George Washington University sophomore Audrey Scagnelli once burnt the croutons she was toasting, triggering a fire alarm that led to a campus building evacuation.
Embarrassed, the political communication major brought local firefighters who raced to the scene some raspberry napoleons. She also turned the experience into a magazine spread.
Scagnelli is the founder and editor-in-chief of College & Cook, an online student magazine working to “prove college students should not be stereotyped by cold pizza and Easy Mac.”
Its larger aim, according to Scagnelli: bringing student foodies together to share innovative, edible stories.
“There is a growing presence of food on the Internet, especially with food blogs and food photography,” she said. “Food porn, some call it. But there isn’t much out there that’s college related and really nothing out there that kind of unites universities across the country with such a range of food topics and food content.”
Cue College & Cook. From the moment the first issue of the planned quarterly premiered earlier this semester, the magazine has been eaten up. It registered roughly 6,500 hits on its Issuu page two weeks after its rollout, spurring a related Washington Post feature.
According to the Post, “[I]t took a mere eight months for [Scagnelli] to envision, develop and publish College & Cook magazine, a nationwide online effort geared for her demographic. That particular slice of the population pie– college students in the United States, for starters– is at almost 20 million, which is enough to make media moguls smack their foreheads and wish they’d thought of the concept first.”
In the Q&A below, Scagnelli discusses C&C’s concept, explains her motivations for launching it, and tells the full crouton fire alarm story.
Q: In your own words, what is College & Cook?
A: College & Cook covers all content that has anything to do with food and college students. Be it cooking in a dorm room on a budget or the slow food movement or college students with food allergies, food is kind of our umbrella. The goal was to create one spot where content that is diverse but food-related exists. So our goal is to unite the growing food community among college students nationwide.
Q: What motivated you to start it?
A: I’m a huge food person. I always have been since I was a little girl. But as I entered college and started speaking with students I started to realize there wasn’t really a place, a roof of sorts, for food-interested college students to congregate across the country. . . . [M]y interest in the journalistic side of the food world really started last year at the beginning of my freshman year. I took a class called the Politics of the Kitchen. I’m also very interested in politics. I just loved this class. It kind of opened my eyes, “Oh, wow, you can combine politics and food.”
Q: Is the magazine’s goal to push students beyond the dorm munchies mindset?
A: I think college students are capable of craving and cooking dishes that are delicious. I think that there are a lot of young people who are experimenting in their little kitchens or dorm room microwaves. So a big part of College & Cook is to not only show that there are kids out there who are eating well but also to show kids currently only cooking Easy Mac that it’s not that much more difficult to branch out a little bit and get a little more creative. . . . The food community is growing by leaps and bounds, both in academia and the faculty across the country who are starting to look at food and culture as an academic subject, but also college students who have an interest in the slow food movement or cooking themselves. It’s just growing. . . . Today, the food-interested student, there is just more of them out there.
Q: What is your favorite feature included in the magazine’s first issue?
A: When I’m asked what story kind of sums up College & Cook, I think most people are surprised to hear it’s the fire story. . . . [A group of staffers] were doing a dorm room date night spread. We were doing a photo shoot and we lost track of time and all of a sudden the oven was filled with croutons that were on fire. We ended up evacuating an entire building, which was a little embarrassing. But we prevailed and finished the photo shoot after we cleaned up the mess. We went to the fire house on this campus here in Washington and gave the firemen the strawberry napoleons. That kind of turned into a spread.
I love that it’s a spread for a few reasons. We are college students. I don’t claim to be this chef. I’m a collge kid. Everyone involved in this magazine, we’re all college students. It just kind of shows who we are. Another thing that interested me, when I started researching the article, there is actually a lot of data on fires in college dorms and the numbers are really on the rise. There was actually a serious tone to a portion of the article that I didn’t even expect would have been there. So I think A) seeing a story that could be kind of fun to write that you wouldn’t necessarily think immediately would be a story and B) realizing that there’s depth to it, that’s why it’s my favorite.
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