John Purdue Room serves up fine food, hands-on experience for future hospitality managers

Shooq Alsuwailem prepares pizzas in the John Purdue Room.

Shooq Alsuwailem, a junior in the White Lodging-J.W. Marriott, Jr. School of Hospitality and Tourism Management (HTM), prepares pizzas in the John Purdue Room kitchen. Future hospitality managers like Alsuwailem receive hands-on kitchen and front-of-house experience to increase their knowledge about the hospitality field’s food and beverage components.Tim Brouk

Written by: Tim Brouk,

Located inside Marriott Hall, the John Purdue Room serves as a learning laboratory for future hospitality managers, event planners and hoteliers within the White Lodging-J.W. Marriott, Jr. School of Hospitality and Tourism Management (HTM) while offering the Purdue University community international and American fine dining experiences.

Undergraduate students work in the back of house (kitchen), pouring crème brulée, baking salad croutons, grilling chicken and preparing whatever else is on the menu for the day which often includes international cuisine. Students work in the front of house (dining room) too. They seat customers, serve courses and do all they can to ensure a delightful dining experience. While most students will not be doing these tasks in their future careers, having the know-how is essential, according to HTM faculty.

“We are creating the leaders of our industry for the future,” said Terrie Hamilton, an HTM clinical professional instructor with 35 years of experience in the hospitality industry. “In order to lead properly, they need to understand what everyone in their staff is going to be doing. Through my own experience, I think they need a hands-on try with that.”

French, Japanese and Vietnamese cuisines were showcased this fall. A recent French menu offered trout sauté meuniere — trout dredged in seasoned flour and sautéed in butter and lemon — and coq au vin — chicken braised in wine, garlic and mushrooms.

Each day, a different “rotation” of HTM students work the restaurant. Students switch between the front of house and back of house. The goal is a well-rounded experience as part of HTM 29100 (Quantity Food Production and Service) and HTM 49200 (Advanced Foodservice Management) courses.

The John Purdue Room is used for research projects too. One current study: HTM graduate students are using the restaurant to look at hand hygiene in restaurants and how observed hand hygiene in a restaurant’s kitchen and dining room compares to current trends in the restaurant industry now that COVID-19 restrictions are fewer.

Appetizer — Added confidence

The first time Shooq Alsuwailem worked in a kitchen was in the John Purdue Room. The HTM junior was making pepperoni pizzas for the John Purdue Room’s more casual cousin, the Boiler Bistro, which is also located in Marriott Hall and operated by HTM students. Alsuwailem agreed that kitchen immersion is a valuable foundation for her future career goals.

“I really enjoy it. I’m so happy learning new things and doing stuff I’ve never done before,” she said. “Before, I was a shy person, and this experience made me more open. I think HTM is really a great destination to be open to others.”

Soup or salad and foundational expertise

Senior Dane Stanley serves as an HTM kitchen manager and has worked in food and beverage since his early teenage years. From grilling burgers to preparing gourmet potato and leek soup, he appreciates the experiences he’s had in the HTM learning laboratory.

As manager, Stanley has seen his peers improve their kitchen chops and gain an appreciation and love for cooking and baking. He’s helped them with their knife skills — chopping and slicing prep work — and staying safe while doing it.

“As long as you’re a quick learner and excited about the work you’re going to do, your skills improve in a short period of time,” Stanley said. “This is a great opportunity to learn more about the field but also teach you a little bit about at-home cooking as well.”

Abby Strange sits and looks at the John Purdue Room menu

Abby Strange, HTM senior, studies the menu before John Purdue Room opens for the day.Tim Brouk

Main course — hands-on experience

Before the doors open to hungry customers, students gather in the dining room to go over the menu and learn about the dishes they will be serving. A common practice at restaurants, this experience not only helps them serve customers better, but it’s a lesson in teamwork and communication.

“I never worked a serving job until this class last year,” said Anna Martin, HTM senior and John Purdue Room front-of-house manager. “It’s fun to see and learn from each other. I think we can all gain something from each other — whether that’s practical skills related to this class or just human aspects.”

Getting to learn beyond the classroom was key for Martin and many of her fellow students. In just one year, she went from zero restaurant experience to management.

“It’s one thing to have classes where you’re learning the principles of hospitality and serving and restaurant management,” Martin explained. “But it’s another thing to actually have that hands-on experience that’s provided by doing this.”

Dessert — crème de la career

Callie Main, an HTM junior, was a server during a recent John Purdue Room lunch.

“I won’t necessarily be working in the kitchen or with catering or anything like that, but in my future job, I will be a wedding coordinator, an event coordinator or maybe working in a hotel,” Main said. “Even though I won’t be working with food, I’ll be able to coordinate with them (the caterer) and understand what they go through for different events and how that all flows. It’s great to know the foundation and how I can apply that in my career.”

The John Purdue Room is open 11:30 a.m.-1 p.m. Tuesday-Friday. Reservations are encouraged and can be made by calling 765-494-6845 or emailing See this week’s menu.