For students in Bill Hansen’s Catering Management class at the Chaplin School of Hospitality Management, it becomes immediately apparent that this course won’t just involve academic theory in what is becoming one of the fast growing industries in the country.

As the CEO and founder of Coconut Grove-based Bill Hansen Luxury Catering & Event Planning, he has many lessons to impart to these aspiring students. And, there’s no better place than combining the academics and theory with hands-on learning experiences.

This year, as part of the curriculum, Hansen’s class of 28 students will be planning, organizing, and producing the “Palette of Taste” to benefit Touching Miami With Love. This Christian-based non-profit has been inspiring, educating, and empowering communities for 20 years by providing a safe haven from negative influences for the youths and adults of Overtown and West Homestead.

The event will be held on Wednesday, Dec. 2 from 6 – 9 p.m. at Florida International University (FIU) Wine Spectator Restaurant Management Lab at the Biscayne Campus.

“There is no better way for students to understand catering management than to dive in and put together a quality event,” said Hansen, who has been teaching at FIU since 1990. “This is a growing business – that of catering and event planning – and these students will walk away having orchestrated every aspect of an event for this important organization.”

In addition to organizing the event, students are also expected to sell at least 10 tickets and secure one donation for the silent auction or a sponsorship.

“This will be a real-life experience and the students are motivated because they understand the value of giving back to the community and helping these young people by providing funding and resources,” said Hansen. “Our hope is to raise a significant amount of money and to create a quality event that will benefit this fine organization.”

Bill Hansen Luxury Catering & Event Planning has been one of the leading companies of its kind in South Florida for more than 35 years. Hansen is regarded as one of the national leaders in this industry based on the success of his company and his willingness to promote professionalism among students, employees, and members of trade organizations.

He earned a Master of Science degree in Hospitality Management from FIU. His book, Off-Premise Catering Management, is a textbook that is widely considered to be the definitive text for catering. It is used as a reference for certification by the National Association of Catering Executives and as a textbook at universities around the country including Cornell, FIU and the University of Houston. He is also a columnist for Catersource, a keynote speaker at national conferences for caterers and his second book on catering made its way to bookstore shelves in early 2014.

“All of us in the industry have a responsibility to educate those who want to pursue this as a career,” he said. “By combining classroom knowledge and real-life experiences we are giving them an opportunity to understand the pressures and rewards of creating events, which can include fund-raisers, weddings, corporate functions, and many others.

“Regardless of the event we must always bring our best to the table in terms of selecting the appropriate venue, music, foods, and beverages. But most important, we teach that they must bring enthusiasm and professionalism to the event.”

Hansen has the credibility and experience to influence these students since he heads up the “go to” firm for those seeking unique, one-of-a-kind venues in South Florida at more than 100 locations from Palm Beach County to Key West.

Some of the other amazing venues Hansen offers throughout South Florida include Vizcaya, the Kampong, Park Place on the Miami River, Fairchild Tropical Garden, Palm Court, the DuPont Building, The Moore Building, The Cruz Building, The Charles Deering Estate, 1111 Lincoln Road, The Gallery of Amazing Things, The Versace Mansion, The Rubell Family Collection, The Ice Palace, The Walton House, The Ancient Spanish Monastery, The Bonnet House, The Needham Estate and many more.