Real hands-on learning

One of the core values at NSCC is hands-on learning. Rather than just teaching the learners in our classrooms how to do something, we actually get them to do it. Last night was hands-on learning on a grand scale. Our tourism and culinary teams fed 292 people at a Tribute to the Honourable MP Peter MacKay, with former Prime Minister Brian Mulroney (or “Ben’s Dad” to some of the students) featured as keynote speaker. Tickets were $300 per plate and it was an event that many of them may never experience the likes of again.

One of the things we teach in our program is confidentiality, so I won’t go into too many details, but I will say that it was a lovely -but long – evening. The Final Touch in Stellarton did a beautiful job of transforming our campus gym into a ballroom, and the tourism class set the tables in blue & white. Attendees began the evening in the cafeteria where the volunteer fire department ran a bar and we served hors d’oeuvres with some live jazz setting the mood. Dinner was a mixed green salad with balsamic vinagrette, boneless cornish game hens stuffed with cranberry rice pilaf and a wild mushroom sauce served with tomato veggie baskets, then lemon meringue cheese cake with creme anglaise and raspberry coulis for dessert.

Some of us did get to meet the former Prime Minister (he came over to me and shook my hand!) and both Jamie Baillie and Peter MacKay were kind enough to join us upstairs in private after the celebration to chat and take photos. Each student will receive a letter from Peter MacKay to put into their Portfolios.

When people ask me what the best part of running a B&B is, my answer is always the people we host. We never know who we will have sleeping in our home, or having breakfast at our table. Over the past 11 years, we’ve had many interesting and accomplished people stay with us and we welcome each and every guest with equal enthusiasm. We had the conversation with our learners that regardless of their own political stripes, each guest needed be treated with respect and discretion. We needn’t have worried. The event went very well and the team rose to the occasion.

Hands-on learning at its best!

Nostalgia in Central Nova

Nostalgia in Central Nova

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The lights are up and Kelsey adds final touches to the tables before the guests arrive.

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Chef Gilles Godin oversees his learners.

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While tourism was prepping the dining room; culinary was prepping the food. (I couldn’t believe how calm it was in the kitchen – what a team!)

Margaret (Office Admin), Heather (Business Admin), Samantha (Office Admin) at the coat check. Photo credit: Deanna Belliveau, Business Admin

Margaret (Office Admin), Heather (Business Admin), Samantha (Office Admin) at the coat check. Photo credit: Deanna Belliveau, Business Admin

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Table settings before rolls, salads, dressings, menus, etc. were added. The culinary students made NSCC chocolate bars as a take-away favour for each guest.

Michaela, Tourism Management, gets ready to serve. Photo credit: Deanna Belliveau, Business Administration

Michaela, Tourism Management, gets ready to serve. Photo credit: Deanna Belliveau, Business Administration

Plating 300 desserts

Plating 300 desserts (Photo credit: Deanna Belliveau)

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Former Prime Minister Brian Mulroney, had to leave after his keynote address, but took the time to come and acknowledge us.

Part of the Tourism and Culinary team with Jamie Baillie, Leader of the Provincial Conservative Party

Part of the Tourism and Culinary team with Jamie Baillie, Leader of the Provincial Conservative Party and Senator Tom McInnis

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Most of the Tourism & Culinary team (along with Business & Office Administration volunteers) with the Honourable Peter MacKay, Senator Tom McInnis and his wife, Brenda. I made it into this one!

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Chef Gilles Godin and the Honourable MP Peter MacKay

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Chef Gilles Godin with former Prime Minister Brian Mulroney

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We are a learning facility. It’s unconventional, but we manage to get the job done. Students, faculty and the Academic Chair working on getting the dishes cleared! (The automotive shop became the dish pit!)

Bringing the Tourism Industry Together

At the end of last week, I represented the Nova Scotia Bed & Breakfast Association (NSBBA) at the Tourism Industry Association of Nova Scotia (TIANS) annual general meeting (AGM). Each year the AGM is held at different locations around the province, and last year it was held in Truro. In fact, five of the B&B’s in Truro – including Belgravia – made breakfast for the 120 participants. 🙂  This year, the AGM was held at White Point Beach Resort in Liverpool, Nova Scotia.

In November of 2011, the main lodge at White Point was destroyed by fire. The owners decided to rebuild, using as many local trades, crafts people, and supplies as possible. They consulted with their long-time guests regarding design, and let the world watch the rebuild through Nova Scotia webcams. The result is spectacular! They did an excellent job of maintaining the “feel” of the old lodge, yet were able to improve on many things. And with a setting like this, how can you go wrong?

View from the front porch of the cabin.

View from the front porch of the cabin.

We met for two days of meetings and socialization, trying to determine as an industry how we can improve our product for our guests. We are working on issues such as lobbying the government for an “open skies” agreement which would make airline access more plentiful, easier to access, and most importantly –  more affordable! Another important issue we’re working on is to have a ferry link between New England and Nova Scotia restored – the sooner the better! We also are continuously working towards improved signage and roads. What makes meetings like the TIANS AGM critical, is that we have all sectors of the tourism industry from B&B’s to large hotels to festival and event coordinators to tour operators to restaurant owners to winery owners, to the Regional Tourism Industry Associations, all working together with government. The new Minister of the Nova Scotia Department of Economic and Rural Development and Tourism, Graham Steele, was present and was listening. Pat Sullivan, CEO of the Nova Scotia Tourism Agency was doing the same. There is a real feeling of camaraderie as we all work together.

It wasn’t all work though – we shared some wonderful meals together courtesy of White Point. After dinner, we roasted s’mores (Graham crackers, marshmallows and chocolate melted together) over the fire in the main lodge. Since the rain held off, there was also a bonfire outside on the beach after dark.

As part of the business meeting, we said welcome to three new board members: Sheri MacKillop, Dean of the School of Business at NSCC, Carl Sparkes, owner of Jost and Gaspereau Wineries, and Andrew Alkenback, general Manager of Cabot Links Resort. Unfortunately, this also meant we had to say goodbye to board members who are finished their terms. Last year, when our terms were finished, Danny Morton of White Point and I were made “Tourism Senators” (that title seemed much more illustrious at this time last year!) and were each given an article of clothing made from Dress Nova Scotia tartan. This year, Danny & I were able to do the same for our three retiring board members: Earlene Busch, Chanterelle Country Inn, Grant MacDonald, Events Nova Scotia, and Tom Ruth, Halifax International Airport Authority.

Wearing our "Tourism Senate" attire.

Wearing our “Tourism Senate” attire.

It’s always refreshing and enriching to get together with members of the Nova Scotia tourism industry as a whole, and I was especially excited to get to experience the new and improved White Point. I am looking forward to going back with the family soon on our own Nova Scotia travel adventure!