Food Magazine a Recipe for Success

February 29, 2012

George Washington students create digital magazine catering to foodies at college campuses across the country.

By Kurtis Hiatt

Audrey Scagnelli’s appetite for food is insatiable.

“I don’t get sick of it,” said Ms. Scagnelli, a Columbian College of Arts and Sciences sophomore. “Of everything there is in life, food is something I just do not tire of, be it eating it, talking about it or shopping for it.”

That infatuation led to Ms. Scagnelli’s founding of College & Cook, a digital magazine that premiered in January and connects college-aged foodies across the country. It’s a hodge-podge of content: There are recipes, like microwavable cakes made in coffee mugs with ingredients measured in shot glasses. There’s an interview with restaurateur and Top Chef star Spike Mendelsohn. Then there are feature stories that run the gamut, from the slow food movement to coping with food allergies.

The recipe for the magazine had been brewing for a while, but it was last spring, after having taken a University Writing Program course on food, that the 20-year-old Ms. Scagnelli got serious about it. She spent the summer and fall recruiting staffers—seven from GW and a smattering of contributors from more than a dozen universities across the country. The ideas started flowing, the content started to roll in, the pages came alive, and by January they had created the first issue of a quarterly magazine. On Thursday, students across the country were eating it up; it had about 9,100 views since its debut. The Washington Post even featured it in its Food section this week.

Not surprising—the magazine fills a void, say the GW magazine staffers.

“One of the things that captured me was the originality of starting a national college food magazine,” said Christina Oriel, a Columbian College of Arts and Sciences sophomore and College & Cook’s managing editor. “You would think that a seemingly simple idea would already exist, so I think that is what makes C&C so special—it’s a fresh concept and uniting the food-interested community in our age group is a goal we are working on.”

Added School of Business sophomore and business manager Ben Besse: “I was excited by the prospect of being able to share my culinary point of view with other students, a group that has, until now, been somewhat neglected by the food community as a whole.”

Neglected no more. Everything about the magazine exudes college, including the trials and tribulations of amateur cooks. Take the mini-fire that erupted in Guthridge last fall, when some of the College & Cook team, including leader Ms. Scagnelli, forgot about the croutons “toasting” in the oven. The residence hall was evacuated and fire department called. “It was very embarrassing,” said Ms. Scagnelli, a political communications major and journalism minor. The team turned it into a learning experience, though, and dedicated a spread in the magazine to fire safety.

That feature turned out to be Ms. Scagnelli’s favorite part of the inaugural issue.

“I didn’t want College & Cook to be a couple of uppity kids who think they are the experts in all things food,” said Ms. Scagnelli, whose favorite D.C. restaurant is Belga, a Belgian eatery in Eastern Market. “Because that’s not me. I think that’s hysterical that this happened. And I have no qualms about telling anyone the story. It’s funny.”

The students were united under their common passion for food, and they described particularly strong connections to it from early in life.

Ms. Scagnelli, whose culinary delight is making tomato sauce, remembers brown-bagging gourmet lunches as a child, like thermoses of linguine and clam sauce, and her first attempt trying to fry eggs at age 7. She comes from a family of French and Italians, so food, she said, is a “big component in our lives.”

For Ms. Oriel, too, cooking was always a family affair. She remembers hanging out in her grandmother’s restaurant in Los Angeles as a child, prepping meals with her sisters over the holidays and the Sundays out for dim sum, bite-sized portions of Chinese food ordered a la carte.

Cooking is also something special for Mr. Besse.

“There is something indescribably sensational about crafting or experiencing delicious food and being able to share it with people who share a similar passion,” the 19-year-old finance major said. “I believe that food is such a powerful medium, not just something you eat.”

Working on the magazine has given the GW students a chance to apply what they learn in class—grammar, journalistic style, business acumen—to a real-world publication.

“I have been able to apply concepts and methods from my coursework in management, accounting, finance and taxation to College & Cook,” said Mr. Besse. “There is nothing quite like being able to utilize the principles I learn in the classroom to my experiences here at the magazine.”

They can also bring what they learn working on the magazine back to class, like communication skills, Ms. Oriel noted.

College & Cook is just getting fired up. The students were recently awarded some office space, and they’ve moved on to round two of the GW Business Plan Competition. If you’re interested in joining the team, Ms. Scagnelli is especially in need of designers.

They’re also working on their next issue—and have been since the day the first one went live—due out in April and centered on food and heritage. It’ll feature the founding fathers’ favorite foods and include, of course, George Washington’s hankering for bread pudding.