A complex journey: LaFollette chef finds home at Ball State
LaFollette chef Shannon Eastes has been working in the restaurant business since she was 16, her career spanning from diner gigs to celebrity restaurants but has now found her home at Ball State.
In high school she went with a friend to get a job at Sizzler, a local restaurant, and she was a natural.
While she was still a student, Eastes had her own set of keys to Sizzler, opened it in the morning and traveled to Indianapolis to train employees.
“It was just something that happened and I was like, ‘Oh my gosh, this may be what I do,’” Eastes said.
While she worked at Sizzler during the day, she also worked at Fox Fires, a fine dining restaurant previously owned by Garfield creator Jim Davis, at night.
It was during her time at Fox Fires, a restaurant where everything was made from scratch, that she decided she wanted to go to culinary school and become a chef.
Eastes later worked for Dick Clark American Bandstand as a trainer and shift leader, where she met Dick Clark several times and still has several autographed items from him.
During that time, she worked two other full-time jobs to try to save money in order to go to culinary school out of state. One day, the vice president of the company saw her and asked why she was working so much.
“They came up to me and said that they had an opportunity for me to come back and work for them as a manager and a chef if I would go to school, and they would pay for it,” Eastes said.
Because of that offer, Eastes had the choice to go anywhere in the country that she wanted, and she chose Scottsdale, Arizona.
After working for the Bandstand, she came to Muncie and has been in town for 11 years. For the past seven, she has been the head chef at LaFollette Complex where she supervises the staff, cooks and orders inventory to ensure LaFollette has the products it needs.
Erica Jefferis, a former Lafollette manager and current assistant director of personnel training and administration for Ball State Dining, used to work with Eastes and said she never had to worry about running out of food.
“Shannon is really strong in production — physically preparing all the food. She’s not lying when she says, ‘I can fix anything.’ She really can and she does it very, very well,” Jefferis said. “[She’s] just a really strong back of the house person … and that’s absolutely what you want out of a chef.”
Eastes says students who visit LaFollette typically enjoy homestyle items such as macaroni and cheese and mashed potatoes. She was sad to see The Buff close, but the all-you-care-to-eat section of LaFollette is now in Courtside.
“I like everything about my job. I couldn’t imagine doing anything different with my life as far as food service … I hope to retire [at Ball State],” Eastes said.