Robin O’Donoghue is the president of UAA’s Drag+ club.
The table is loaded down with bacon-wrapped cheese stuffed dates, potato frittatas, pastries, charcuterie boards and sausage-stuffed mushrooms. The spread looks fit for a special occasion or a celebration, but for members of UAA’s new Culinary Club… this is just another regular meeting.
“We always have food at our meetings,” said Jaydon Mitchell, president of the Culinary Club.
“Honestly, that’s the main reason to come,” he joked.
The UAA Culinary Club is a new club that formed at the beginning of this semester. Actually, more recent culinary students have resurrected the group after it had been inactive for a number of years.
“We actually have had a culinary club before, but it was so long ago that nobody remembers,” said Riza Brown, instructor of hospitality for the Culinary Arts Program.
Brown also serves as the club’s advisor and teaches classes on purchasing, hospitality concept and design, catering management and beverage management.
“We’re all very close knit because it’s such a small group here in the Culinary Arts Program,” Brown said. “It’s important to have this club and kind of draw all the different classes together… to get everybody on the same page where they can help out their fellow students to fit in and have fun.”
According to Brown, it was Finn Massey, a student in the program, that first inquired about the then inactive club. Massey had heard that there used to be a Culinary Club on campus and brought it up to instructors in the culinary program.
Brown volunteered to act as the advisor for the student club and from then on, it wasn’t long before she found a group of equally enthusiastic students.
“The students are really excited to make their own variations of food as opposed to given assignments and recipes on what to make,” Brown said. “Of course, you need a fundamental foundation in order to build your education, but you go into culinary arts with an idea of what your want for your future.”
The club is open to all students with a passion for cooking and encourages even students with all levels of experience to get involved.
“If you’re not having fun, you’re not doing it right,” Brown also said. “I resonate with the students because they’re all passionate about something and we share that passion. We are able to connect and share our different perspectives… It’s easy to get stressed out [in the program] so Culinary Club is an outlet for them.”
Although the club is still getting on its feet, the group has large ambitions and wants to focus on is philanthropic work, such as getting involved in the UAA community and working on various charitable causes. The club has already started connecting with different groups on campus who work on addressing problems relating to homeless and hungry students.
The group’s first public event at a club will be catering Drag-O-Lantern, an event put on by Drag+. Members of Culinary Club are volunteering their time and resources to provide a spread of snacks for the event for free.
For members of the club, the future hold limitless possibilities that the group is eager to explore.
“I’m passionate about food,” said Tasha Quiett. Quiett, who is serving as the club’s secretary, is currently pursuing her bachelor’s degree in restaurant and hospitality management at UAA.
“This club has a chance to make a difference in our college and the community, and I’m excited and proud to be a part of it,” Quiett said.
As for Brown, serving as the club’s advisor is personally rewarding.
“I really believe in these students. Somebody saw something in me a long time ago, I see something in them, so I want to perpetuate that cycle,” Brown said.
The UAA Culinary Club meets every other Thursday at 5 p.m. in the Cuddy Hall ADR room.
You can follow the Culinary Club on their instagram account @uaa_culinary_hospitatlity.