Cooking up a community

People say that food brings a family together. For the Culinary Arts Living and Learning Community in Fulbright Hall, even a bowl of cereal does the trick.

Many nights, Fulbright’s sixth floor is a potluck, with students meeting in the hall. The group gets together for feasting parties, including “BYOB” parties (as in “bring your own bowl” of cereal), Monday night Mexican dinners and pasta parties.

“One day I just walked out of my room and there were a bunch of kids in the hallway consuming huge bowls of pasta,” said senior Erica LeBlanc, the group’s community facilitator. “Of course, I went back into my room and got a plate.”

The Culinary Arts Community is one of 32 freshman living and learning communities made up of students who share a common interest. Fulbright Hall is the only freshman residence hall option with kitchens in each room.

“We eat so much better than everyone else,” said Tom Schubbe, a freshman community member. He then launched into a description of the homemade ravioli he plans to make on Friday night while other members of the community wandered in and out of their rooms describing cakes, casseroles and salads they’ve made (and smoke detectors they’ve set off in the process).

LeBlanc, who by no means considers herself a good cook, said she was surprised at the skill level of her residents.

“Most of these kids came in here cooking like Emeril,” she said, referring to the famous television chef and entertainer Emeril Lagasse.

Although she admits to being inexperienced in the kitchen, and yes, even to burning some cookies her first semester, she leads the group on all of their culinary-themed activities.

The community goes to restaurants in the city together and discusses their food reviews (Ben’s Chili Bowl D.C. is a favorite among the crowd). Last semester, the group traveled to San Francisco to visit what members considered national culinary-enthusiast destinations.

“We went to the best restaurant ever called Foreign Cinema. And we went to the Fisherman’s Wharf, and to Chinatown and to a farmer’s market,” freshman Allie Mariano said, adding that they also biked across the Golden Gate Bridge one afternoon.

While the students said their Fulbright facilities aren’t ideal for gourmet cuisine, the sixth floor is full of kitchen camaraderie.

LeBlanc said, “My intent was to make good meals and have a great time with a college spin on both.”

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