Thursday, November 08, 2018

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The Terra-Nova All-Suite Hotel has had a long-standing relationship with Tivoli Gardens High School. For the past few years home economics teachers have invited chefs from the hotel to conduct cooking demonstrations for the students. So, for Terra Nova managing director Ruth Hussey and her director granddaughter Christelle Harris, inviting students from the school to lunch was akin to having family over.

Yesterday, Hussey and Harris hosted nine Tivoli Gardens High School students and their teacher for day three of Applaud It! Applaud It! is a “week-long initiative that provides a unique opportunity for industry leaders to meet the next generation exactly where they are at and guide them through an awesome experience that exposes them to social and dining skills”. Head of the school's home economics department Jennifer Williams, is a 31-year Tivoli Gardens High School veteran and has spearheaded a number of initiatives that expose the students to dining etiquette. This is important as many of the students don't have dining tables at home, so receiving an etiquette foundation at school gives the students an advantage upon graduating.

There's something to be said about the dynamism between Harris and her grandmother Ruth Hussey. Not only was Harris Hussey's only grandchild for 15 years, but they also live and work together. The very close relationship was discernible around the luncheon table and this allowed many of the students to feel at ease and speak about their own families, school life and aspirations. Harris admitted that until she joined the hospitality business she didn't know that a charger was called a charger and this endeared her to the students for whom, this was their first fine dining experience. What dialled up the experience, too, was the surprise 'drop in' by Terra Nova Executive Chef Kenard Swaby.

The Terra Nova does nothing half-baked. The three-course lunch was top-notch and each student felt like a VIP. The meal started with cream of pumpkin soup and the hotel's signature garlic bread. These were followed by the main course comprised of cajun-spiced grilled snapper, chicken florentine, seasoned rice, vegetables of the market and candied plantain. So delicious! The meal ended with a trio of desserts — carrot cake, almond mousse and black forest cake. For the students, many of the luncheon items were first encounters and they embraced the novelty with admirable gusto.

As the student guests got to know Harris and Hussey, they became more forthcoming. Alex Brown is a Scout who is passionate about the environment, and represented Jamaica at a Scouts convention in Michigan. He's an avid reader and on his daily commute between Yallahs to Tivoli Gardens he's head-down in a book. This has allowed him to be teased by a number of his peers however, as Applaud It! conceptualiser and senior associate editor, lifestyle and social content, Jamaica Observer Limited Novia McDonald-Whyte encouraged: “Ignore them. Continue to invest in yourself and lift yourself up.”

Another student, Chardonnay Pusey, volunteers at the Kingston Public Hospital. While visiting her mother there as she recuperated from surgery, Pusey noticed that there were a number of patients who had no one to care for them. So, in her free time she goes to the hospital and helps such patients. Not only is her company appreciated, but she also bathes and grooms them. To this Harris noted: “No service that you do can be a disservice to others.”

It's intriguing to see how socio-economics play out in the actions of young people. So many students were surprised to realise they shared commonalities with Hussey and Harris. A number of students love Spanish which was one of Harris's favourite subjects. Fun fact: she speaks it fluently. Also surprising to the students was Hussey mentioning that she had wanted to be a nurse, but, her mother couldn't afford to fund her education. As a result, she left school at 13. At that moment it dawned on many of the youngsters that they too are greater than their circumstances. As McDonald-Whyte said: “Bloom where you are planted.”

The few hours that Hussey and Harris spent with the students around a well-laid table with white-glove service will be a memory that they will carry with them for decades. Thursday Social has highlights.

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