Wheeling Jesuit University students got a taste of Korea, Japan, and Cuba during a recent Traveling Chefs experience provided by Parkhurst Dining Services.
The global menu was part of the university's International Education Week, Nov. 15-19. Chefs Scott Rattan and John Hevesi, along with university Executive Chef Beau Dittmar prepared three dishes popular in the three countries. Students were invited to try tuna roll (sushi) from Japan, Bi Bim Bap (beef with vegetables) from Korea and Cuban sandwich bites made with roasted pork and ham.
"This is probably one of my favorite menus we've done so far," said Dittmar, who added Parkhurst hosts a Traveling Chefs day for students once a semester. "It's the most flexible for the chefs, the most flavorful and most crowd-pleasing."
The three dishes were prepared while students looked on. The most popular seemed to be the sushi, as Rattan of Capital University in Columbus wrapped, rolled and sliced quickly to keep up with the demand. Rattan said he enjoys traveling to different Parkhurst locations several times a year.
Part of the Traveling Chefs' purpose is to provide a culinary "education" as they describe the fresh ingredients and local agriculture used to prepare the selections, according to Parkhurst, which is based in Pittsburgh and is a division of Eat'n Park Hospitality Group.
"As culinarians, we also have to be educators. Even if (guests) want burgers and hot dogs all the time, it's your job to present to them other dishes and try to make them broaden their horizons," Dittmar said.
Chef John Hevesi talked to students and other guests as he expertly handled a wok at the Bi Bim Bap station. The dish features fresh carrots, spinach, zucchini and red peppers stir-fried with beef marinated in soy sauce, garlic, ginger and red chilies. The mixture is served over basmati rice and the crowning touch is a fresh egg, fried over-easy.
Hevesi works at the Sterling Jewelers complex in Akron, where Parkhurst manages dining services for 2,500 full-time employees and another 500-600 temporary workers during the holiday season.
Jay Park, a Wheeling Jesuit University senior who was born in Korea, was one of the students waiting in line and watching Hevesi cook. When his friends asked him about the dish, Park replied: "It's legit."
"Parkhurst is really big about truth in menu," Dittmar said. "They strive to be authentic, and it really shows."
Dittmar, a Wheeling Central Catholic High School graduate who has cooked at Jesuit for 13 years, himself participates in the Traveling Chefs program about four times a year. He has shared his culinary skills with Capital University, Washington and Jefferson University, Allegheny College in Meadville, Mercyhurst-North East and Philadelphia University. He said the program stretches the chefs and encourages them to learn from each other.