Bethel’s food service seeks to set itself apart by offering new experiences
News | Greta Sowles
Chef Jeff LaBeau will bring his celebrated flavors to the DC on Feb. 27. | Photo for The Clarion courtesy of chefjefflabeau.com
Head executive chef Justin Kaderlik wants Bethel to be different. Previously the overseer of the dining services at six other colleges, Kaderlik has been on a mission to set Bethel’s food service apart since he joined the staff three years ago.
He started by changing simple things, such as introducing a Taquería, improving the soup bar and serving more topping options for hamburgers. Gradually, he began to widen the cuisine variety with additional global foods.
In order to continue transforming Bethel’s menu, Kaderlik has invited long-time friend and well-known chef Jeff LaBeau to visit Bethel. On Wednesday, Feb. 27, LaBeau will be in command of the Dining Center during lunch, serving a number of his own restaurant recipes.
Speaking in anticipation of the event, Kaderlik highlighted that in addition to serving fresh and local ingredients, Bethel’s menu needs to be exciting for both the students and the kitchen staff. “If I don’t keep my staff motivated and continuing to learn new things, then you students are never going to get out of your normal rut of corn dogs and chicken strips,” he said.
Tentatively, LaBeau’s menu will be served at lunch for students to try. Following lunch, he will remain around for a meet-and-greet in the main atrium from 2-4 p.m. LaBeau’s menu will feature items such as grilled salmon sliders, a caramelized walnut and Craisin chicken salad, and molten chocolate cake for dessert.
Often in the DC, students seem to avoid the global food lines, afraid to venture away from salad, pizza or pasta. While Kaderlik understands that this may be a concern for LaBeau’s visit, he is not nervous. “You’re not in high school anymore,” Kaderlik said. “You deserve better than that. As we continue with our food here, you’re gonna see things you’re never going to see at any other college.”
LaBeau is general manager of the Depot Bar & Grill and co-owner of the Cheese Cave in Faribault, Minn. He has a list of accomplishments, winning 2001 ACF Chef of the Year – Minneapolis chapter, and being inducted into the American Academy of Chefs, the prestigious honor society of the American Culinary Federation.
LaBeau said that being inducted into the American Academy of Chefs was one of his biggest accomplishments. “It happened to me when I was 41 years old, and it happens to most chefs when they are about 60.”
When LaBeau opened the Depot Bar & Grill in 1992, Kaderlik was working in close proximity at a small breakfast restaurant. The two restaurants often shared supplies, which is how LaBeau and Kaderlik first met. The pair also connected at Le Cordon Bleu, the culinary college where Kaderlik studied and LaBeau was a mentor and cooking coach. They have remained distant friends. “He’s a friend of mine, and we still stay in contact every once in awhile,” Kaderlik said.
Kaderlik insists that improvements in food are aimed at the current students rather than prospective students. “We want to strive for perfection, and we continue to do so by doing these global events and bringing in guest chefs,” he said.
Students coming to the DC that day should expect restaurant-quality food, as they should every day. Although it will only be a small taste, students will experience fresh, regional ingredients.
As Jeff LaBeau, he must muster the courage to face the culture shock of a college campus. “This guy’s a restaurant guy," Kaderlik said. "He doesn’t know what we’re running here.”
LaBeau, however, asserted that he was not nervous. “I do a lot of stuff across the country with elementary and high school,” he said. “I am on the stage, and I do what I do.”
While LaBeau may not be accustomed to the large volume of food being served, both he and Kaderlik want to assure students that the quality will be exceptional. “I want to give something back to Justin – to help him become a better chef and to help him help his people become better cooks,” said LaBeau.
Through this invitation, the DC continues its pursuit of perfection – just one way that Bethel sets itself apart.