Much more than a wine appreciation club...
When I first joined the Hotel Institute Montreux, the Academic Director suggested that we should offer a wine appreciation club. As a lecturer in Bar and Beverage Management I was the obvious choice to start this initiative. However, there are lots of hospitality schools and many of them offer something similar.
Having traveled considerably around the world I knew that the best way to understand people from different cultures is through their food and drink. Therefore, I wanted to create something that would be more than just a series of lectures and wine tastings.
The best way to understand people from different cultures is through their food and drink.
I wanted something that would help our students connect with one another and understand where they come from. As an institute we already offer Masterclasses, which can sometimes be formal affairs with the main focus being learning about a specific product or developing particular skills. These are led by external industry experts and are of great value to our students.
So I wanted to do something different. I wanted to start a society where the content was largely facilitated by our students (the logo is actually designed by one of the students). This would be an informal group for students with a passion for beverages and a curiosity about different cultures - as an international hospitality institute, we can sometimes have students from more than 60 countries studying with us at once. From this concept, the “Drinks Cabinet” was born.
It started off slowly. In our first term only 10 students joined and the content was largely created by myself. In the second term the numbers increased and the students started to bring beverages from their home countries, inciting discussions about the drinking cultures they came from and beverages they grew up with.
Years later, the Drinks Cabinet has a major problem. If students don’t sign up within the first few days of term, then all of the places are filled. We regularly have to tell more than twenty students a term that we simply don’t have space for them. A second storage cabinet had to be purchased, as the one we began with was simply not enough to contain the bottles of exotic spirits and liqueurs brought in from around the world; Pisco from Peru, aged Gin from Finland, Japanese whisky, cachaça from Brazil, and far too much rum - not to mention the bottles which we have no idea what they are because we don’t understand the language.
The students give amazing presentations, share stories and teach each other the toasts that are given when certain drinks are consumed.
This has created a student body that has become closer, more inclusive and more open minded to different cultures.
More importantly, membership is open to all students, so we have students just starting their undergraduate degree interacting with students about to complete their master's. This has created a student body that is closer, more inclusive, and more open minded to different cultures. As a leading hospitality institute, fostering this kind of culture among our students is just as important as the degrees they are here to obtain.
Peter Slade was a lecturer at Hotel Institute Montreux for over 6 years and is the admired founder of the Drinks Cabinet. Since his departure in 2021, the club has been run with great success by HIM lecturer Jérémie Laurent.