Southern Agenda

Textbook Hospitality

Auburn University can certainly brag on its alumni—Bo Jackson and Apple CEO Tim Cook are just a couple you may have heard of. And at this very moment, future big-time hoteliers and marquee chefs just might be honing their chops at the newly opened—and booking up fast—Tony & Libba Rane Culinary Science Center, the learning lab for the School of Hospitality Management. “It’s extraordinary to see the students in their white chef coats and in their jackets in service, coming in and out of the teaching kitchen,” says Hans van der Reijden, the CEO of Ithaka Hospitality Partners, which runs the commercial side of the 142,000-square-foot space that includes the fine-dining restaurant 1856 (a nod to the year of Auburn’s founding), as well as the boutique Laurel Hotel & Spa, a coffee roastery, and a food hall. At 1856, freshmen and sophomores execute the à la carte lunch menu and work the dining room, while juniors and seniors handle the evening tasting menu. The chef in residence, Tyler Lyne, oversees the kitchen and harvests lettuce, tomatoes, peppers, and herbs from the rooftop gardens. Says van der Reijden: “We’re already seeing an incredible sense of pride from the community—we booked five hundred tables in one hour when we opened reservations,” adding that visiting alumni often bunk in the hotel for home games. “And on non-football weekends, I see a lot of local area codes on that reservation list.”