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The food giver

A local man finds a passion in giving others food for free.

MUNCIE, INDIANA---Dorm food can get repetitive and boring after a semester and a half at Ball State. 

For residents of Botsford/Swinford Hall on campus, the sights, sounds, smells, and taste of professional restaurants are brought right to them, for free. This delectable gift is given by a generous student named Thomas “Tojo” Tran.

Tran picked up the tools of the cooking trade just over six years ago.

“I wasn’t able to cook until I was 12,” Tran said. “My mom wouldn’t teach me all the years because she was worried I’d cut myself or something. When she wasn't at home because she had to do work, I went home and practiced. I’ve been practicing casually since then.” 

If you’re lucky enough to find yourself in the halls of Tran’s dorm while he whips up one of his signature dishes, he’ll be more than happy to share. In fact, that’s the way he prefers it.

“I just have a big passion for sharing food with people,” Tran said. “Food is like the love language of the world. No matter what culture or language you speak you can still come together and enjoy one common thing, food. I want to give as much as I can away because I know I can make a lot of smiles happen.”

During his food sharing endeavors, there’s one crowd that Tran shares his thanks to the most.

“I always appreciate the people that are genuinely like, this is way better than anything I’ve ever tasted, because I really put the extra mile,” Tran said.

Just as Tran said, the students truly couldn’t give the food higher marks according to Ball State student Zachary Williams.

“It’s great food,” Williams said. “I would recommend it to anybody. I think he should open up his own restaurant in all honesty.”

While giving away his food is one of Tran’s driving motivators for making his succulent dishes, it isn’t the only reason. Cooking allows Tran to learn and connect on a deeper level with his own culture and heritage, and, of course, share it with others.

“I’m mainly Vietnamese, but I’m also Chinese and Indian as well,” Tran said. “It’s really nice to incorporate my heritage from generations back, while still keeping the present kinds of food and ingredients here. I basically get to make my own traditions.”

As Tran looks to the future with his food sharing passion, he presents his final secret ingredient to his success.

“Never fear to learn how to try something new,” Tran said. “It may be daunting, and it may be dangerous, but learning it right, and learning it correctly can equal a great thing.”

Tran looks to continue sharing food for the foreseeable future, and hopefully, one day, open his very own restaurant.

Contact Andy Newman with comments at asnewman2@bsu.edu