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Serving Exceptional Meals at the University of Richmond

One of the many  benefits to the iVario Pro is the ease of cleaning the unit.One of the many benefits to the iVario Pro is the ease of cleaning the unit.The culinary team at the University of Richmond, a private liberal arts university in Richmond, Va., shows a deep dedication to providing students with exceptional meals. “Some people refer to us as a cafeteria. We are not,” says Executive Chef Tyler Betzhold. “We are a dining facility providing very high quality for the student body and the population here.” 

Executive Director of Dining Terry Baker explains that today’s college students demand quality. “Students are more knowledgeable about the preparation of food and foodways. They expect good food with global origins, and they desire excellence.”

The university serves between 4,000 and 5,000 meals daily, so its challenge was how to execute high-volume production while maintaining the high standards of quality, creativity and flavor that its students demand.

Saving Time and Labor

To take on this challenge, the University of Richmond turned to RATIONAL — specifically, the RATIONAL iVario Pro and iCombi Pro. Both Baker and Betzhold already knew and trusted RATIONAL equipment. “I’ve had RATIONAL wherever I’ve worked in my professional career,” says Baker. “To me, they have always been the benchmark for success.”

In the dining hall kitchen, Betzhold has five iVario Pro XL units. They allow him to prepare large batches of food quickly and easily. His overall production time has been cut by half and in some cases by nearly 90% when the pressurization option is used. For example, the dining hall’s chicken tinga recipe starts with 200 pounds of chicken which is braised in RATIONAL iCombi Pro units until caramelized. The chicken is then transferred to the iVario Pro, where liquid and spices are added, and it undergoes pressure cooking until finished. A process that once took three-and-a-half hours now produces perfect product in an astonishing 20 minutes.

Not only does it save time, but the combination of the iVario Pro and the iCombi Pro saves labor for the university as well. Tasks that formerly took a number of crew members can now be performed by just one or two people — an important consideration when labor can be tough to find. And, says Betzhold, “It’s freed up the team to be focusing on the flavors and the quality more, to get more in depth and [have] a better understanding of the recipe itself.”

University of Richmond 7 1Executive Chef Tyler Betzhold shows the tender chicken prepared in his RATIONAL iCombi Pro.

An Efficient Kitchen

The culinary team manages its kitchen workflow and custom recipes on the RATIONAL ConnectedCooking app. With the app, new recipes can be uploaded as needed, and all HACCP information is all in one place and can be downloaded into a PDF. The RATIONAL equipment consumes less energy and water, and also radiates less heat back into the kitchen for a more pleasant working environment. 

At the University of Richmond, the RATIONAL iCombi Pro and iVario Pro are bringing efficiency to the kitchens across campus. “We have a kitchen that’s open 15 hours a day, with nine chefs a day and numerous cooks,” says Baker. “Our staff really wants to do their best, and these pieces of equipment help make it happen.”