Before I moved into my sorority’s chapter facility this past August, living in a sorority house was a huge mystery for me. I was nervous about learning how to parallel park on the street adjacent to the facility, worried that it would be hard to find quiet places to study, and most importantly, concerned about the food. As it turns out, parallel parking is pretty easy, the house library is a great place to be productive, and my chapter is lucky to have a passionate sorority chef leading a talented kitchen team. I sat down with Carl, our head chef, to discuss what it is truly like to feed 95 women 24 meals per week. 

How does one get into the business of being a sorority chef?

Chef Carl’s passion for cooking dates back to his youth. Living in Europe as a young child and frequently visiting family in New Orleans and Georgia formed the basis of his culinary passion. Eventually, his adventurous taste-buds evolved into a career in the kitchen starting at the age of 15. From positions ranging from a dishwasher to restaurant general manager, even after 30 years of food service, Chef Carl has not looked back.

Prior to taking the job at the sorority facility, Chef Carl needed a change. As a restaurant general manager, he missed the hands-on element of actually cooking. This, combined with his previous commercial cooking experience, led him to Bloomington to take on this new challenge.

Bryn Mazzocco

What is it really like to work at a chapter facility?

Sorority facilities follow IU’s semester calendar. As a result, Chef Carl explains that the flexibility of the job is unmatched compared to others in the culinary industry, allowing him to spend more time with his wife than he could in a traditional restaurant job.

Chef Carl also credits his strong team for making his job something that he truly enjoys. Specifically, he emphasized his positive relationship with both his kitchen staff and our house mom for their support. Chef Carl explained that while working at a sorority facility, it is important that he and the house mom are “on the same team”.

How does a sorority chef decide what to make?

As a ten-year veteran of my chapter’s kitchen, Chef Carl has creative freedom over the dinners that fit within his budget. For example, in February he was able to serve lobster tails for 80 women after finding them on sale at a wholesale store.

When planning the menu, he takes chapter feedback into account but notes that it is impossible to please everyone. In addition to classic favorites such as baked penne and taco Tuesday, he also incorporates the latest food trends. Poke bowls, avocado toast, and to-order smoothies are all examples of modern culinary crazes that are represented regularly on our menu. Chef Carl has also adapted his staples over time to reflect changing preferences. For instance, he explained that gyros used to be extremely popular among chapter members. As they faded in demand, he incorporated falafels to put a cosmopolitan twist on the meal.

One of Chef Carl’s most beloved meals has a little-known but special story behind it. Build-your-own pita pizzas, often served for Friday lunches, are a nod to where Chef Carl fell in love with cooking. He shared with me that his first cookbook was a collection of microwave recipes. From the book, the first item he chose to make was a microwaved pita pizza. As a tribute to this memory, Chef Carl makes pita pizzas for the first meal of each school year.

Bryn Mazzocco

Some of my most special memories in the house have occurred in the dining room over a shared meal. Whether it be debriefing with my best friends over Sunday morning brunch or getting to know someone new during Wednesday night dinner, Chef Carl’s cooking is the common denominator. The care that he puts into his cooking continuously brings my chapter closer together.