By Stephanie Le, Staff Writer
Chef Bob Mataj has retired and Newman’s new chef, Chef Clark Wilson, has some plans for the Mabee Dining Center. Newman University’s Chef Mataj has retired after serving at the Mabee Dining Center for 18 years. During his time as NU’s chef, Mataj also worked for a fine dining service at The Petroleum Club of Wichita and Crestview Country Club. Kelly Griffin, the kitchen staff advisor, said Mataj retired from Newman to focus on managing his restaurant at Crestview Country Club as well as spend time with his family. Mataj has since travelled to Italy and is enjoying his free time.
NU’s new chef, Chef Wilson, had worked with Mataj at Crestview for about 30 years. Prior to becoming NU’s chef, Wilson had been the food service director for Great Western Dining at Neosho County Community College in Chanute. Great Western Dining company offered Wilson the position, and he relocated to Wichita.
“I’m a chef, so they thought it would be a win-win for the school, for our company, and for me. Now I can do what I really love to do: work with food,” Wilson said.
At the beginning of the year, Wilson started having some health issues. He said doctors told him he had an intestinal tract infection, which eventually became double pneumonia. Wilson was sent to the hospital and spent most of his time there. While he has to get daily dosages from Wesley Medical Center to maintain his health, he says he is feeling well enough to be at Newman again.
Wilson and his team plan to introduce new menu items and include some of the popular entree items from the old menu.
“We’re slowly starting to change. Bob had a cycle menu that ran for several weeks, and then it’d repeat again. We’re starting with that, and then eventually we’re going to completely change the menus.”
He says he and the kitchen staff will always do new things.
“To be cutting-edge in the culinary arts, you need to always be changing and trying new things. That’s what we’re going to try to do. We’re going to go with what works, but then we’re going to try some new things too.”
Gayla Hubbard, the assistant chef, says the style of cooking will change too.
“We don’t use butter a lot here; we use more of canola oil. Even the stuff we fry, the fry oil that we use is a trans-fat-free vegetable oil. We’re trying to do more food from scratch, so it’s a little healthier,” Hubbard said.
Wilson and Chris Heck, the director of food services, said they also want to do some display cooking. Display cooking is a type of cooking that showcases the quality of different ingredients, foods, and dishes; it is similar to putting on a food show. By doing so, students can see the food being made on-site and choose the items they want. Chef Wilson plans to do some Asian fusion, Mexican, and seafood display cooking. He also wishes to try and cook more international dishes.
Christine Schneikart-Luebbe, dean of students, has been to multiple campuses and says that Newman has the best food of any campus she’s been to.
“Before this, I was at IU Bloomington in Indiana. I was at Wichita State, I was at Northern Arizona. I’ve been at a number of campuses. (This is) hands down, the best food and I eat here often.”
PHOTO: Stephanie Le, Staff Writer.