Global Spotlight: Wally Rande Experiencing Wine and Foods Outside His Comfort Zone

Posted: Monday, December 14th 2015 at 8:49 AM

Travel means something different to everyone. For some, it’s the opportunity to escape, and a break from the realities of the culture in which they spend their life. For others, it’s a chance at discovery–a pathway to soaking in the differences and similarities of people from another place. For Wally Rande, associate professor at the School of Hotel and Restaurant Management (SHRM) at NAU, travel means all this and more, as traveling as a wine expert might.

Rande teaches beverage classes at SHRM, and when an opportunity arose for him and his students to experience the unique regional wines of Italy, he was of course intrigued.

Through a friend teaching at the University of Houston, Rande heard of Banfi Vitners, an American company that owns wineries in Italy and that sends college students on an all-expense-paid trip to Italy for a food and wine experience. Since then, Rande has gone on the trip five times, bringing upper division hospitality students with an interest in wine with him. The trip takes participants to Banfi Vitners’ vineyards for Italian food and wine pairing.

“You go to the vineyards and you actually see the grapes. You learn how the wine is made. It’s fabulous,” Rande recalls.

He explains that geographically, the location where a certain grape is grown impacts how its wine tastes, as does the container in which it is fermented. Cultural influences also play a large part in the taste and pairing of a wine.

“Tuscan wines complement Tuscan foods. You won’t find Tuscan wines in Rome or Roman wines in Tuscany,” Rande says.

He and his students also had the opportunity to see the influences of regional culture on food by touring facilities manufacturing olive oil, as well as one making balsamic vinegar, and another making parmesan cheese.

Aside from the tours and tastings, Rande also was able to take time before and after the Banfi Vitners experiences to go on personal adventures. One year, Rande traveled to Sicily to see where his grandmother was born. On another, he toured Bordeaux, France.

He is no stranger to studying abroad, as he had his own experience with it as a college student, and knows how important these experiences are.

“I’m a really big proponent of students doing international experiences. My interest in it started when I was an undergraduate at Michigan State. The school had a study abroad program, and I went to the University of London for a semester. While I was there I also had the opportunity to travel all over Europe, and that sparked the travel bug,” he recalls.

Rande was fascinated by the way British students observed American culture. Especially when it came to American foods.

“To them, eating American food meant going to McDonald’s. And in the early eighties in London, McDonald’s was the only place you could get ice in your drink. It was also the only place they served ketchup with French fries,” he remembers. “Different cultures look at things in different ways, and I think students need to be aware of that.”

Rande also taught in an overseas study program through a partner university in Holland. He taught two seminars: one in wine, and one in beer. While he was there, he noticed the importance of multilingualism in Europe.

“You cross country borders in Europe like you cross state boarders in the U.S., so most people speak more than one language. Since I’ve been [at NAU], I’ve been a big proponent of taking more than one year of a language. In this increasingly global economy, it can only make you more marketable,” Rande says.

He also recognizes, however, that the unique situations that arise from language barriers can also be a chance to practice adaptability.

“It’s tough to be out of your comfort zone. Sometimes you’ll take the train and end up in a town where you don’t speak the language, and that forces you to be creative. You need to be inquisitive,” Rande says.

It’s that inquisitiveness and exploration that he finds most intriguing about travel.

“When we travel, we tend to want things that are familiar…You need to go places that make you uncomfortable. Experience the local culture; taste the local food, “Rande advises.

NAU has been selected to send students on another Banfi Vitners winery trip in 2017. Until then, Rande continues to teach beverage classes at NAU and to share his experiences with his students through his passion for travel and cultural immersion.


This article is part of a series on FCB Business Division and SHRM faculty and staff to highlight the international experience within the college and to promote our globalization initiatives, including the launch of the Global Business Program (GBP). Information on this program can be found HERE.



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