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College of Hospitality Studies

Sullivan University Chefs & Students Shape Louisville Culture by Making Taste of Derby Possible

For more than five years, Sullivan University has partnered with Churchill Downs to participate in Taste of Derby, a celebration of cuisine and the road to the Kentucky Derby. This year, the event will be held on May 3rd at the KFC YUM! Center, but for Sullivan’s Hospitality department, the preparations start earlier.

Beginning on Tuesday, Sullivan will host chefs on campus with a guest chef demonstration by Victor Scargle, representing El Camino Real Derby at Golden Gate Fields. Then, they begin prep with the chefs and their student teams on Wednesday and Thursday.

On Thursday evening, the real fun begins at the YUM! Center. Guests show up for an exciting night of spending time with horse-racing celebrities, trying out exquisite food and drinks, live music and a live chef cooking showdown competition.

Sullivan’s own chef Allen Akmon is always excited about the University’s partnership with Churchill Downs for the event. “This is when the NCHS (National Center for Hospitality Studies) star shines brightest and we can really show some of the top chefs from our nation exactly who we are and just how great Sullivan University is,” Akmon said.

“It is amazing to watch the students working side by side with some of their idols. It is rare in any culinary career to get to experience that. I love to see the look on the winning student competitor’s face when they find out that they are the champion and I especially love the feeling of success for myself, the students and the school when I hear and see how well our students perform and represent us and the industry.”

The event is held to raise funds and awareness for hunger relief organizations. According to the official Kentucky Derby website, over $275,000 has been contributed to hunger relief so far. Proceeds from the event go to a number of different charitable organizations, including the Dare to Care Food Bank.

“If you are a foodie, a food network junkie or just someone who likes to see and be with the in crowd, this is a can’t miss event,” Akmon said. “It is rare to find this much chef talent in one place, highlighting what they do best. Not only that, but getting up close and personal with these celebrity chefs provides for some interesting conversation to say the least.”

If you’re interested in learning more about our hospitality programs, visit our NCHS webpage for more information.