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The Reflector

The Student Newspaper of Mississippi State University

The Reflector

The Student Newspaper of Mississippi State University

The Reflector

Bin 612 chef moves from bar food to athletic nutrition

Ivy Rose Ball
MSU Athletics executive sous chef Micah Graves.

Seated at a small metal table on the patio of Bin 612 in downtown Starkville, a young woman excitedly took in the sights of the Cotton District as a new student at Mississippi State University. In front of her sat a small tray filled with crispy crinkle-cut fries, the ones she had heard so much about from her older friends.

The fries were far from the main event of her dinner plate. There was white queso cascading over each one, meeting in a large pool in the middle. Topped with mouth-watering bacon bits and a giant, buffalo chicken tender, she didn’t hesitate to dig in. After a bite, she smiled in satisfaction at the taste of Starkville’s staple cheese fries.

When patrons wonder who is responsible for cooking something so simple, yet so unique, leaving fireworks on their taste buds, the answer is clear: Biloxi native Micah Graves, former head chef of Bin 612 and the new executive sous chef for Mississippi State University Athletics. The man once known for his greasy, delicious cheese fries transformed into a chef who prioritizes the nutrition of collegiate athletes.

Graves became familiar with Bin 612 through his experiences as a customer, hanging out with his fraternity brothers. When Graves needed a job, Bin 612 posted a “Now Hiring” sign on the door.

Beginning as a dishwasher and line cook with no prior culinary skills, Graves worked at Bin 612 for six years. He was promoted to sous chef in 2019, and then head chef in 2020.

“My time at the Bin was unpredictable,” Graves said. “Because it was oriented towards the college crowd and we had such a small local crowd, one day it could be snowing and we would have people sitting on the patio and ordering food out the wazoo.”

Graves mentioned that his days consisted mostly of interactions with the fryer as he was most often cooking fried chicken and french fries. Though many people remember his time there in the form of delicious cheese fries, Barton Dinkins, the owner and operator of Two Brothers Smoked Meats located across the street from the Bin, remembers him for his work ethic and lovable personality.

“I know he’s a talented chef, but the first thing I think of when I think of Micah is how well-liked he is by his peers and staff,” Dinkins said. “You can tell Micah’s a genuine person and he really cares about the people and places he surrounds himself with and I think that’s evident in his cooking.”

Though the two restaurants were often in competition for hungry football fans, Dinkins respected Graves for his efficiency and skill in the kitchen. As someone who used to cook at Bin 612, Dinkins has firsthand experience with its chaotic kitchen.

“I know he can work well in high-stress environments because the Bin can be a really busy kitchen. I know because I used to work there before he did,” Dinkins said. “Not everyone can work in that kitchen or be in charge of it on game day weekends in Starkville, but Micah was always able to get good quality food on the table with no problem.”

Micah Graves, former head chef of Bin 612, now prepares meals for athletes at the Templeton Performance Nutrition Center. Ivy Rose Ball

In his new position, Graves is expected to cook quality meals that will fuel athletes in the classroom and in the field. With specific dietary needs and high performance weighing heavily on proper nutrition, athletes rely on their daily meals at the Templeton Performance Nutrition Center. The recently renovated cafeteria is currently only available for the use of athletes and serves three meals a day.

Graves and his supervisors were firm on maintaining the secrecy of what exactly the athletes were eating. Even without sharing specifics, Graves was able to respond with a general statement about the food they serve to the athletes, crediting most of the nutrition decisions to the team of dietitians who closely interact with the athletes.

“The athletic department has a pretty elite team of dieticians that caters to athletes to maximize their performance. It’s important to take what they suggest for the menu and try our best to accommodate it,” Graves said. “We have a lot of different options for the athletes to choose from. There’s fruits, veggies and protein but if they don’t want the main menu there are always other options like salad or pasta.”

Madison Jones, a distance runner for the track and field team, was able to share insights on what she is served when she eats at the Templeton. Jones said she eats every meal she can at the Templeton.

“For breakfast, it’s pretty much the same. Every day, you’re gonna have some eggs, you’re gonna have some sort of like sausage or bacon and then like a pancake or french toast. And then there’s always an omelet station that’s open that you can customize your omelet,” Jones said. “For lunch, lunch is always a little bit lighter. Like some kind of rice and fish type of thing. Maybe some soup at lunch and then like you can make a sandwich.”

Dinner at the Templeton consists of a variety of menus and meal options. Graves mentioned there are often theme nights where food is prepared to fit a certain culture or diet, like Mediterranean night.

“Dinner is always going to be heavier. Like Tuesday, there’s always like a taco Tuesday,” Jones said. “Then sometimes we have like Asian like they’ll give us sushi sometimes or it’ll be like beans and mac and cheese and all this other stuff…it varies a lot.”

Graves stated that he now cooks healthier and leaner foods than he has ever cooked before and credited his new position as providing a healthier diet for himself. By following the strict guidelines provided for him by the dietitians, Graves said his transition from bar food to performance-based meals was easy.

“The dietitians are very specific about what needs to be cooked and its my job to execute that for them and get it in front of the athletes,” Graves said. “My work environment here is much more controlled and more professional. I know exactly what and how much I am cooking before I do it. It makes prepping and organization so much easier than the hectic environment of cooking at a bar.”

At the end of the day, Graves said all he wanted was to satisfy the people who ate his food. On or off the field, Graves sees success within the smiles of the athletes he serves.

“I want to be solely responsible for one of our teams winning a national championship,” Graves said, jokingly. “But really, my biggest goal is to make everybody happy. You know I wanna make my supervisors happy but I also have to make the dieticians happy and the athletes that are eating my food.”

About the Contributor
Lizzie Tomlin
Lizzie Tomlin, Staff Writer
Lizzie Tomlin is a senior political science major. Lizzie is currently a staff writer for The Reflector.
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    Donna LanglinaisMar 1, 2024 at 8:59 am

    Congratulations Micha it has been wonderful watching you grow in your profession. Best of luck in your bright future.