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Open Mic Friday--Meet Ovens to Betsy

Open_mic_friday Good food is an entitlement to runners.  But most of us reach for a loaded pizza or a handful of cookies.  Not our guest at Open Mic Friday.  Instead, she's a runner who just happens to be a professional chef.  On the heels of Take It and Run Thursday focused on food, we're pleased to introduce Ovens to Betsy, who cooks up "Delectable dishes prepared to your wishes."

Tell us about how your career has morphed into the business you are doing now.

I spent 12 years in high tech public relations before I decided I had had enough.  I've always had a passion for food, but I never thought I could make a career out of it.  Owning or working in a restaurant held no appeal, and although I toyed with food writing, I knew how difficult it can be to make a living from it. 

Betsy_cover I always thought if I could only get people to hire me to cook for them, I would have found my niche.  However, I didn't think such a career existed (other than the private chefs hired by the uber wealthy).  I then stumbled across the website for the U.S. Personal Chef Association and realized it DID exist!  So in December 2001 I hung out my shingle as Ovens to Betsy Personal Chef Service.

How did you develop your passion for running and fitness?

It developed later in life.  I was a skinny teenager, so I never really cared for exercise.  However, given I grew up in a small town, I walked everywhere.  But as I entered my 20s I knew I'd have to move around more.  I ran my first 5K race in my late 20s (I don't think I actually ran the whole thing though!) and my first half marathon right after I turned 30.  I then got into mountain biking; not only did it keep me fit, it also led me to my husband (we met during a biking/camping trip). 

But eventually the biking trips stopped and my running was limited to the occasional 5K fun run.  The pounds really packed on once I became a personal chef, and I tipped the scale at 200 on May 17, 2005.  I couldn't believe it; where was that skinny teenager?  (I think I ate her).

Mifinish_2 My husband had started running, so I figured I'd better dust off my running shoes and join him.  The first few runs weren't easy or fast, but at least I could make it around Greenlake (about 3 miles).  By the end of 2005 I lost almost 30 pounds.  In March 2006 we decided to run a half marathon, and the training helped me lose an additional 10 pounds.  By then the running bug had hit, and we were soon signing up for our first marathon.

While running certainly has had a positive effect on my weight (or I suppose I should say it's had a negative effect!), what it's done for my overall well-being is even more dramatic.  As my husband says, he loves to see my smile has returned.

How did you get your chef's training?

I'm self taught (although I learned a lot from my mom).  However, I have taken a few classes, including a week-long "boot camp" at the Culinary Institute of America in Hyde Park, NY.  My dream is to get a culinary degree from Le Cordon Bleu in Paris.

What gets you more excited, buying running shoes or cooking utensils?

I feel I have most of the cooking utensils I need, so I'd have to say running shoes.  Besides, I'm not much of a "gadget girl;" I find a good chef's knife will accomplish most of what you need to do.  You don't need a bunch of one-use gadgets cluttering up your drawers!

Goofyfullfinish A business owner, multiple blog sites, a family.  How do you hold it all together?

Once I feel I'm actually holding it all together, I'll get back to you :)

What gets you excited about running?

Racing!  I LOVE LOVE LOVE the camaraderie among runners, especially after a race.  I think that's why the Goofy Challenge was one of my favorite races as it was an entire weekend of running geeks walking around with their shirts and medals.

What's the best part of running where you live?

Without question, the scenery.  Even when it's not a sunny day it's breathtaking.  In one run I can see lush forests, majestic mountains, large expanses of water and a towering city skyline.

Medmedoc_2 What's something with running you still haven't tried?

The Boston Marathon!  One of these days I’ll make it there.

Favorite distance?

The marathon

Any quirky running traits?

Once I have a set route, I have a tough time deviating from it ("persnicketiness" as my husband would call it).

Non-running and non-cooking interests?

Do such things exist?

Greatest running moment?

Crossing the finish line at the Marathon du Medoc, my first marathon.

Most embarrassing running moment?

Having to go potty in the middle of a training run in Fairbanks, AK (note to self: don't go running after eating a bunch of salmon).

If money could buy you a running dream, what would it be?

Running a marathon on all 7 continents (heck, might as well add the 50 states as well!)

Best cooking advice?

Don't get caught up in particular recipes. Learn techniques and the world is your Oysters Rockefeller.

So if you were going to throw a party and have it be fun, delicious, and healthy for runners, what would you prepare?

For appetizers I'd serve skewers of cheese tortellini, fresh basil and grape tomatoes drizzled with extra virgin olive oil; a medley of grilled chicken sausages with various mustards; and a crudite platter with a chipotle-lime yogurt dip. 

The salad would either be a southwestern fruit salad with a chile-lime dressing, topped with toasted coconut, or a spicy Asian noodle salad with broccoli, carrots and a sesame-soy vinaigrette.  The entre would be grilled salmon and chicken with two sauces: Thai coconut curry and Asian BBQ. 

Dessert would be a bit more decadent, perhaps ooey gooey brownies or key lime bars (this basically is the menu I'm suggesting for a barbecue in October!)

Thanks, Betsy, for following Take It and Run Thursday with a multi-course interview!


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I'm booking my flight to Seattle now, what times the party? *drool*


Thank you Tom and Amy for featuring me!


Great interview. Nice getting to know The Runner Chef! Great mag cover....


My mouth is open and I am drooling after reading your last response. That sounds heavenly!

Thank you so much for taking time to do Open Mic! You have been such an inspiration since we were lucky enough to bump into each other in the virtual running world and you just keep going!

Take care,



Good luck with reaching that running dream. It would be so cool to run a marathon on all 7 continents. I hope you make it happen and I get to read about it on your blog!

Laurel aka Lily

What a great Open Mike! Thank you Betsy! Good luck with your running and your running dreams.


Betsy has the most amazing work ethic when it comes to training, even cross-training, but she also has a wonderful sense of fun. She is definitely an inspiration. Thanks for interviewing her!


Betsy has the most amazing work ethic when it comes to training, even cross-training, but she also has a wonderful sense of fun. She is definitely an inspiration. Thanks for interviewing her!


I agree about the commaderie among runners at races. If only everyone ran, we might have world peace ;)

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They also required no break in period, I put them on out of the box for a 3 mile run and they felt like heaven on my feet. This is an excellent trail running shoe, especially if you are doing some serious mud trails.

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