Walking into the Student Center, the mouthwatering aroma of freshly-baked gourmet pizza lures students straight to Tally Food Court, where Matt Hunter, the newest addition to the staff, can be found cooking.

As a chef, Hunter cooks common favorites and creates fresh ideas for the Ball State community to enjoy. 

From working in restaurants to catering, cooking and overseeing patient meals at IU Health Ball Memorial Hospital, Hunter has always enjoyed making food. He attended culinary school at Ivy Tech in Muncie.

After listening to family members who have worked for Ball State express their satisfaction with the university, Hunter decided to apply to work on campus. 

“Matt’s experience, combined with his eagerness to work for Ball State Dining, made him the right candidate for the chef position,” said Jill Jackson, general manager of the food court.

Since his start on Dec. 4, Hunter said he has enjoyed interacting with students and staff, as well as having the chance to work with the Rinker Center for International Programs, where he helps develop dishes that correspond with the lunchtime cultural exchange presentations that are held on Wednesdays. 

The Chef’s Table is also something that Hunter said he is excited about because it gives him the chance to prepare creative dishes in front of customers. 

The table offers dinner options — such as gourmet pizza and macaroni and cheese — and also includes a monthly grill. 

“The specials are usually a creative twist on what you might expect to see at a grill,” Hunter said. “For example, this month’s special is a pork carnitas sandwich, but instead of being served on a bun, we’re serving it over Mexican cornbread and topping it with cumin sour cream, black beans, and red onions pickled in-house.” 

In addition to cooking, Hunter also helps with inventory, monitoring product quality, menu planning and more. 

Hunter said adjusting to his busy schedule has been “smooth,” and he is constantly learning with the Tally staff to assist him along the way.

“Their willingness to teach me how things work here and to answer all my questions has helped me feel really supported here,” Hunter said. “The students and staff have been a great help in the transition just by showing their excitement that I’m here and that the [Chef Table] is continuing.”

Currently, Hunter said he is striving to promote healthier lifestyles by helping the Tally Center implement a grab-and-go vegetarian lo mein bowl after working with Ball State Dining to cater to the requests of students. 

“There is so much about [being a chef] that I love: the fact that food or that the smell of a food can take you back to a particular place, the look on someone’s face the first time they try a new food and they like it and the looks when they don’t are priceless parts of being a chef,” Hunter said.

Contact Melissa Kraman with comments at mmkraman@bsu.edu or on Twitter @missy_kraman