Eric “Chef” Millsaps, the executive chef of dining services at Troy University, spends most of his day planning and organizing how the different meal service stations at Trojan Dining function. He is the mind behind the fried chicken served during lunch, as well as the North African cauliflower salad served during dinner.
“It’s all about making the food people enjoy,” said Millsaps, who only joined the university’s dining services in September 2018.
Millsaps started his career in cooking at the age of 16, when he worked at a country club. His next step took him to the military reserves. His professional cooking career started 23 years ago, and Millsaps is still moving forward with just as much positive energy.
He has had an eventful career of traveling through different parts of the country and working in different aspects of food service. He has worked as a line cook, run restaurants and created dishes for exclusive resorts.
He has also had the opportunity to cook for some famous people including tennis player John McEnroe and singer-songwriter Gladys Knight. These experiences all come into play in the planning, execution and presentation of the food.
The dining hall currently serves around 7,800-8,000 meals a week, and planning for such a crowd is no small feat. According to Millsaps, it is the camaraderie among all his staff that makes it possible
“I always want (employees) to think, ‘Look at what we did,’ not what I did,” Millsaps said. “There’s no I in team.”
According to Shraddha ChandThakuri, a food service worker and a junior biomedical sciences major from Kathmandu, Nepal, the chef has good relationships with the employees.
“He checks up on every station by himself, and also he knows most of us by name,” ChandThakuri said. Millsaps has one plan: making more good food.
He has made some changes since he started five months ago, and he has more plans.
“He brings some of the northern recipes that we don’t normally see around these areas,” said Tracy Williams, the senior supervisor of dining services.
Millsaps is not limited by domestic cuisine in his stride to encourage diversity. Students will often find different international items in their lunch, as well as dinner, menus.
“I love curry dishes,” Millsaps said. “I love food that incorporates spicy peppers but has fruit in it. Caribbean, tropical food that taps all your senses.”
Millsaps further added that he loved the fact that Troy University has such a diverse international community as it has challenged him in his task of pleasing everybody. He loves working with his international staff just as much.
“We all learn from each other and grow,” Millsaps said.
When asked about how Millsaps was as an executive chef, Williams said, “He’s actually a breath of fresh air.”
According to Williams, Millsaps is open to teaching his staff the tasks they are unfamiliar with.
“He is a family guy, so he does have that compassion,” Williams said.
When not cooking, Millsaps enjoys eating and spending time or traveling with his family.