Flip through an issue of Penn Appétit and you might land on an interview with a local chef, a guide for navigating bakeries in Chinatown, journeys into Indonesian and Argentinian cuisine, or a recipe for “morning after beer bread,” illustrated with pyramids of red Solo cups.
That’s because the student-produced Penn Appétit is first and foremost a publication for University of Pennsylvania students. Designed in the style of national food magazines and illustrated with rapturous photographs of gleaming vegetables and colorful cocktails, the publication this year is celebrating its 10th anniversary with a cookbook.
Whisk, which students hope to release in the fall, will feature recipes developed and tested by a team of student chefs and pictures painstakingly styled and shot in a makeshift food studio. Recipes will include cuisine inspired by everything from Mexican street food, French pastries, and Italian classics to dishes made with flavors of chai spices and tahini.
School administrators believe Penn Appétit — which is published once a semester and which released its 22nd issue last month — is the oldest student-run food magazine in the nation. And though it was once a lesser-known group on campus, its members say that in light of the growing national interest in food, cooking, and restaurants, it’s starting to attract more followers, not to mention more people who want to contribute to it.
“In the two years I’ve been part of it, so many more people have gained respect for what we do,” said the magazine’s executive director, Rachel Prokupek, a sophomore studying marketing and management at the Wharton Business School. “Our team is filled with people who are passionate about food and want to put out content that’s important to them.”
Beyond the print edition, Penn Appétit’s website features additional items on restaurants, food trends, travel guides, and more. The magazine is funded by the student activities council, though none of that is allocated to Whisk. Jennifer Higa, culinary director, said the cookbook team was looking for grants and funding to help them self-publish. She also is exploring local fund-raising ideas, like a pop-up dinner.
The idea for the book came from a desire among some members of the Penn Appétit masthead team to incorporate more cooking into their lives. They recruited about a dozen food-focused students to start experimenting, Prokupek said, and quickly realized they had the skills to create a project that was far more sophisticated than dorm-room recipes.
“The focus is on highlighting the ability of the people in our club, but we also wanted it to be for the home cook,” said Prokupek, who studied culinary arts at Le Cordon Bleu in Paris. “So that meant we wanted to use elevated techniques, have it look nice, be tasty, and also be accessible.”
Higa, a sophomore studying graphic design who grew up in Tokyo, has long been fascinated by the connections between food and culture. In conceiving the cookbook, she said, she wanted to put together something that offers more than just a collection of recipes that anyone could look up online.
“We come from a lot of different backgrounds, and we experience so many things creatively through food,” she said.
The book organizes the recipes by occasion, rather than type or style of food: lunch; a dinner party; a picnic. Higa hopes students will use it as a guide for hosting their own events.
Though Prokupek someday would like to have a career in the food business, she said other students involved with the magazine and book have no such plans — Penn Appétit is a fun outlet that has nothing to do with their majors.
“I think this shows in general that people who go to a rigorous school like this can also be creative and passionate in ways that aren’t necessarily academic,” she said.