A tasty competition between PSU and St. Anselm College challenged business students to create a new dessert for the Common Man family of restaurants in New Hampshire. Diners ultimately decided the final winner based on total sales—Aunt Alice’s Chocolate Raspberry Cheesecake, created by PSU team Dessert Storm.
PSU Professor of Business Bonnie Bechard designed the contest to give students in her Organizational Behavior course an opportunity to develop teamwork skills and build real-life business experience. To add an ingredient of friendly competition, Bechard’s husband, Dr. Thomas Fitzpatrick, a professor at St. Anselm College, implemented the same apprentice program with his students. Fitzpatrick had done an apprentice program with Toys R Us the previous year.
Bechard explains the idea for a restaurant competition came from an episode of the television show “The Apprentice,” in which contestants worked with Burger King to help market a product. She contacted her former student, Jason Lyon ’94, CEO of The Common Man, and he was eager to participate.
After facing The Common Man’s panel of judges in early November, five semifinalists were chosen: two teams from Plymouth and three from St. Anselm. Dessert Storm (Kyle Allen, Graham Hoffman, Jessica Moyer, Kelly Piontkowski and Trevor Hall) concocted a variation on a secret family cheesecake recipe from Kelly’s aunt. They also surveyed Common Man customers about what desserts they typically order and which of the team’s choices sounded most appealing. PSU team Sweet Success (Crystal Acheson, Ellen Blakely, Kimberly Rudolph and Dennis Ventola) took second runner up for their Autumn Harvest Cake, a chocolate spice cake with hot fudge and a caramel drizzle instead of frosting. First runner up was Saint A’s “Corporate Kitchen” team with their Brown Sugar Cake.
Says Lyon, “I’ve seen one or two desserts that definitely could be on the permanent menu at The Common Man.”—Michele Barney Hutchins
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