From March 20 to 22, McGill’s Student Housing and Hospitality Services (SHHS) welcomed 250 attendees and 108 exhibitors for the Mid-Atlantic/Northeast Regional National Association of College and University Food Services (NACUFS) conference. NACUFS was founded by a group of foodservice professionals passionate about helping members take the collegiate dining experience to the next level. Members span across North America and McGill’s SHHS is proud to be a part of this innovative community.
The planning committee, led by the Associate Director of Housing and Conference Services, Rosetta Vannelli and Executive Chef, Oliver De Volpi, organized all aspects of the conference, from arranging accommodation at the Westin Hotel to planning a night-time trip to the Montreal Casino. The jam-packed educational program included keynote sessions with McGill’s Dr. Joe Schwarcz and motivational speaker Isabelle Fontaine; a culinary challenge at New Residence Hall; and a closing gala featuring the Cirque Éloize.
This all begun two years ago when Vannelli and De Volpi were asked if McGill would be the first Canadian University to host in over 20 years. To get an idea of the scope of the event, they attended the regional conferences in Connecticut and shadowed the planning committee in New York. SHHS rose to the occasion and decided that hosting the conference would be the perfect opportunity to showcase SHHS’s conference services and to ensure guests had a memorable stay in Montreal.
“It is a chance for us to stand out amongst our peers,” Vannelli says. “It really was an outstanding event. We have been getting compliments by the dozen not only for the venues and the food but for the quality speakers and networking events as well.” Harvard, the University of Guelph and UMASS were among some of the universities who reached out to say how much they enjoyed the conference.
When asked why it is good for SHHS to be associated with NACUFS, De Volpi said “These universities have the same challenges as we do. While some of them are further ahead of what we are doing in food service, and some may be behind us, we all have the same goal of improving our services and teaching others when we can. If we look at who attended our event, we had Cornell, one of the most advanced with their food service sustainability and UMASS, the biggest university food provider in the US. These are the experts we want to be in contact with.”
De Volpi also added that the goal was to show other universities that we have the ability to host, educate and take care of our guests. Visitors left with the thought of McGill as being able to deliver at a high level and that image, along with the success of the conference, will make a lasting impression for years to come.