Fort Bend Chamber, Sugar Land Wine & Food Affair Inspire Future Hospitality


Keri Schmidt, Quinn Farrah, Vi-An Nguyen, John Bowen, Renu Khator, James Thompson, Calli Oreschnigg, Samantha Dignazio, Katie Proctor, Amy Mitchell, Regina Morales, Krystal Peay and Joe Zimmerman.

Keri Schmidt, Quinn Farrah, Vi-An Nguyen, John Bowen, Renu Khator, James Thompson, Calli Oreschnigg, Samantha Dignazio, Katie Proctor, Amy Mitchell, Regina Morales, Krystal Peay and Joe Zimmerman.

Through the Sugar Land Wine & Food Affair, the Fort Bend Chamber of Commerce has inspired and influenced the careers of hospitality students at the University of Houston Conrad N. Hilton College of Hotel and Restaurant Management for more than 10 years.

In 2014, those experiential-learning opportunities will be bigger, better and more intensive than ever before, thanks to the continued growth of the festival and a newly-minted student-leadership team.

After a rigorous application and interview process, Krystal Peay, director of the Sugar Land Wine & Food Affair and alumnae of Hilton College, hand-picked a team of 15 students – twice the size of the inaugural student team in 2013 – to assist her in the planning and execution of the popular five-day festival.

“These students are some of the best Hilton College has to offer. Last year was the first year we involved a team of student leaders, and it was a great success. We had several students launch careers through the connections and experience they gained at our event,” Peay said. With the expanded team and the new, specifically tailored leadership roles we’ve established for them, we’ll be able to provide the ultimate experiential-learning opportunity for these promising young leaders.”

The students will meet weekly with Peay at the UH Sugar Land campus. Under her guidance, they will be responsible for developing and directing specific aspects of the festival; managing a team of 200 other student volunteers once the event is underway and serving as intermediaries between the Fort Bend Chamber and Hilton College, the Sugar Land Wine & Food Affair’s producing partners.

It’s a relationship that has flourished as the festival has grown. The college provides an eager pool of industry-savvy volunteers to help the chamber with the logistics of such a large-scale event, and proceeds from the Sugar Land Wine & Food Affair benefit a permanent scholarship endowment at the college.

“The chamber is proud to have the opportunity to give back to the community and positively influence the careers of deserving students through the scholarship endowment and our relationship with the University of Houston and Hilton College,” Keri Schmidt, president of the Fort Bend Chamber of Commerce, said. “This is the most-anticipated event in the City of Sugar Land for a reason, and we’re excited to see what the future holds.”

The Sugar Land Wine & Food Affair is the largest food and wine festival in the region, featuring top chefs and renowned vintners and brewmasters from all over the country and attracting more than 7,000 visitors annually. The 2014 events is scheduled for April 23rd – 27th. For more information, visit www.sugarlandwineandfoodaffair.com.