From student to university faculty

Dr Gabriel Laeis completed his bachelor’s degree in hotel management at IUBH in 2009. Ten years later, he returns to the campus in Bad Honnef – as a lecturer in the Hospitality Department.

 

I began to develop my passion for food and hospitality back during my school days. I learned to cook in an Italian restaurant and enjoyed it tremendously. Actually, I would now have to say that cooking is my hobby! But it is much more than that: Cooking is a way of life. I don’t eat anything that my grandmothers would not have recognized as being food. My enthusiasm for topics like this led me to train as a hotel specialist. Afterwards I decided to study hotel management at the then still young IUBH. I had no idea at the time that I would return here ten years later to teach hospitality as a lecturer.

Anything is possible at IUBH

Why did I decide to study at IUBH after my vocational training? IUBH is and was unbeatable in Germany! For those who are doing an apprenticeship in the hotel sector and are interested in continuing their education for higher management, then this is absolutely the right place. Personally, I was particularly attracted to the variety in the curriculum. As part of my IUBH studies, I worked at the Kempinski Hotel in Beijing, learned Mandarin, did an internship at a hotel management consultancy in Munich, studied in Melbourne for a year, and did various part-time jobs in hotels and restaurants – all within just four years. I thought that the opportunity to develop in this way was unique – and I still think that today. At IUBH, anything is possible – it all depends on what you do with it!

My doctoral thesis: The connection between agriculture and gastronomy

How good a dish that a chef prepares tastes, depends heavily on the abilities of the farmer who produces the raw ingredients used in the dish. After my bachelor’s degree, this very important but unfortunately often overlooked connection between agriculture and gastronomy led me to the University of Hohenheim, where I completed my master’s degree in Organic Agriculture and Food Systems. This is where I learnt an incredible amount about agriculture and sustainability. For my master thesis, I was in South Africa and investigated the link between a 5-star lodge and an agricultural development project for unemployed women. That was demanding, but also very enriching. The master’s degree opened up the option to pursue a doctorate, with the result that I completed my doctorate on sustainable development, in New Zealand, and did my field research in Fiji. I investigated how the cuisine of a large resort affects small farmers in the region. In other words, how can 5-star mass tourism facilitate local development of the rural population? In times of overtourism, climate change and rampant poverty in developing countries, this was and is a hot topic.

Back to the roots

After my doctorate, my attention was drawn back to IUBH again because a lecturer from the founding team of the university retired and his position was vacant. Having studied at IUBH meant that I already had a “four-year interview” behind me. Many of my former professors are still there today. They gave me a lot of support during the application process and welcomed me unbelievably warmly to the team. It’s great fun and an honour to be able to now teach alongside them. As my “Alma Mater”, I have a special relationship to IUBH: It has shaped me, given me a lot and I am pleased to make the same opportunities possible for current students. I also like being in Rhineland!

IUBH is like a rocket test

Some people ask, “Hospitality – do you need to get a degree to become a waiter?” No, you don’t have to – but if you want to go beyond that, you have to! There is so much more to the business. It’s about understanding and managing the many facets of providing services. That is the core. My former classmates now work in many different areas, ranging from a hotel company to the Apple Store. They all have one thing in common: they can offer their guests and customers an enriching experience. For me, the education at IUBH is like a rocket test: As professors, we fill our students’ rockets with the best fuel – and they can fly anywhere. But it’s up to each student to set the course and ignite the rocket. Those who dare to do this and have a plan in their pocket should join us at IUBH.

 

Dr Gabriel Laeis is 37 years old and was born in Cologne. After training as a hotel specialist, he studied hotel management at IUBH. In 2019, Dr Laeis returned to IUBH as a lecturer, where he teaches hospitality. When he is not giving a lecture or standing in the kitchen, Dr Laeis grows vegetables and herbs in his garden, practices taekwondo, plays drums or goes hiking.

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