It’s a typical cold day in Evanston. Huddled outside the entrance of Whole Food’s Market, a small group of Northwestern students exchange brief hellos and quickly shuffle inside the store. They skip past the produce and meats, making a beeline towards a stairway tucked behind swinging double doors labeled ‘Employees Only’. Unlike most students in Whole Foods, they are not here to shop; they are here for Cookology.
After making their way upstairs to a hidden test kitchen, they are greeted by Chef Brian Huston of Boltwood and an array of ingredients from Whole Foods. He reminisces about how he got started in the restaurant business and tells stories of his various culinary escapades while prepping a hearty ribollita soup and filling the room with the sweet aroma of soffritto.
After some more stories from the restaurant business, a couple general cooking tips and questions from the crowd, Chef Brian serves everyone in attendance a bowl of hearty soup and describes how versatile the recipe can be. This is typical Cookology: an intimate, food-centric experience that brings members close to great chefs to learn from the best.
Cookology started out as a simple vision among three friends: Jenny Phan, Sean Quan and Yang Xu. They all shared a strong passion for food and cooking cultivated by years of personal experience.
As Jenny puts it, “Food is the universal language … a medium for self-expression, culture and relationships.”
Sean and Yang both worked as cooks in the Michelin star-studded restaurants Everest and Blackbird while Jenny gained skills and industry know-how from her parents. Together, they hoped to create a way to learn more about the craft of cooking and help ignite the passion for it in other Northwestern students as well.
After nearly a year of developing their concept, using their formal restaurant connections to get in touch with chefs and running trials of cooking demos and events, Cookology officially kicked off in full this fall quarter.
Each quarter, Cookology builds their demos and activities based on a central theme. This quarter’s theme is “Basics,” with an emphasis on essential kitchen skills such as knife handling and seasoning; the club will transition to an emphasis on modern and molecular gastronomy next quarter. Award-winning local chefs bring their expertise and techniques to the table at each biweekly cooking demo and showcase some of their favorite recipes. During the week following each demo, members get together and practice the recipes they learned as well as other techniques relevant to the theme to make themselves a delicious meal.
At the end of each quarter, Cookology will transform into a one night only pop-up restaurant run by its members and showcasing the recipes they learned to students and faculty alike. Members will get a chance to unleash their inner chef and experience the rush of cooking in a restaurant as well as running a dinner service for their fellow students and community. Cookology plans on expanding its activities as it grows, adding more dorm catering events as well as gourmet fundraising events. As a young club with a great vision, they have come a long way and are on track to become a Northwestern icon for aspiring cooks and food lovers.