In a country renowned for excess, the hoopla surrounding the Super Bowl could qualify as our crowning achievement in consumption. But at least some people are finding ways to do something positive with our over-indulgence. Over the weekend, Metropolitan State College professor and chef Jackson Lamb and fourteen of his students are volunteering at Taste of the NFL, a charity event benefiting the Feeding America Food Bank System.
This is the event's twentieth year, and Lamb's eleventh -- and he's taken his biggest group of students ever this round.
"It's a very Food Network, culinary, James Beard House- driven food event," says Lamb. "All of this goes towards kicking hunger in America. Specifically, all the NFL cities have a food bank that is affiliated with the Feeding America Food Bank System."
The big game is tomorrow night, when chefs from each of the 32 NFL cities will prepare food for around 3,500 guests; Troy Guard of TAG will be representing Denver. Each Metro State student will oversee twenty to thirty volunteers from the Dallas/Fort Worth area during the event, and help operate such areas as the electronic check-in, kitchen operations, VIP and corporate seating, merchandise sales or the silent auction. ""This way, I have a friend in every key area," Lamb says. "If there is a problem, I don't go to somebody I don't know, I go to somebody I do know. From an organizational standpoint, it's great for me."
Metro State students will also be catering a VIP party tonight for 300 corporate sponsors, NFL alumni and their wives, and the chefs from each NFL city; the students will handle much of the cooking and all of the front-of-the-house service. And Todd Reenan, a sophomore at Metro State, is heading a crew of four classmates who will be cooking lunch and dinner today for the event's chefs and 300 volunteers.
Metro students paid their own way to Texas, but will gain valuable experience. "These are great opportunities for my students because they are either restaurant- management students or events-management students," Lamb continues. "When it comes to both, here it is in one package. So the experience they're going to get from this is tremendous."
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Tomorrow night's dinner costs $600 per ticket; Lamb hopes to generate $1 million for the Feeding America Food Bank System. (Food Bank of the Rockies is the local beneficiary.) After the meal, any unused food will be collected and donated to local shelters.
"I think last year in Florida we recovered 3,500 pounds of food, and in the old days, when no one thought about it, it would have all been trashed," says Lamb. "We're really helping the local food bank monetarily and with product."
Lamb and his Metro State students don't limit their helpful efforts to Super Bowl weekend, either. "A reason a lot of the students are coming with me is they have done non-profit events with me in the past," explains Lamb. "So I think these students have a great sense of community. They also understand that volunteering and networking are linked at the hip. If they want to be in the hospitality business, what greater place to go and meet people than at a venue like this? I think it's nothing but opportunity."