Chef Stepfanie Miller prides herself in coming up with new and different takes on traditional foods, and she has brought that pride to Ball State for the past five years. 

As a child, she assumed a BLT was a hamburger with bacon on it. When her mom served her the sandwich, Miller asked, “where’s my hamburger?” The other foods that her mom made also shaped her future career.

“I can always remember my mom opening the cabinet and making whatever she could possibly find. Some of the best things I’ve ever eaten are things that she just made, and she couldn’t even tell you how to make it a second time because it’s just one of those things that she threw together,” Miller said. “One of my favorite memories is her doing that.”

Next Foodie Friday

Date: April 21

Dish: Caprese chicken with blistered tomatoes and fresh mozzarella 

Now, she has to follow the standardized recipes Ball State has but is still able to use her creativity — especially on Foodie Fridays, a monthly lunch event at Elliott, where she works.

“I enjoy getting the opportunity to give the campus community something different or unique,” she said. “Having Foodie Friday allows me to give students and employees something 'outside the box' that they can look forward to each month without charging more than the meal equivalency.”

At home, Miller cooks almost every night and pays a lot of attention to flavor. Health and fitness are important, and cooking allows Miller and her family watch what they’re eating more closely than if they went out to eat often.

“I enjoy coming up with new and different takes on traditional foods. I often like to see how I can make something slightly healthier without sacrificing flavor,” Miller said. “I like to challenge people to try something different and to branch out of their comfort zone.”

Day to day, Miller makes the menus, supervises the kitchen staff and helps with daily production as needed. Student employees work at Elliott, and some come in as freshmen or sophomores and work during their entire undergraduate career.

Aside from Ball State, Elliott’s primary business is serving students from the Indiana Academy for Science, Mathematics and Humanities.

“You get to know them really well cause we see them a lot … there’s a couple of Academy students I’ve gotten attached to over the years,” Miller said. “That is my favorite part [of the job], interacting with them, then watching them grow and graduate high school and go on to bigger and better things.”

Aside from loving to interact with students and create new recipes, Miller’s cooking has made her a more confident person.

“Part of cooking and learning is overcoming a fear of failure, and that has translated into my life outside of the kitchen in a big way,” she said. “ I have become a person who is willing to dive into a challenge without reservation due in part to my career choice. Sometimes it’s OK to fail when there’s a lesson learned in the process.”

Whether she’s trying out new flavors or making a favorite dish healthier, Miller has no reservations.