A new club on campus has stepped in to treat the various culinary cravings of Grinnellians across all walks of life. Launched late last year by Michaela Gelnarova and Alice Herman (both ’18), the Gourmet Cuisine Society hopes to provide hungry students a taste of fare from around the world.
The club meets on Sundays at Russian House, and the participating students usually change every week. Those who want to attend fill out an online form posted on Facebook and priority is given to newcomers. The rest of the attendees are generally selected on a first come, first served basis. Gourmet Food Society is free to attend.
The first gathering this year was on Sept. 20, when the club made goat cheese and cherries on baguettes, lentils, sweet potatoes and coconut curry and chocolate fondant.
Attendees were quite pleased with their cooking and eating experience.
“I like how we all get to take part in the cooking process and in the end sit down to eat together,” said Moe Sabai ’18.
“It’s also a great way to make new friends and bond,” added Kevin Connors ’18. “I’m not on the meal plan, so I’ll take any free food I can get. The difference is that the meals we make are delicious.”
The Gourmet Cuisine Society shares its origins with growing apathy towards the Dining Hall, as compared to one co-founder’s previous experiences.
“I’ve worked in an Italian and French restaurant, and in a luxury French bakery,” Gelnarova recalled. “We thought that we would come up with something better [than the Dining Hall] and get people excited about that.”
While it’s true that the Dining Hall does an admirable job considering the huge amounts of food that they need to prepare, the Gourmet Cuisine Society is able to provide a much more refined cooking and dining experience as they only serve a handful of people for one lunch per week.
Gourmet Cuisine Society places high value on variety, which is reflected by their constantly changing menu. “We wanted to learn how to cook a variety of foods,” Herman said. “We’ve been trying to get people who can cook different types of cuisine to be the host chef for the day.”
This desire for variety is also seen in the relatively hands-off approach of the club co-founders.
“We pretty much just cover organization and supplies,” Herman said. “Oftentimes, somebody else will come up with a recipe, we’ll send out an e-mail and then we go out and buy the food.”
This member-focused approach allows the co-founders to focus their energy on simply providing a great cooking and eating experience, rather than worrying about many of the everyday administrative issues plaguing other groups.
This year, the Gourmet Cuisine Society switched from working in the Multicultural Kitchen to the Russian House for very practical reasons. Over the course of last year, many of their cutting boards, knives and measuring cups disappeared from the Multicultural Kitchen, which provoked them to change to a less public space.
“When you’re working in a kitchen that isn’t part of one community, such as Russian House, there’s [a lack] of accountability about stuff being used,” Herman said. “It’s sort of been a failure of self-gov.”
While many of the missing kitchen items may have been the result of simple mistakes, the co-founders are nonetheless disappointed that many of the items they purchased have disappeared.
At its core, this organization is all about cooking and sharing a delicious meal with old and new friends.
“Food is what sustains us, but it’s also a great way to meet other people,” Herman said. “[It] can serve more than the most basic, minimal purpose.”