UR chefs prepared global meals for International Education Week

UR chefs thought globally, sourced locally to create a planet friendly menu

November 28, 2023

University News

Executive Chef Tyler Betzhold and the Dining Services team have dished out authentic culinary fare for International Education Week since 2017, with its spotlight on Denmark. Since then, South Africa, East Asia, India, Chile, and New Zealand have been at the center of the celebrations, challenging the team to authentically represent the diverse histories and cultures of the featured countries and regions. 

This year, however, feeding the roughly 2,000 who attend the annual international dinner — and those who partake of the week’s worldly lunch specials — posed a unique challenge as programming explored local and global sustainability. Unlike previous years that focused on a single country, scholars and activists from Denmark, Japan, South Africa, and New Zealand returned to campus to serve as ambassadors for a more sustainable future.  

“They’re not only different countries but different continents with different flavor profiles,” Betzhold said. “It’s pretty intensive, the research and development that goes into these specific meals, because we know we’re representing not only the University but also the students from these areas.”

Students sampled food from around the world during International Education Week.

Betzhold and his team taste-tested a variety of foods to create menu items with flavor profiles that reminded UR’s international students of home. The team also strove to balance authenticity with sustainability, identifying locally sourced alternatives for meats, cheeses, and produce to minimize the reliance on imports.

The team used native Virginia fish in the noodle bowls of Japan, sausage from Alexandria in the Gatsby sandwich of South Africa, and cheeses from throughout the state that are variations of those produced in the partner countries.

“We wanted to minimize importing items in from the four countries, because it doesn’t make sense to be sustainable and then ship everything in from around the world,” he said.

Despite the complexities faced, Betzhold hoped the International Week dining experience offered students a deeper understanding of different cultures and communities.

“Food is culture,” he said. “Breaking bread is the essence of community.”