School is officially back in session and in person for college students in Delaware. With it, of course, comes the struggle to choose the right major and pick those classes that will shape post-college careers. For food lovers, The University of Delaware offers a diverse array of undergraduate degrees from hospitality business management to food sciences. One of the coolest opportunities, however, has to be the chance to learn and work inside Vita Nova, the college’s student-operated fine dining restaurant.
This year, students will learn from Billy Rawstrom, the “Sausage King of Delaware,” himself as he helps students run the restaurant’s award-winning lunch buffet. Open from Monday to Friday during the fall and spring semesters, the restaurant offers students the chance to learn the ins and outs of being a chef and managing the restaurant.
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“In February of 2019, I got a call from the Food Network looking to come to my restaurant for a TV show,” says Rawstrom. “I had to give them a list of like eight menu items and talk about them and then a couple weeks later, they called me and said ‘You guys have been selected to be on Diners, Drive-ins and Dives. We’re going to come down in two weeks to film.’ Two weeks later they came.”
In Wilmington, Rawstrom is known as the “Sausage King of Delaware” for his innovative and delicious handmade sausages. He makes over 30 different kinds of sausage and over 10 types of salami, including sweet Italian sausage, chorizo, Tuscan salami, pancetta and so much more.
Before Maiale Deli opened its doors at its current location, Rawstrom started small by attending farmers markets, cooking at other restaurants and even teaching at the Delaware Technical Community College as an adjunct.
His love of teaching never wavered throughout the years and now he looks forward to teaching again, this time as a chef instructor for the University of Delaware’s Vita Nova Restaurant.
“I saw that there was a job opening at the University of Delaware for what they call a chef instructor role and I thought it was a great opportunity to kind of reiterate my teaching,” Rawstrom says. “We have two chef instructors that work there. We also have front-of-house instructors, too.”
One of the benefits that Rawstrom enjoys about Udel’s hospitality program is its variety of classes within the program, such as the breakfast foods course and the dinner service course.
“It’s us teaching the students and them having to be the ones that are the fire behind the cooking and everything else,” he explains. “But to give them those skills and that knowledge so that when they are working at the Marriott or some other restaurant, they have that background to fall on and make them better. If you’re a front-of-house manager, knowing how the back of the house works is just as important.”