Schlegel Brothers Bring Restaurant Expertise to Capstone Course
Jon (left) and Adam Schlegel work with students in the capstone course for the food and beverage concentration. (Photo: Wayne Armstrong)
The other night, Jon Schlegel had two students over for dinner at his home. He had to kick them out when it got too late so he could get some rest before class the next day. Back in November, Jon took two students to Piedmont, Italy, on a wine-tasting tour through his former stomping grounds. As students file into class, he asks another where her family ended up going for her birthday dinner. Recognizing the place, Jon asks what she ordered and comments approvingly on her excellent choice. Yet another student walks in, and Jon meets her at the door for a quick conversation about a possible industry connection.
Open a course guide and you’ll learn that DU alums and sibling duo Jon and Adam Schlegel are cooking up the capstone course for the food and beverage concentration in DU’s Fritz Knoebel School of Hospitality Management, and that they expect students to create a business plan for a new restaurant concept. What you won’t learn is how Jon and Adam take students out of the classroom and into the restaurant world, immersing them in food, wine, service, sustainability and a life they both have found fulfilling.
When it was first announced that the Schlegels would co-teach the course, students were buzzing, excited to learn from the dynamic partners who created and grew Denver’s popular brunch spot Snooze. After watching Jon successfully co-teach the class in the past, David Corsun, the school’s director, convinced Adam to come aboard.
Since day one, the partnership has been a harmonious one. “What Jon conceived of and Adam helped execute is a very successful restaurant concept,” Corsun says. “Our current generation of students values sustainability they are seeking balance in their lives; and they want to be in an organization they can derive meaning from. To have founders of such an organization educate them seems like a smart thing to do.”
Jon and Adam started planning their syllabus by thinking about their own time at DU and how to mesh academics with the experience-based food industry. “We thought, let’s build this syllabus, but let’s augment it with a real estate expert that has helped us at Snooze, or go into a kitchen of a broadliner who has helped us formulate our menu,” says Adam. Adds Jon: “If you go to a kitchen and do a real tasting like a real chef at any Denver restaurant, you learn what it’s like to not just taste the food, but visually look at the food, smell the food, understand the textures, so you know how to taste as you go forward in your career.”
This philosophy has created a class unlike any the seven seniors in the food and beverage concentration have taken, says student Paige McNeil, who joined Jon on his Piedmont trip last year. “It’s almost learning through osmosis. It’s always fun to get out and actually see things in real life. Instead of just reading about them, you can see them in action.”
For the brothers, getting to know the students on a personal level has been the biggest treat. “I’ve been impressed with the confidence that the students carry themselves with. It’s really just a sense of awareness,” says Adam. “They’ve thought things through, and they’ve been given opportunities to speak publicly, to think outside the box, to touch and feel different things that make them more than just walking textbook recitations.”
For Jon and Adam, teaching has been a meaningful way to reengage with the University, and they hope to continue to stay connected and give back. “At the University of Denver, the intimacy is what you come here for,” says Jon. “You’re not just going to school for four years, you’re going to school for the rest of your life. You’re part of the Pioneer community.”