Q: What is your job?
A: I am the private chef to a fraternity at a fancy university.
Q: How did you get the job?
A: I was sous chef in a busy restaurant. Then I had my daughter and I didn’t want to work an 18-hour day, but I wanted to get back into cooking.
I started cooking for a fraternity, I was there for about two years, and then they were kicked off campus.
My current position is the second fraternity I’ve cooked for. I’ve been here about a year and a half.
Q: Are fraternities better or worse than people think?
A: The first frat was worse. This one has a totally different culture. Shenanigans still occur, but it’s just kids being kids.
So many of them are putting so much effort into growing up.
A lot of them are away from home for the first time in their lives. They’re 17 or 18 years old. I try to be a mom if they need that.
Q: Do they come to you for advice?
A: I fielded a question the other day: is it worse to become accustomed to always succeeding or always failing?
Usually the questions are not that deep. More like, “Where can I buy a piñata shaped like a donkey?” “How can I clean month-old vomit out of a backseat?” “Should I get a neck tattoo?” “How can I tell my parents that I want to change my major?”
Q: But for the most part they’re well behaved.
A: Yes. They all eat dinner together each night and I appreciate seeing them function as a community.
If one of them is having trouble with a class or has a family member who passes away, someone always steps up to help. That’s the kind of thing I didn’t expect to see.
Q: If you had a son would you let him join a frat?
A: This one, yes.
The last one where I worked, no. When I went to interview, the guy opened the door and told me to come in, but to wait by the front door. Then the guys put sheets of plywood down so I could get from the front door to the kitchen.
They had smashed almost everything in sight and the campus cleaning service would come later in the week, so they thought, “Why bother cleaning?” Instead they just put plywood over the mess. It crunched when you walked over it.
They were not making good choices.
Q: Nice. What’s your schedule like?
A: I do lunch and dinner Monday through Friday and every once in a while I’ll do a special event on a weekend.
Q: What do you cook?
A: Lots of things in large quantities. They can’t get enough of anything Mexican—I could make tacos and burritos every day and they’d still ask for more.
I’ll make Indian food, Chinese food, casserole things… Every Thursday for lunch I make Philly cheesesteaks. I keep trying to convince them to do something different but they won’t do it.
Q: Do you get to choose the menu?
A: Yes. I do what I want.
Q: Have you ever made food they didn’t like?
A: I’ve definitely had some disasters. I accidentally burnt a sauce once and had to pass It off as “smoky-flavored.”
They are big meat eaters and I once made curried red lentils. That was probably their least favorite thing that I’ve made.
Q: Are they allowed to use the kitchen when you’re not there?
A: They are not, but a lot of what they do is taking out leftovers and repurposing them. They don’t really know how to cook for themselves.
I keep telling them “Pick something you want to make and I’ll teach you!” but so far it hasn’t happened.
Q: How long will you continue in this job?
A: My 11-year-old daughter spends a significant amount of time there, and we say that she has 40 older brothers. My joke is that I can do this job until she stops thinking of them as brothers.
Q: Have you seen the guys when they’re tipsy?
A: I’ve seen most of them drunk. Usually not mid-day but I’ve seen things begin as early as 4pm.
Q: Have you ever had a frat guy come on to you?
A: Oh my goodness no.
Q: This sounds like a good job for you.
A: It seems to be my thing. It’s a stable job for the adventuresome.