Epicurean Charitable Foundation helps groom the city’s future hospitality leaders

Epicurean Charitable Foundation’s fundraiser M.E.N.U.S. at M Resort on Sept. 30, 2011.
Photo: David Becker/WireImage

The future of the Las Vegas hospitality industry will be in a few good hands—at least, it will be if the Epicurean Charitable Foundation has anything to do with it.

The local organization, founded in 2001, provides full-ride scholarships and mentors to students pursuing an education in hospitality, from hotel management to food and beverage to nightclub operations.


September 28, 7 p.m., $500
Villagio Del Sole Pool and Entertainment Piazza
The M Resort, 797-1000

Tonight, ECF celebrates its 11th annual M.E.N.U.S. (Mentoring & Educating Nevada’s Upcoming Students) fundraising gala at the M Resort’s Villagio Del Sole Pool and Entertainment Piazza, its biggest event of the year. Patrons will have the opportunity to sample cuisine and cocktails from over 30 of the city’s most esteemed restaurants, including L’Atelier by Joel Robuchon, Sage and Gordon Ramsay Steak. The event also includes a silent auction and concludes with a performance by Counting Crows.

At $500, the ticket price may seem steep, but attendees aren’t just enjoying a night out and nostalgic ’90s music, they’re helping out a worthy organization that provides a unique service to students from Las Vegas.

“I think it’s important for Las Vegas to get behind our organization, because we really do provide the future leaders for the industry that fuels the heart of this great city,” says Elizabeth Muto Hunterton, executive director of ECF.

The foundation’s goal is to place students in mid-management roles upon graduation; Hunterton says their success rate is near 100 percent.

And that should come as no surprise. ECF students are learning from the best; mentors are some of the city’s biggest hospitality industry power players—F&B execs, restaurateurs and the like. Mentors meet with students once a month and assist them with school projects, answer industry-related questions and guide them.

Hunterton considers ECF’s mentoring aspect a special component to the organization’s scholarship program. “We are really determined to provide our students with the infrastructure to succeed,” she says. “I think that is what really makes us unique.”

And that infrastructure doesn’t end after the students finish their schooling. Hunterton says many graduates keep in close contact, some are even returning to lend a hand for tonight’s M.E.N.U.S. event.

“After they graduate, they don’t move on from outside of our wing. They’re still a part of the family, and they’re honored and excited to come back and help,” says Hunterton.

Though the graduates aren’t the only ones who will be helping out tonight. Each of ECF’s scholarship recipients (minus one student at the Culinary Institute of America in New York, who was unable to skip class) will be on deck at the M to facilitate the event. Students have been given specific responsibilities, from set-up to overseeing the silent auction and everything in between. For some, this will be a first look at what they’ll be doing for the rest of their lives.

Scholarship recipient and second-year culinary student at the Art Institute Wendy Pimentel, 19, has been charged with the task of assisting the many chefs working the charity event. “They ordered me and two of the other students chef coats, and we’re going to be overseeing to make sure that the chefs on the booths have everything that they need,” says Pimentel. “I’m really excited to be working with some of the most amazing restaurants on the Strip.”

Pimentel’s mentor is Jason Shkorupa, VP of Food & Beverage at the Luxor and Excalibur. She says she communicates with him regularly, often receiving feedback and ideas for school projects.

“I’m so proud to be part of this organization. Not a lot of students can say that they have the scholarship that I have and all the amazing benefits that come with it,” says Pimentel. “It’s just amazing.”

A good deal of the money that goes toward funding the scholarships for ECF’s 27 students will be raised at M.E.N.U.S., so if you’re a philanthropic foodie there’s one place for you to be tonight.

“We’re just looking forward to an exciting event ... just a fun-filled evening that really celebrates what fuels the heartbeat of our city,” says Hunterton. “It’s an exciting night for hospitality, people in the industry and people that are there to enjoy the event with us.”

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