With a mind for both math and spices, Thompson School of Applied Science alumnus Tyler Stevens ’12 excelled in the restaurant management classes required of his Culinary Arts and Nutrition major. A unit within the College of Life Sciences and Agriculture (COLSA) at the University of New Hampshire (UNH), the Thompson School provides students with a variety of highly experiential, profession-ready two-year associate degree programs. The learning opportunities that abound in the Culinary Arts and Nutrition major were a boon to Stevens, who—just two years post graduation—is now the General Manager of the upscale York River House. Seasoned restaurateurs Ken West and Jeff Fenerty own the 6,300 square-foot establishment that sits on a knoll overlooking the York River.
"I'm in charge of overseeing all the day-to-day restaurant operations,” says Stevens who was conducting 30 interviews a day prior to the restaurant’s soft opening on April 26th, 2014. And while this trained chef with a predilection for creating sumptuous sauces is only occasionally working the back of the house alongside Executive Chef Henry Ares, as General Manager Stevens is intimately involved with the culinary experience of his every guest. Whether patrons are ordering a delicacy from the raw bar or treating themselves to the 26-ounce Cowboy Steak—prime cut from the locally raised, grass-fed cattle of Pineland Farms—Stevens takes responsibility for their dining enjoyment. “I make sure each plate that goes out is at it’s best and that our parties are satisfied with their food,” says Stevens who notes that the theory and practice from his Public Speaking class has served him well in his high profile position. “When I was a student I didn’t understand why it would be so important,” says Stevens, “but now I use these communication skills every single day.”
Stevens’ quick smile and sparkling green eyes make him an ideal customer liaison in a business that thrives on patron satisfaction, but also reflect a wellspring of energy that helps him succeed in this demanding profession. Stevens’ mentor at the Thompson School, Professor of Culinary Arts and Nutrition Charlie Caramihalis developed great respect for his student’s ability to handle multiple responsibilities at a young age. “Tyler always struck me as an individual with tremendous potential, because he had already learned how to juggle work with school,” says Caramihalis of his protégé who logged more than 60 hours per week in his job while attending classes and completing over 700 hours practicing culinary techniques in the Thompson School’s state of the art production kitchen.
“Everyone at the Thompson School is proud of Tyler’s success,” says Caramihalis, and the appreciation goes both ways. Throughout the two-year program, Stevens relied on Caramihalis’ practical advice stemming from his experience as a professor, mentor, and successful restaurateur. “Charlie was a huge help to me,” says Stevens. “If I ever had any questions about challenges in my job, like resolving a conflict with an employee, he was always available.”
Stevens has reaped the benefits of his experiential education through hands-on practice in the Thompson School’s student-run restaurant 180 Blue during his International Cuisine course and with lab work in menu development, cost controls and nutrition. But it was the well-rounded nature of the program that introduced him to the management side of the culinary industry, which has given him the knowhow and confidence to tackle any challenges that come his way with aplomb.
Culinary Arts and Nutrition majors become well prepared to continue their education in one of the four-year programs at UNH or to work in a variety of positions as entry-level chefs in the hospitality industry. With two concentrations, Culinary Arts or Dietetic Technician (see the website for more information not covered in this article on the latter), the coursework includes experience with menu development and cost controls, food safety, baking, culinary skills, nutrition, American and International cuisine, catering and garde manger, restaurant management and more. In addition, students complete select rotations with UNH’s Hospitality Services, run 180 Blue, and become fully immersed in the field through a 400-hour externship at a pre-approved establishment.