Having a kitchen on the floor of your dorm room means an opportunity for grilled cheese, brownies, and other basic sh*t that goes a very small step above the everyday, college student microwave classics. But for Tulane students Hunter Shocket and Ben Palmer, it means an opportunity to cook up gourmet food—and to make a profit. Here's an inside look at (and inside taste of) one of the coolest parts of Tulane's current food culture.
Starting From Scratch
These two freshmen met through a mutual friend on the first day of school while moving into Monroe Hall, instantly clicking over the discussion of a restaurant in their hometown of Los Angeles, a major food mecca. They prepared a meal for themselves and quickly realized their unique talent and drive could benefit the whole Tulane community.
Ben (pictured above on right) explains, "Bruff food is Bruff food. We want people to have an interesting meal that pushes boundaries.” In just the first month of school, the two have whipped up salmon, steak, spaghetti squash, Caprese salad, gnocchi, and profiteroles, using a kitchen that's far from ideal. The two met the demand for a meal that tastes "just like mom's"– something we all miss in college.
So how'd they get their start whipping up these insane dishes? "Well, I started cooking in sixth grade because I had a girlfriend who really liked it," admits Ben. Hunter (pictured above), meanwhile, tells us he started cooking because he was "yelling at the TV, watching Chopped, thinking ‘What are you doing?!’” Gourmet chefs–they're just like us, except arguably more talented.
Ben and Hunter's culinary project has rapidly gained recognition, with people stopping them every day asking if they're the "Monroe Chefs." They enjoy the recognition because it's for something they truly care about. “Cooking is what I know I’m meant to do. I dream about it," Hunter says.
The Scoop on This Weekend's Dinner
As usual, the duo sat down on Wednesday night and brainstormed a menu for the upcoming weekend. Once they decided on their meal, they trekked over to the store on Friday for all their ingredients. This process seems straightforward, but it's not without difficulties. Ben confesses, "We have to meet a few times a week to talk about paying for groceries, and we have to consider what Whole Foods has in season. We also change our ideas ten times a week.”
We were #blessed enough to secure spots at the table for this Sunday's meal. In the kitchen of Monroe Hall floor six, Hunter and Ben prepared two pizzas topped with bacon and eggs (cue the drooling), and followed this main course up with the cocoa-coated French toast of our dreams.
The two talked with us about their mutual passion for cooking and the heart of the operation they're running. When asked about their primary motive for hosting these dinners, both agreed that it was about their love of food, not the money. "Even if we were breaking even we’d do it. It’s so much fun to cook," says Ben, "It’s a great way for our friends to meet our other friends and make a whole network."
Hunter agrees, saying, "It's just about the cooking! And it's something that sets us apart from everyone else." While they're running a successful business with no shortage of potential, all profits so far have gone towards supplies for cooking (think everything from pots and pans to aprons).
So what can we hungry Tulanians expect from the duo in the future? With several successful dinners under their belts, it's no surprise these ambitious students are looking to expand their business. "We want to expand to upperclassmen, teachers, and RAs! It's only going to grow from here, and I'm really excited about it," says Hunter.
The boys are looking to upgrade to real silverware and plates instead of the paper ones they've used thus far once they have all the cooking tools they need. The two even want to start a cooking club at Tulane, as several students have approached them asking for cooking lessons.
Attending One of These Notorious Dinners
Interested in coming to one of Ben and Hunter's dope dinners?They are every Sunday night at 7:30 pm. They typically take between 12 to 14 people on a first-come-first-serve basis—a small number when you consider that 110 people begged this past week alone for a spot.
So, your best bet is to contact them asap if you want to be a part of the hottest on-campus eatery. Ben and Hunter urge everyone who wants to come to reach out to them (through Facebook or by asking around), as their goal is to have a different group of people experiencing this every weekend. If you happen to snatch a spot, bon appétit.