After honing his skills in fine-dining restaurants, country clubs and a stint in Milan, Italy, Tyler Betzhold, CEC, has found his niche as senior catering chef at the University of Richmond in Virginia.
The hours may be less grueling in C&U foodservice than in commercial restaurants, but there is still plenty of challenge in a catering program with annual sales of about $1.5 million. The gamut runs from box lunches to wedding receptions to deluxe sit-down dinners with dishes like Dijon-marinated pork tenderloin with butternut squash and spinach sauté, apricot Israeli couscous and cranberry demi-glace.
“The university is a place where I can use all of my different experiences,” says Betzhold. “You do everything from a cheese platter to a meal for foreign dignitaries. It is really incredibly varied.”
What is your culinary philosophy?
I am a 100-percent-from-scratch kind of guy. I’m not saying we do that, because we can’t make everything here. But it is a big motivator for us to think about how to make things here and how to make things better. For example, we make our own pickles from cucumbers grown in our campus garden. We smoke all of our meats in house. One of my sous chefs has become phenomenal at making ice creams. For next year, I’m working with a new baker on desserts which will be as close to organic as we can get and also avoid refined sugars and bleached flours.
What was the biggest difference for you in moving from restaurants to the university?
You have a life. In the restaurant world, you say good-bye to everyone you love in December. When you are in the university setting, you get to spend time with everyone you love. You still have your busy times, but not so many nights until two in the morning. I would definitely say it is more conducive to family life.
What areas of advancement are you focusing on in catering?
Over the past four years, we have really tried to dissect and examine every ingredient in every recipe to understand why we’re using it and how we’re using it. We ask if it is better to make a product from scratch or to outsource it. Looking at portion sizes has been a big drive for us, too. Maybe before we were serving a two-ounce hors d’oeuvre, now we’re doing a one-ounce. That reduces the waste and the additional cost to customers and to us, so it’s a win-win. And I was just in a spice store picking out three different kinds of cinnamon from around the world, so we can have the distinct flavors that set us apart.