Sustainability: It’s What’s for Dinner at FSU

FSU Kitchen and Staff

By Angel Arrieta, FSU Sustainable Campus social media coordinator

At Florida State University, hospitality students are gaining hands-on experience in sustainable restaurant management through the Ashby Stiff Little Dinner Series. Each semester, students at the Dedman School of Hospitality enroll in catering management, where they carry on the 60-year tradition of creating a dining experience from beginning to end.

The Little Dinner Series is an upscale, four-course banquet serving 70-90 guests consisting of students, faculty, staff and community members at each event. The curriculum is developed so that each student will plan, develop and manage his or her own banquet as well as work for other student teams as stewards, cooks, servers and bar assistants.

Not only do students gain empathy for the plethora of roles in the hospitality industry, they also also learn how to be sustainable in an industry that traditionally has a large environmental footprint.

Zach Weston, faculty at Florida State University and instructor of the Little Dinner Series catering management course, teaches students how easy it is to be sustainable.

“One of my biggest goals is to demonstrate to students who will become hospitality managers and leaders just how practical and simple it is to implement a sustainable waste management strategy,” he said.

Prioritizing sustainable waste management throughout the event demonstrates the importance of sustainability in the hospitality industry to everyone who takes part in the Little Dinner Series experience.

“On our own Florida State University campus, we are paving the road to a deeper culture of sustainability one step at a time, and the opportunity to be a part of the process is great,” Weston said.

The Little Dinner Series is putting remarkable effort into sparking a revolutionary change in FSU’s hospitality program.

Weston says that “defying the status quo and operating an entire system that provides justice for our environment and FSU community is beyond groundbreaking, and students can learn to become practical leaders and create meaningful relationships with community organizations.”

The Little Dinner Series works with FSU and community organizations to adopt sustainable strategies to reduce waste in the following ways:

• Partners with FSU Food Recovery Network to donate all excess produce, dairy, and prepared foods to campus food pantries and other community organizations. “Due to the nature of the food and beverage industry, (fluctuating guest counts, possible spills, drops, etc.) we must intentionally overproduce by a small percentage, and the FSU Food Recovery Network provides a much-needed resource to convert this overproduction into meals instead of waste.”

•Works with Sundiata Ameh El, owner of local business Compost Community, to pick up all compostable waste, which amounts to over 200 pounds of waste diverted from landfills each week during the Little Dinner Series season. “The really great thing is that Sundiata turns this waste into rich soil, which is then used at iGrow Dunn Street Youth Farm to grow wholesome food for the surrounding community.”

• Partners with FSU Solid Waste & Recycling to recycle plastic, cardboard, metal, and glass. “In restaurant operations, nearly all waste is either compostable or recyclable, but so few operators prioritize waste management because it does not directly generate revenue.”

• In cases where they must utilize single-use disposables, they opt for compostable and biodegradable products.

For only $45 per ticket, you can enjoy a wonderful, sustainable evening with your FSU and Tallahassee community. There is no doubt that every Hospitality student and professional who dedicates their time to hosting these dinners honors the series’ reputation of being one of Tallahassee’s finest dining experiences.

The Spring 2017 Little Dinner Series just came to a close, but check back on its website for summer and fall 2017 dinner dates!.

Angel Arrieta is a student employee at Florida State University’s Sustainable Campus. Email him at FSU is a member of the Capital Area Sustainability Council, a forum organized by Sustainable Tallahassee to bring together organizations that have a community wide sphere of positive influence on sustainability; CASC brings you “Greening Our Community” articles. Learn more at