Since 2001, Matt Horton has provided Illinois State University with his extraordinary cooking talents. In 2008, Matt became the Sous Chef for A Taste of Excellence catering here at Illinois State. In May 2014 Matt was selected as Executive Chef of Campus Dining. When Matt was asked what is his favorite part about working for Illinois State, Matt was proud to admit the students are why he loves to come to work every day. “I really enjoy working with the student staff. I feel that I can take credit for a small part of their educational experience at Illinois State. I take great pride in knowing that I taught students many skills they have learned while working here at Catering, whether it be cutting melons or taking inventory.” When Matt is not in the Catering kitchen formulating a fantastic meal, he is usually grilling outdoors with his family. Matt also has a special passion for Gumbo, so if you are lucky enough to have dinner prepared by Matt, you might want to ask for a sample of his special Gumbo.
“You may be extraordinarily creative and imaginative in the kitchen, but you cannot take advantage of these qualities if you do not know the basics.” This quote by Jacques Pepin is one of Phillip Cade’s favorites and one that he runs his kitchen by. Chef Cade not only knows all the basics, but has perfected them all and much more at his 4-year apprenticeship at Hyatt Hotels. He has gained experience in almost every culinary department working in Hyatt and Marriot Hotels everywhere from San Diego, CA to Albuquerque, NM, and as Executive Chef at a white table cloth steak house in Terre Haute, IN. Since coming to Illinois State in 2006, Chef Cade has enjoyed working with the students and taking advantage of his creative freedom here. He rarely makes the same dish twice since he is always looking for new ways to be creative, but his wife requests him to repeatedly make his famous Mediterranean Salmon Dish and Parmesan Risotto. Be sure to check out A Taste of Excellence Catering and have Chef Cade fix up another one of his signature dishes for your next big event.
With the exception of a brief stint as a wire guidance installer for forklifts and a computer printer salesman, Chef Adam Feaman’s love of food has kept him in the food industry for much of his career. In 2002, Chef Feaman joined Illinois State as a Sous Chef in Catering. A Normal, Illinois native, he now works as a Unit Chef at Watterson Dining Commons and has worked at all of the dining centers on campus. Chef Feaman says working with the students and helping them to learn more about food is his favorite part of his job. And what about his favorite dish at Illinois State? “Garden Risotto. I love a good risotto,” he said. In addition to his love for risotto, Chef Feaman has a passion for exploring new cuisines and lately has been experimenting with Oriental and Middle Eastern. Stay tuned to the dining centers to see if any of Chef Feaman’s new dishes show up on our menu.
DesaRae Fowler received her Associate in Applied Science in Culinary Arts from Joliet Junior College. Fresh out of college, she was hired as a catering chef for Chartwells where she was in charge of preparing meals and overseeing deliveries to four fraternities and sororities on Illinois State University’s campus. She also assisted with various catered events on and off campus. DesaRae started with Campus Dining Services as an extra-help worker throughout the retail locations and held roles as both a Production and a Procurement Manager in residential dining. In 2012, she moved to Catering as an Administrator. When she is not on campus, she spends her free time with her two boys and tackling “do-it-yourself” projects around her house. She is passionate about working with students, training people, and seeing how the students apply the knowledge further in their careers.
Kelly spent eighteen years in New York restaurants before coming back to Normal. Her most memorable job in New York was working for the New York Athletic Club. Kelly prepared dishes for banquets, weddings, and receptions. As Catering Sous chef, Kelly uses her knowledge of diverse food styles to influence students. When she is not preparing meals for Catering, Kelly enjoys experimenting with new ingredients and spending her time outdoors, kayaking and biking.
When you think of a chef, the word “junkyard” isn’t the first thing that comes to mind. But that is exactly what Darin Ganci did before working in the culinary world: he worked in a junkyard during his four years of high school. He began his career with Illinois State University Campus Dining Services when he was a student in 1996 as a Student Manager. He received a number of promotions over the years and works as a sous chef at Linkins and also contributes his talents as a sous chef for A Taste of Excellence Catering. Darin received his Bachelor of Science Degree in Business Management from Illinois State and says “many students might be surprised to know that many of the cooks and laborers in Campus Dining Services have college degrees themselves.” Darin’s favorite dish that Campus Dining serves is “anything we grill outside. The students come over and talk to us after class because they say they have smelled the grill all afternoon.”
If you are looking to hear about interesting culinary experiences, look no further than Linkins’s Unit Chef, Jim Wall. Chef Wall brought his creativity and love of food with him while working in some interesting places. His long list of training even includes the Coast Guard Food Service Specialist School. Chef Wall worked as a Cook, Baker, and Procurement Manager with the Coast Guard in Seattle, WA and also worked with the Coast Guard as a Cooking and Baking Instructor in Petaluma, CA and New London, CT. He even served American Sailors in Hokkaido, Japan where he was the Chef and Manager of a small kitchen of Japanese staff at the Loran Station. Since coming to Illinois State in 1996, Chef Wall has contributed his many talents by not only creating new recipes and menus, but also by having an integral part in the training and development of the culinary staff. Be sure to stop by and check out one of Chef Wall’s dishes at Linkins—and who knows, he may just have an interesting story to tell you too!
Most people don’t think “dancer” when they think about chefs, but Ursula Ganci is talented on the dance floor and in the kitchen. Ursula was a dance teacher and a costume shop assistant for the theatre department at Illinois Central College. She received her Associate degrees in Culinary Arts and Dance from Illinois Central College in E. Peoria, IL in 2008. Ursula began working as a cook for Campus Dining Services in 2008. After five years, she was promoted to lead cook and a year and a half later promoted again to her current position as Assistant Chef. She enjoys the ever-progressing nature of working in a university setting. “The student population is always changing, evolving and growing, and with that so does our department and the way that we cook and serve. It is challenging, but rewarding,” said Ganci.
Joe comes to Campus Dining Services as an alumni, class of 2011, after receiving his Bachelor of Arts in Food Industry Management and and an Associates in Culinary Arts from Richland Community College. Throughout his college career, Joe worked as a culinary teaching assistant. At Campus Dining, he is now using these skills as a Sous Chef for Illinois State University Campus Dining Services Catering A Taste of Excellence. Before starting with Campus Dining Services in 2015, Joe worked as a Sous Chef for the U.S. Cellular Coliseum. Joe also has worked with the front of house catering staff set-up events and coordination staffing responsibilities. Joe enjoys working directly with the students and providing the m with techniques they will utilize long after their time at Illinois State. Outside of the kitchen, Joe is an avid camper and enjoys hunting and fishing throughout his trips.