Missouri basketball's Steve Moore aims to please on the court and in the kitchen

Tuesday, December 20, 2011 | 8:28 p.m. CST; updated 4:44 p.m. CST, Wednesday, December 21, 2011
Steve Moore, center for the Missouri men's basketball team, prepares sweet and sour meatballs during his cooking class on Nov. 18. The class meets every Friday with different themes each week.

COLUMBIA — On Friday mornings this fall, Steve Moore wore a different kind of uniform — a white double-breasted chef's uniform with his name embroidered on the chest. 

Instead of making plays on the basketball court, he was making Swedish meatballs in the kitchen. 

Thursday's game

No. 25 Illinois (11-1)
vs. Missouri (11-0)

WHEN: 8 p.m.
WHERE: Scottrade Center, St. Louis
RADIO: KTGR/1580 AM, 100.5 FM; KCMQ/96.7 FM

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His white adidas sneakers stuck out of the bottom of his black and white checked pants. A cooking thermometer and pencil rested in a pocket on the side of his left sleeve. 

Moore, a senior center on the Missouri men's basketball team, is studying hotel and restaurant management. This past semester, he took Culinary Fundamentals, a cooking class taught by chef Leslie Jett.

Along with his breakout in the kitchen, Moore has experienced a breakout on the basketball court this season. His behind-the-head, two-handed dunk during Thursday's game against Kennesaw State was one of the top-10 plays on ESPN's SportsCenter. 

Moore struggled to squeeze his hands into a pair of extra-large vinyl gloves. As the other students walked through the labyrinth of a kitchen, only the tops of their heads could be seen through the windows of the large kitchen stations. 

Moore's face and half his chest were visible. 

"I just order 3X on everything," Moore said.

The largest guy in the kitchen, he is also the largest guy on the team at 6 feet, 9 inches and 267 pounds. He currently ranks ninth all-time at Missouri for blocked shots in a career with 78. 

He got the scale ready to measure ground beef. On his first attempt, he measured out exactly 1 pound.

"One large onion grated," he read aloud. Moore either read or sang every ingredient of his recipe out loud as he began to prepare it. 

"Lemon juice," he sang in his baritone voice.

He squeezed the lemon and measured out salt.  

"Steve, what are you going to garnish that with?" Jett asked. 

"Is that a rhetorical question?" Moore replied. 

It wasn't. Moore scratched his chin, looked around for a minute, and then grabbed a handful of sage to garnish his meatballs. He placed the meatballs on a white plate, then on a larger decorative gold plate with a white doily in between. 

The class gathered around the a table where all the appetizers were placed. Jett tried Moore's appetizer and offered a critique. More salt. 

Moore blameed it on his partner, Earnest Sullivan.

Sullivan, an MU junior, has plenty of cooking experience. He is currently the executive chef at The Club at Old Hawthorne, a golf course and country club in Columbia. 

"He didn't really have any experience, and I do. We thought we'd be a good match," Sullivan said. 

The first week, the class made cookies. Moore said his were as flat as the baking sheet. But throughout the semester, his cooking improved.

His play for the Tigers has gotten better, too. Last season Moore averaged 11 minutes of playing time and 2 points per game. This season he has improved scoring to 4.4 points per game, averaging 15 minutes of playing time. 

An underdog now making a name for himself on the court, Moore has become a fan favorite.

Despite the critique, Jett reached for seconds of Moore's appetizer. Before trying any for himself, Moore grabbed two of his Swedish meatballs to hand to others. 

For Moore, cooking isn't about the food, but the community it creates.

"He always wanted to learn something new so he could cook it for friends and family," Sullivan said. "That was special to see."

Moore enjoys hosting potlucks at his home, inviting friends from high school and those he has met on campus. 

"I welcome everybody into my house," Moore said. "We'll watch movies, play music, play Uno, stuff like that."

The emphasis of Moore's studies is hospitality. 

When he heard about the large group of students camping out over night outside Mizzou Arena waiting to buy tickets to the Tiger's game against Kansas, he stopped to visit them.

"I like hosting people. I like showing hospitality, and I enjoy serving people," Moore said.

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