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TASTE OF TRADITION
Hospitality Scholarship Gala

Joining together today to benefit the hospitality leaders of tomorrow!

Thursday, March 21, 2024
6 PM to 10 PM at the Texas A&M Hotel
Featuring the Culinary Talents of Award-Winning Chefs
and Students from Across the Brazos Valley

Open Bar
Black Tie Affair
Limited Seating
Raffle Tickets for Prizes
Live Entertainment by Emerald City Management presents Party Machine

Proceeds from the event provide:

  • High school hospitality student scholarships via the Brazos Valley Restaurant Association
  • Scholarships for students of Texas A&M Department of Hospitality, Hotel Management and Tourism
  • Funding for the Antonio Cuevas Memorial Scholarship benefiting a student of Texas A&M Department of Hospitality, Hotel Management and Tourism

Purchase Individual Tickets: $250 per ticket

Purchase Tickets

Purchase a Table for 10: $3,500

  • Premier seating location
  • Screen recognition at Gala
  • Tabletop recognition
  • Sponsor appreciation recognition on social media
  • VIP food & beverage wait staff with premium wine service
Purchase Table for 10
FEATURED PASTRY CHEF
Erica Casares | Texas A&M Hotel

Chef Erica has always been sweet on sweets.  She wanted pots and pans for Christmas when she was a teenager and ultimately launched her professional culinary career by opening a cupcake shop in Bryan, Texas with her mother. It is this cupcake shop that garnered the funds needed for Chef Erica to attend the Culinary Institute of America. At the Culinary Institute of America in San Antonio, she received a degree in Baking and Pastry Arts as well as in Culinary Arts.   

In the role of Pastry Chef at the Texas A&M Hotel and Conference Center, Chef Erica brings not only delectable, sweet offerings to every dessert she and her team create, but also a bit of whimsy. She is responsible for developing perfectly crafted specialty desserts for the hotel’s many events as well as the creation of its signature dessert – the WHOOPie pie – which is regularly reinvented to match the flavors of the season.   

Prior to serving in the role as Pastry Chef at the Texas A&M Hotel and Conference Center, Chef Erica served as Pastry Chef for Benchmark, Pyramid Luxury &Lifestyle, Pastry Cook at La Cantera Resort & Spa in San Antonio and Pastry Chef at Hotel Emma.  

FEATURED EXECUTIVE CHEFS
Johnny Poche & Daniel Gonzales | 1860 Italia & Poche's Seafood Shoppe

Chef Daniel Gonzalez has been cooking up delicious dishes for over 30 years, mainly in Houston, Texas. He spent a big chunk of his career, 22 years to be exact, at Maggiano's, where he met his buddy Chef Johnny Poché. Together, they've been cooking side by side for more than 25 years. 

Daniel not just any chef though; he's been in the kitchen at lots of different restaurants. What makes him stand out is his knack for dreaming up tasty recipes and his love for food. Basically, he's the guy who brings all those yummy meals to life in the kitchen.  

Johnny Poché, a Louisiana native from Lake Charles, grew up surrounded by delicious seafood dishes. After attending culinary school on the East Coast, he seized the opportunity to study cuisine all across Europe, honing his skills and expanding his culinary horizons. 

For 22 years, Poché served as the Culinary Director at Maggiano's Little Italy, but eventually, he felt the urge to venture out. Settling in College Station, He co-founded 1860 Italia. However, it was his observation of a need for fresh seafood in the area that sparked the idea to reconnect with his Louisiana roots. 

Thus, Poché's Seafood Shoppe and Restaurant was born, offering a taste of authentic Cajun cuisine and bringing the flavors of his upbringing to eager diners.

FEATURED EXECUTIVE CHEF
Kevin Luque | Texas A&M Hotel

Chef Kevin’s culinary career began in the kitchen of his childhood home in New Jersey, serving as “sous chef” to his mother and grandmother. While preparing meals for large weekly family gatherings and holidays his love of food blossomed into a viable passion for a food-inspired career.

His journey began as a cook at The Hilton in Short Hills, New Jersey. As his talents were recognized, he quickly rose in the ranks to Lead Cook and then moving to serve as Executive Sous Chef at the Sheraton at Woodbridge Place NJ. His path eventually led him south and to the role of Executive Sous Chef at the W Hotel in New Orleans, Louisiana and then at the Hilton Myrtle Beach Resort and Embassy Suites Myrtle Beach at Kingston Resorts in South Carolina.  Here Chef Kevin was named as the Best Seafood Chef in South Carolina.

