Executive Chef Timothy Downs demonstrates how to prepare a Thanksgiving dish

Chef handling a pan with flames rising

Executive Chef Timothy Downs

The holidays are finally here! While many of us might be digging through cookbooks and searching online for some fresh ideas for holiday meals, the DU Newsroom turned to Timothy Downs, executive chef at Knoebel Events in the University of Denver’s Daniels College of Business, for some culinary brilliance.

Knoebel Events, which is in the Fritz Knoebel School of Hospitality Management, hosts hundreds of occasions each year, ranging from small events with a couple dozen people to wedding receptions and large events with 500 or more guests. A student staff of about 50 helps operate and manage the Meyer Family Kitchen and provides the necessary services to visitors.

“This is about as real as it gets for an events center,” Downs says. “It’s exciting that we are able to provide students with this type of opportunity where they can learn and be a part of the program.”

Reservations at Knoebel Events are slowly rebounding to levels predating the pandemic, when it did more than $1 million in business each year. Clients can order from a set menu, make special requests or ask the kitchen to prepare a family recipe.

For this year’s holiday dish, Downs has created something new that can either be served as a side item or take center stage as the main dish.

Beet and Fennel with Couscous – Serves 6


  • 2 cups Israeli couscous
  • 2 fennel bulbs
  • 3 bunches of baby red beets
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 cup shiitake mushrooms
  • 2 tablespoons clove garlic, chopped
  • 2 cups parmesan cheese
  • 2 cups arugula, rough chop
  • ½ cup white wine
  • 2 cups heavy cream
  • 2 cups smoked tomato jus


  • Prepare the above ingredients as early as two days in advance.
  • Clean and rinse all vegetables. Make sure to take a potato scrubber to the outside of the beets to clean off the skin.
  • Cut fennel bulbs from root up into three sections each, creating six sections that are still connected by the root.
  • Brush with oil, salt and pepper, and grill until nicely charred. Slice thin and set aside.
  • Cut beets in a medium-sized wedge, toss in a little olive oil, salt and pepper, and roast until soft. Set aside.
  • Slice mushrooms and set aside.
  • Boil 5 cups of water that has enough salt to just taste it—a bit saltier than the ocean. Cook couscous for 8 minutes and strain. Cool in a single layer with a bit of olive oil to coat so it does not stick. Set aside.
  • If gathering all ingredients ahead of time, even the day before, make sure everything is stored in a refrigerator overnight.
  • Make smoked tomato jus. If the process is too lengthy (below), combine a can of tomato juice with a teaspoon of liquid smoke.

Finishing the Dish

  • Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
  • Place beets and fennel in an oven-safe pan and roast for about 15–20 minutes to heat back up and caramelize. When there is 5 minutes remaining, begin the next steps.
  • Heat smoked tomato jus in a sauce pot or the microwave.
  • In a saucepan, heat 2 tablespoons of oil on medium heat to a sizzle and sauté garlic until aromatic.
  • Add mushrooms and cook for 1 minute.
  • Pull vegetables out of the oven and set aside. Don’t let them get cold or too crispy; you just want them warmed up.
  • Deglaze pan with white wine and allow to cook until wine is almost gone.
  • Add cream and cook for about 2 minutes.
  • Add couscous and toss with 1.5 cups of parmesan cheese, saving the rest for garnish.
  • Fold in arugula and display in your favorite dish.
  • If the vegetables are still in the oven, pull them out of the oven and garnish the top of the couscous with fennel, beets and the remaining parmesan.
  • Pour the smoked tomato jus over the top to complete the dish.

Smoked Tomato Jus


  • 8 Roma tomatoes
  • 1 whole carrot
  • 1 white/yellow onion
  • 6 garlic cloves
  • 12 fluid ounces tomato juice
  • 3 bay leaf spice
  • 1 bunch thyme herb


  • Cut tomatoes in half and smoke in the smoker for about 45 minutes.
  • Peel carrots and onion and slice.
  • Place all ingredients in a pot except for the fresh thyme.
  • Bring to a simmer and let cook until carrots are soft—about 15­–20 minutes.
  • Place the cooked vegetables and liquid in a blender and carefully turn on low speed, increasing speed slowly. Allow to blend until smooth.
  • Place your thyme on the bottom of a strainer; pour mixture over the thyme and into a bowl or another pot.
  • Push the ingredients through, leaving the pulp in the strainer. Discard the pulp.
  • Season the jus with salt.