Chef Jason Reynolds decided he wanted to be a chef when he was in seventh grade.
He took home economics and foods classes in middle and high school and was the only male in those classes.
“My friends made fun of me, but I said, ‘what’s better than being in a class with all these girls and getting to eat food?’” Reynolds said. “You get made fun of, but then you just gotta make light of it and joke around about it. I look where I’m at today and it paid off.”
Today, Reynolds is the chef for the Student Center Tally Food Court and has been at Ball State for the past 18 years.
In addition to creating limited-time breakfast and sandwich specials, Reynolds has a Chef Station every weekday from 11 a.m. to 1:30 p.m., where he prepares a daily entrée. Monday and Thursdays feature a specialty lunch entrée, Tuesdays are pasta days, Wednesdays are international cuisine and Fridays are speciality pizza or macaroni and cheese. Reynolds does not repeat any single entrée in a semester.
“I don’t want it the same old, same old cause I like so many different things,” he said. “I don’t like one specific cuisine or one specific area, I like to dibble dabble in a little bit of everything.”
Because Reynolds makes his chef station entrées to order, he is able to meet and interact with several people. He loves being social and tries to get to know people’s names.
“Just the camaraderie with the customer and the employees out front,” he said. “Making people happy every day with the food is awesome. Some people come up and will say ‘eh, I don’t know about that’ and ‘I’ll say I’ll tell you what, if you get it, you don’t like it, bring it back and I’ll get you something else.’ They’ll take it and I never see them come back.”
Reynolds looks at food trends and has recipes, but also brings knowledge from past experiences and chefs he used to work for, to his chef station using flavor profiles.
“Now, from me working in the business so long, flavor profiles and things, what goes together, it’s in my head. I just know … it just flows for me,” Reynolds said. “When you eat my entrées, you have to eat everything together, not just one portion of the plate at a time to get the full flavor effect and profile of the whole dish.”
For the past few semesters, Reynolds has partnered with the Rinker Center to make a dish that corresponds with the Culture Exchange program presenter’s culture of origin. Reynolds corresponds with the presenter about what part of the country they are from, because cuisines change within different parts of the country.
“They give me some ideas and I try to come up with as close to an authentic dish as I can from that area of that country,” Reynolds said.
Reynolds loves his job at Ball State because it allows him to be creative with food, have a family life and do other things, including teaching a meat and seafood fabrication class at Ivy Tech.
He also owns Heavenly Creations Catering with his wife. Heavenly Creations has been in business for 15 years and does not advertise; its business comes exclusively from word-of-mouth.
Reynolds’ Ivy Tech students learn how to break down and properly prepare and cook meats and fish as well as the foods’ history.
“I like teaching ‘cause I can give back my knowledge, my expertise and just my experiences. [My students] like hearing experiences and man, just cooking in general — I love it.”
Reynolds said he has a passion for food and likes all the aspects of it: the history, cooking and presentation.
“We use our senses as a consumer when it comes to food, so as a chef you want to utilize your ability to help the consumer use their senses. We eat with our eyes first. If it looks good, then we are going to eat it,” Reynolds said.
One of Reynolds’ favorite things about cooking is the creation process and sharing that with others.
“I love creating things and making people happy with food,” he said. “There isn’t a moment in my life that I am not doing something with food. I love it so much.”