300: J2 chef Ivory Mobley brings food, company to students

Elizabeth Hlavinka

Editor’s note: In 300 words or fewer, this series spotlights people in our community whose stories typically go untold.

Hungry students shuffle through the packed lines of the J2 buffet, overwhelmed with lunch options. Grilled cheese sandwiches, stir-fried veggies and an extensive salad bar await them, and it is all prepared by a team run by Ivory Mobley.

Mobley, the lead cook at the J2 kitchen, has been planning and cooking the kitchen’s meals for the past five years. His management duties also entail documenting the quantities of each food the kitchen produces, which includes upwards of 800 sandwiches per day.

“Sometimes you get to the point where you don’t ever want to see a grilled cheese sandwich or a panini [again],” Mobley said.

Mobley said he has always been a foodie and that, as a child growing up in Savannah, Georgia, he often helped his mother cook meals she sold from their home. 

Once he got to college, Mobley studied social work, but after a brief stint working with the nonprofit organization Invisible Children, he moved to Austin to go to culinary school.

He soon took a job at UT and was promoted to lead cook. Now a full-time employee at J2, Mobley also occasionally works special events at the Thai restaurant Sway.

Mobley said in the future, he wants to finish culinary school and open his own small restaurant, an Asian-comfort food hybrid that fuses his two favorite types of food.

For now though, he said he enjoys the balance of the casual, friendly environment at UT and the more hectic, demanding atmosphere of a busy kitchen.

“It can be stressful, as far as getting stuff out on time and making sure everything tastes right, but I like that pressure,” Mobley said. “It’s also rewarding when you have a student come back and want more of what you made because it means they liked it. To me, it’s worth it.”