Imagine a gathering of wild coyotes – savage, ravenous, spanning a seemingly endless frontier. When the hour hand strikes 11 a.m. at the Kappa Alpha house, chef Rusty Boyd is prepared for this battle.
As the proverbial flood gates are raised and large swaths of malnourished college students file in, only Boyd has the remedy.
Boyd is halfway through his second year as head chef at the Kappa Alpha Order. He’s worked as a chef for 10 years, running restaurants from Oxford to New Orleans and across the Gulf Coast. But before he’s a chef, he’s a father and a husband.
“I’m a family man, I love spending time with my wife and my daughter,” says Boyd. He also loves the outdoors – fishing, hunting, camping – you name it, he does it. Additionally, Boyd said he isn’t much of an athlete, but his jump shot on the KA basketball court says otherwise.
Boyd’s day begins before the sun has even contemplated rising; he’s up at 5 a.m. making breakfast, lunch, and coffee for his wife and daughter. He didn’t explicitly say, but Boyd emphasizes relaxation in his mornings. Waking at 5 a.m. allows him to make food, play with his dogs, and spend time with his family – all before it’s time to punch in at work.
Except punching in exudes a negative connotation. For Boyd, working at the KA house isn’t work at all.
“It’s easy,” he said. “I come to work. I make you guys food. And I go home. It couldn’t be easier.”
Boyd said he only has to make one mass meal per lunch and dinner, as opposed to 40 separate meals a night at the restaurant. But just because Boyd now whips up rations for the masses doesn’t mean he’s lost his touch.
It’s as if Boyd is a doctor, suturing the wounds of hunger with a delectable array of options available exclusively at 60 Rebel Drive. Whether his “guys”- as he calls them – are celebrating the completion of a test or wrangling with the nagging side effects of one too many dollar vodka’s from Corner bar the night before, Rusty has an answer.
Sophomore KA member Reed Adkins speaks highly of Boyd. “Whenever I come here (to the KA house), I know I’m going to get a delicious meal, and I know I’m going to be taken care of.”
Boyd arrives daily at work around 8 a.m., helping the rest of his staff feed breakfast to the men of KA. Like any reputable leader, Boyd knows that title doesn’t matter; the only thing that matters is getting the job done.
“If she (Mrs. Tracy – head breakfast chef) needs help, then I’ll help,” she said. “Whether it’s putting out bacon or cracking eggs, I’ll be there to help her.”
A man who has commanded large staffs of subordinates at some of Oxford’s and New Orleans’ finest establishments pays no mind to playing second fiddle at a fraternity house, because that’s who he is – he just wants to get the job done.
These values were learned at an early age. Boyd never imagined working as a chef, in fact, he went to college and graduated from nursing school. But food, like air, was integral to his survival.
“In high school, I started working for Coop Deville – a little wing place here in Oxford,” he said. “I started from the bottom there, and within six months, I was running the place. I was 17 years old.”
Boyd tried to get out of the restaurant business, studying nursing and trying his hand at construction, but he “just always wound up in the restaurant business – (he) just love(d) to cook.”
His affinity for culinary arts is displayed at every meal. “If you don’t like what he’s cooking that day, he wont hesitate to conjure up a totally separate meal in seconds,” Adkins said.
Once Boyd is finished assisting with breakfast, the main challenge of the day begins – lunch. He spends 9 a.m. to 1:30 p.m. preparing and facilitating the delivery of lunch.
With meals ranging, from tacos and Philly cheesesteak. to grilled chicken salad with raspberry vinaigrette, there truly is no item lacking.
After lunch ends, Boyd and his staff take a break. He can be found out back honing his skills on the basketball court, spending time with his wife and daughter, or working construction jobs with his father.
Once break ends, Boyd spends the rest of his afternoon and early evening preparing dinner and dessert. “I get to cook what I want, when I want,” he said. “This job is a true blessing.”
Boyd is a lifelong Oxfordian. He’s invested his life’s work and built a family in this college town. He wont garner the appellation of the mayor or head chef at Bouré, but that’s insignificant.
Through his food and radiant kindness, he has the daily opportunity to impact the lives, and bellies, of nearly 300 impressionable young adults. Luckily for them, he succeeds at both.