Prior to serving in the role as Executive Chef at the Texas A&M Hotel and Conference Center, Chef Kevin serve as Executive Sous Chef at the Hilton Americas-Houston, The Hilton Atlanta Airport, and as The Resort Executive Chef at the Hammock Beach Resort in Palm Coast Florida.

FEATURED EXECUTIVE CHEF
Michael Menchaca | Traditions Club

Chef Michael Menchaca is the Executive Chef at Traditions Club in Bryan, TX.  Born and raised in the Bryan/College Station Community, Executive Chef, and owner of JAM Good Bacon. Chef Menchaca started the family artisan charcuterie business shortly after his move to the Hill Country in 2016.

Upon graduating Sigma Cum Laude from the Texas Culinary Academy Le Cordon Bleu in Austin, TX in 2005, Michael returned to College Station to pursue his culinary career. Upon receiving his degree, he continued to hone his skills at Christopher’s World Grill under the direction of the very talented Christopher Lampo.

In 2009, Chef transitioned to Traditions Club. During his tenure, he served as both Chef of the Pool Grille and Sous Chef of the main Clubhouse at Traditions Club in Bryan, TX during the first year of the club's operation.  Chef’s ability to achieve the highest quality food led to his quick advancement to Executive Chef. Michael was with Traditions Club for seven years until taking his skill set to Austin to work with Compass Group as their Executive Chef for Dell Seton Medical, the only level one trauma center in Central Texas. From there, Chef moved on to a position with Aramark to become their Food and Beverage Director at Applied Materials. He was responsible for feeding up to 600 per day at 3 different locations.

Most recently, the stars aligned to allow for Chef Menchaca to get back to his roots and return to Traditions Club as the Executive Chef.

FEATURED EXECUTIVE CHEF
Patrick Swetnam | DeBaca Steakhouse

Patrick Swetnam is the Executive Chef of DeBaca Steakhouse in College Station, Texas, bringing 29 years of culinary expertise to the table. Hailing from Colorado, his journey began with kitchen roles in various chain restaurants before pursuing formal culinary education at Johnson and Wales University, where he graduated with honors. He honed his skills at prestigious establishments such as the Broadmoor Hotel, Mackenzie’s Chop House, and the Cliff House at Pikes Peak under renowned chefs, shaping his unique cooking style. 

After establishing a successful catering company in Colorado, Chef Patrick ventured to Texas to serve as Executive Sous Chef at the Historical Gage Hotel. His passion for meat preparation flourished in the LoneStar State, refining his expertise in wild game meats.  

Returning to Colorado, Chef Patrick served as Executive Sous Chef to Chef Jose Guerrero at the View House Downtown Denver. This role led to his promotion to Executive Chef, which then opened the door for him to serve as to accept the Executive Chef at the Summit Steakhouse and Guard and Grace Steakhouse.  

Chef Patrick's culinary journey brought him full circle to Colorado Springs, where he contributed his skills to Colorado Mountain Brewery and Urban Egg before joining Colorado College as Chef De Cuisine. In 2021, he embarked on the DeBaca Steakhouse venture in College Station, fulfilling his passion for crafting exceptional steak and mastering the art of butchery.

FEATURED EXECUTIVE CHEF
Tai Lee | Kanji Sushi

Chef Tai Lee, a proud Texas A&M University graduate class of 2002, embarked on his culinary journey shaping the Bryan/College Station dining scene. From the outset, he has pioneered diverse cuisines, notably with the innovative Veritas Wine & Bistro, Urban Table, Chef Tai's Mobile Bistro, and most recently, Kanji Sushi, showcasing a commitment to pushing culinary boundaries. 

Chef Tai Lee spearheads diverse restaurants, emphasizing the creation of outstanding dishes using a blend of locally and globally sourced ingredients. The commitment to transparency underscores our sustainable and high-quality culinary practices. 

Chef Tai Lee's commitment extends beyond the kitchen; Chef Tai Lee's community engagement shines through active participation in charitable events, embodying a commitment to service and integrity.  Chef Tai is married to Christina Lee, an Aggie Class of 2005 and have two sons.

Featured Culinary Programs

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bryan high school

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