UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. — One of Penn State’s most unique dining experiences is offering a series of specialty themed dinners throughout the month of June.
Cafe Laura — a fine-dining restaurant entirely run by Penn State hospitality students as part of a senior-level capstone course — is offering four meals throughout the month, each one boasting a menu composed around a certain theme.
“Building dinners around themes that the students pick helps get them really excited about each meal,” said Kim Cooper, an instructor in the College of Health and Human Development who helps oversee the restaurant. “It’s a really valuable educational experience, because it gives them insight into everything they need to think of. They make the menu, they order the food, they create the ambiance.”
The four themed dinners include “C’est La Comédie: Our Food is No Joke,” in which every item is themed after a particular comedian; “An Evening with the Godfather: The Dinner You Cannot Refuse,” an Italian meal inspired by the series of famous gangster films; “The Tango Experience: Bailar, Musica, Cenar,” a blend of Argentinian and South American cuisine inspired by the region’s tango music; and “Game of Thrones: Dinner is Coming,” based around the characters and families from the popular TV show of the same name.
Diners have two opportunities to enjoy each of the themed dinners. “C’est La Comédie” will be served on June 17 and 24, “An Evening with the Godfather” will be served on June 18 and 25, “The Tango Experience” will be served on June 19 and 26, and “Game of Thrones” on June 20 and 27. Diners interested in attending a themed dinner must reserve a table online in advance.
Cooper said that Cafe Laura, which has been praised by the Pennsylvania Restaurant and Lodging Association for its quality, helps prepare hospitality students for their careers by teaching them the “intangible skills” that are best learned through hands-on experience — such as managing a team, managing time and balancing multiple priorities, and creating and adjusting a business plan in response to real circumstances.
“You can sit up and lecture about this, but it’s the real-world practice that prepares these students for success,” Cooper said. “We’re now starting to see more and more courses like this in the hospitality field, so we’ve been a bit ahead of the curve.”