Most of the executive chefs in Virginia Tech’s Dining Services start their days long before sunrise. By the time 8 a.m. classes begin, most chefs have already been on their feet in the kitchen for hours.
Today, students will get to see the faces behind Tech’s nationally ranked food and get a glimpse of what the chefs do best at the Chef’s Premier in Owens Dining Hall.
This year's premier, Chef's Table: A Local Gathering, will showcase dishes prepared by the head chefs with local ingredients, a culinary aspect that is prominent for campus sustainability efforts.
Although each chef brings a different history and menu to the event, their passion for using locally grown food and satisfying their customers unites them as one group. The five executive chefs participating in Chef’s Premier are as much a part of the showcase as the food itself.
Randall Van Dyke, executive chef of Dietrick Dining Hall
Although Chef Randall Van Dyke grew up surrounded by family members who cooked, he first entered the restaurant world as a dishwasher. After eventually climbing toward a management position, Van Dyke realized that culinary school was his next destination. For a chef, though, culinary school is only the beginning.
“You can only learn so much in culinary school,” he said.
Van Dyke has served the Tech community for five years. In that time, he has continued to build upon the foundations of knowledge that real-world experience has given him. According to Van Dyke, a chef must also be an artist, a scientist and a psychologist to do his job well.
But Van Dyke knows he can’t change someone’s day alone. Just as his kitchen and student staff workers contribute to D2’s day-to-day successes, they have also contributed to the planning and production of Van Dyke’s Chef’s Premier menu.
“The excitement is getting to go out there and show the talents of my staff,” Van Dyke said. “I’m not doing this all on my own, this is a team effort.”
Mark Moritz, executive chef of Turner Place at Lavery Hall
There’s no doubt Chef Mark Moritz skips lunch often.
Moritz spends his mornings sampling every dish that will be served at Turner Place in Lavery Hall, which keeps him full until dinner.
Moritz is responsible for filleting more than 60 pounds of fish, baking sourdough bread for all of the restaurants and preparing breakfast before 10:30 a.m.
Nearly all of Turner Place’s food is cooked from scratch in the dining hall kitchen. This means cooks handle every ingredient that goes into the food rather than opening a frozen box and reheating its contents in the oven.
“There’s no pride [in that],” Moritz said. “Anybody can open a box…when you see all of that process happen before your eyes, I mean, how can you not be happy?”
Moritz said he has already accomplished his goals for Turner Place, but he has bigger goals for Tech’s entire campus. In the long run, he wants to unite all of Dining Services to the same philosophy on cooking that he holds.
“I can honestly say that I have never, ever had a day when I did not look forward to coming to work,” Moritz said. “I dream about food. I kid you not.”
John Scherer, executive chef of Owens Dining Hall