundation, so as not to be disturbed by vibrations from the rest of the building. Golfers will wear motion-capture tracking suits so golf management students learn how to interpret that data to correct flaws in a player’s swing. (So we have actor Andy Serkis, better known as Gollum and Snoke, covered if he needs to fine tune his game.)
The center will also boast a club repair/alteration lab, a Trackman simulator where golf management students can give lessons, a pro shop, and indoor and outdoor putting greens for anyone who needs to get out of the classroom and into their short game.
Beyond formal experiential learning spaces, Hospitality Hall is designed in a way to foster collisions with dedicated group spaces for students deliberately set near faculty offices. When students are brainstorming their way through a project, their professors will be right there to help them along.
“It's about the interactions with educators, interactions with fellow students, interactions with guest speakers,” Hospitality College Dean Stowe Shoemaker said. “What we teach in hospitality is that no matter what your role, you're responsible for the guest experience. We wanted to translate that into the student experience.”