Photo: Chef Mike making time for a photo between his big rush. Photo by Brooke Nastasi
Becoming a head chef was a “dream come true” for 35-year-old USC staff member Michael Alloway. “Ever since I was younger I admired the dishes my mother and grandmother would make for me,” says Alloway.
At age seven his passion really began to flourish, the typical meal was more of an “art” to him. After the female figures in his life taught him the basics of cooking he began experimenting with any food he could get his hands on.
Growing up in Augusta, Georgia, Southern style meals are something he has grown to perfect. After traveling throughout the country in his twenties he says his meals incorporate the many diverse cultures he has grown to experience. The 12 hour work days are filled with nothing but “upbeat energy.”
Alloway describes himself as someone who is a happy-go-lucky guy with no negativity to hinder his work ethic. Regardless of what goes on outside of the kitchen doors every day he shows up with a smile and drive to produce meals that will satisfy everyone.
With over 400 mouths to feed this is something that he feels his nine years of experience prepared him for. With this pressure he still says the toughest part about the job is saying goodbye to the seniors he has watched grow since freshman year, “it’s a bittersweet feeling.” He says the rush in the kitchen at the meal times peak is stressful but overall exhilarating and one of the best parts of the job. A challenge for Alloway is that everyone is required to be on the university’s meal plan. So making satisfactory meals is something that is important to him.
“I don’t want anyone leaving feeling like they have to eat here, I want them to enjoy it,” says Alloway. With this being said, he also has a desire to experiment with meals and serve dishes that others “typically wouldn’t think to order.” His most recent exotic dish is deconstructed sushi, also known as the poke bowl. When serving this dish he used octopus tentacles as a prop to bring the food to life. “I believe presentation is just as important as the taste,” says Alloway. With such crazy menu items there is room for some dissatisfaction from the students.
Knowing that some are pickier than others Chef Alloway implemented a 24/7 salad bar. This is for those who have allergies, class during mealtimes, or simply don’t like what is being served that day. The salad bar has a wide variety of not only salad toppings, but snack such as hummus as well. This newly introduced feature allows those who are on the meal plan with allergies to still eat and socialize with their peers.
Although food is a big part in Alloway’s life he also enjoys hobbies outside of work. “I love going to amusement parks, and Comicon conventions on my off days,” says Alloway. With a 6-month-old baby he has had to adjust his off-time and learn to balance family, work, and fun. This includes spending more time at home, “I love cooking for my girlfriend after knowing she has watched the baby all day,” he says.