New England Patriot Justin Bethel Is Chef For a Day

As a New England Patriot cornerback and NFL Pro Bowler, Justin Bethel has built a reputation as one of the league’s most experienced special teamers. It’s a lesser known fact that he initially planned to attend JWU for culinary arts — but a full football scholarship proved too good an opportunity to pass up. This past week, he took the trip from Foxboro to try out being an honorary Wildcat for the day.

Bethel, his wife, and their three-month-old baby spent the day at JWU Providence’s Cuisinart Center for Culinary Excellence. In addition to getting a personal tour of the kitchens and beverage labs in action, they spent the afternoon taking part in Associate Professor Jonathan Poyourow’s Therapeutic Cuisine class, which is designed for senior-level Culinary Nutrition and Dietetics & Applied Nutrition students.

“These hands are free! What have you got for me?”

Meal, Ready-to-Eat (MREs) spread out on a table at JWU Providence.The day’s assignment was a tough one. Harkening back to his Army days, Poyourow tasked the students — and Bethel — with creating a hospital-caliber breakfast, lunch or dinner to align with a specific therapeutic diet (diabetes, renal, cardiovascular, etc.), as well as a quality late-night snack for the nursing team. The additional twist? In honor of National Disaster Day, the meal had to be made primarily from Meal, Ready to Eat (MRE) rations and adhere to a boil-water mandate. (Students were also allowed to add pantry items and other flavor-boosters to their dishes.) Prior to cooking, Poyourow and the students talked through their ideas and sorted through the pile of MREs for proteins with potential. (“These are heavily salted, so you might need to wash the proteins before you use them,” he explained.)

Used to complicated choreography on the football field, Bethel quickly made himself useful in the bustling kitchen. “These hands are free! What have you got for me?” Cycling through each group, he sliced strawberries, macerated berries, chopped tomatoes and helped wherever he was needed.

Channel 12’s Rosie Langello was on hand to film Bethel for a spotlight on the 10-year NFL veteran. He started cooking in high school back in Blythewood, South Carolina, he told Langello: “It just makes me happy!” He’s kept up his skills ever since, and the JWU visit was a good opportunity to stretch them in a new direction.

Patriots Pro Bowler Justin Bethel (left) and JWU Providence Associate Professor Jonathan Poyourow (right) Like football, cooking in a kitchen is a team effort that requires trust, communication, and a mix of big-picture and detail-oriented thinking. When designing case studies for class, Poyourow intentionally leaves out details in order to force the students to ask strategic questions. (He roleplays as the patient.) And he pairs at least one Dietetics & Applied Nutrition and one Culinary Nutrition student per group, so they can benefit from their complementary knowledge set (one more heavily science-based; the other more rooted in culinary skills).

At the end of the day, students had turned the unappetizing MREs into a table full of appealing (and nutritious) dishes, including dumplings, pierogis, and chicken spring rolls with an antioxidant rich peanut sauce.

Before heading back to Foxboro, Bethel (ever the good sport) sat down for a rapid fire question-and-answer session with JWU’s own Lynzi DeLuccia. Watch:

Justin Bethel working with JWU Providence Therapeutic Cuisine students.

Final Therapeutic Cuisine dishes created from Meals Ready to Eat (MREs)

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