Chef Jason Reynolds is an award winning culinarian working for Ball State University Dining. Jason has earned gold and silver medals in American Culinary Federation (ACF) sanctioned competitions, has served on the national committee for NACUFS (National Association of College and University Food Services) Culinary Challenge, has attended numerous ACF and NACUFS regional and national conferences, and has competed in several culinary events. He has been a member of the ACF, East Central Indiana, since 1993.
In 1994, Chef Reynolds, a native of Muncie, Indiana, graduated from Vincennes University with an associate degree in culinary arts. After graduation, Chef Reynolds worked for the Radisson Hotel in Indianapolis and at Woodland Country Club in Carmel, Indiana. In 1998, after traveling to western France on a Culinary Educational Tour, he joined the Ball State University Dining staff.As a chef for Ball State, Chef Reynolds supervises production, conducts departmental training, and performs display-cooking programs in SC Tally and for Cooking Live!
Chef Reynolds, along with his wife, owns a catering business, Heavenly Creations Catering, since 2002. They create buffets and stations that are attractive along with excellent flavors of food.
He has taught for Ivy Tech Community College in the Culinary Arts department since 2007. He enjoys teaching and giving back his knowledge of Meat & Seafood Fabrication to the students.
RAPID FIRE Q&A
Mainly concentrating on “flavor profiling”, I love to cook “seasonal” flavors and ingredients. Right now what influence my fall and winter menu are fall favorites; pumpkins, sweet potatoes and pork dishes accented with nuts.
Basically from chefs’ that I worked with from previous years that has had a strong influence on my cooking. Their influence combined with my evolution of experience is shown in how I design my plates and menus. I do a lot of research on the internet as far as seasonal item, and what the current trends are. Right now fruits with meat, chutney’s are coming back around big time. Flavored balsamic glazes for example have a strong influence in many meals I prepare. I create an apricot balsamic glaze that works wonderful with hearty meats. I like working with barbecues with an accompaniment of an apricot mustard or Citrus brined chicken breast top with peach mustard to produce a sweet and tangy sensation. I love savory fruits to create sauces that take the recipe to a higher level.
At Ball State University we incorporate many sustainable practices at our college campus. The sustainability movement is huge with college students and making sure our environment is taken care of. All of our “to go” items; like plates and plastic wear is sustainable. We focus on items that are renewable, sustainable and recyclable. Our efforts go all the way to our sustainable fish and shell fish that we serve were we have partnered with “Sea 2 Table” which is a sustainable fish & shell fish company that subcontracts fisherman across the coast. They supply wild caught fish; for example fresh sockeye salmon from Bristol Bay Alaska is so delicious and fresh compared to the farm raised fish you can purchase year round. “Seasonality” is their key practice providing fish only certain times of the year. At the college we try to remain as sustainable as we possibly can. I constantly change up and rotate our menus to accommodate the fish of the season, soft shell crabs and lobster meat from Chesapeake Bay. At the University we use tons of shrimp for our “concepts” menu and stir fry shrimps with amazing sauces. For Farm to school we have a small garden that produces grape and cherry tomatoes and we have hooked up with agricultural students that maintain an herb garden for our menus. Utilizing our local farms is challenging not only to keep up with our menu requirements but also due to the bid system as we have to forecast our menus three weeks ahead of schedule
I love the fall and winter seasons that bring rich bold flavors with a wide varieties of apples, pumpkins and sweet potatoes. “This time of year makes me so happy.” “The aroma of fresh apples and Cinnamon while I prepare Apple butter makes the house smell so good.”
Some of my favorite special recipes come from my grandmother on my mom’s side of the family. She was a cook in elementary school and most of the cooking at that time was done from scratch. “Going to my grandmother’s house for the holidays was a real treat.” In fact even my mom and her three brothers cook too along with Dad’s side of the family; all had a love and passion for cooking. During my younger years this influenced me and grew my love for cooking, I am the only professional chef in our family. I attended culinary school 21 years ago and my first job was in a kitchen at a hotel in Indianapolis. After that I continued my career in the cooking field and worked in a country club where they did a lot of “flavor profiling.” I got the experience of learning more about the flow of food. When you take a bite of something you eat it together not separately and there should have an explosion of flavor in your mouth. I was lucky to have mentors along the way who pushed me to find my unique identity as a chef.
The part I love the most is the chance to teach the students. I have a passion for cooking and am able to utilize our chef station and prepare meals in front of the students’ every day from 11-1:30 and prepare a different dish. I love the camaraderie of being seen front and center and having the opportunity to educate students on the health and nutritional aspect of the food they eat. Educating the community and students’ on what food is and how to make it healthy and delicious brings me a great deal of satisfaction. One by one I create a unique dish for each student that is not repeated in one semester. Wednesday is our Cultural Exchange Day for our International Program where we prepare a unique dish from whatever country they are studying that week. This week we are preparing a dish from Cameroon, West Africa, a national dish of bitter leaf stew made with Kale and beef stew meat along with peanut paste served in a bowl topped with sautéed shrimp and Fu fu corn which is a staple food in Africa and the Caribbean. This exposes the students to new flavors and explores other cultures. On Friday’s I serve a “specialty Pizza or Mac & Cheese recipe. I incorporate proteins or ingredients that have not been used from the week; for example Moroccan lamb pizza or Asian inspired duck macaroni and cheese. I am inspired to create entrees that you can’t find locally.
“ I love what I do and creating new taste sensations.”
The biggest challenge is learning how to cook something properly; to be known for your food has to taste good. For people to keep coming back you need to be doing something right. You need to find your niche, food needs to taste good and look good since you eat with your eyes first. I try to serve something that is not local in our area. I try to be different with seasonal items and we do A great deal of catering and I share these photos on my Face book page along with the recipes. It makes me happy when people want to try and duplicate my recipes. “I am very lucky that my hours at the college give allow me time to spend holidays with my family.”
My favorite things to eat are duck or rib eye steak. When I go out I tend to dine on either of these two items and really appreciate the many unique ways chefs prepare these meats.