National collegiate food publication launches UTD chapter to build local database of student-friendly recipes, restaurants

1 year ago
Marisa Williams
Mercury Staff

Thanks to over 300 signatures on a petition, a chapter of a variation of a food blog has opened at UTD.

“Spoon University,” offering a number of recipes, restaurant reviews and cooking advice, aims to be a food repository.


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According to the its webpage, “Spoon University” is an online food publication written by college students for college students.

Grace Nguyen, a psychology sophomore, contacted the publication in August after hearing about it from a friend at The University of Texas at Austin.

“She is also a ‘foodie’ like me. She loves to cook and she loves to post pictures,” she said.

After attending online meetings with other future founders from different universities, Nguyen said she realized how many college students across the country look to “Spoon University” for inspiration and information and began to take steps to make it available on UTD’s campus.

Her first step was creating a Facebook page titled “Bring ‘Spoon University’ to UT Dallas” and sharing it with her friends. She also encouraged them to share it on their own accounts.

Nguyen also connected with people in person throughout the day, providing them an explanation on what signing the petition meant for them and for the university as a whole. She also received information from “Spoon University” directly that helped her understand how to begin spreading awareness.

“It’s not just about recipes,” she said. “You can talk about anything that’s food-related, like the best coffee shop in town or the best boba place in town. It’s a giant food network that you can do everything with.”

In order to establish a chapter of “Spoon University” on campus, Nguyen had to recruit 300 people to sign a petition to show campus interest in the blog and what it could potentially bring to the UTD culture. Those who signed were also given the option to participate in the production of the publication.

“We want to build a team with members of the best quality who would work together to help build this amazing network,” Nguyen said. “It’s not just a food publication, but a food community that we want to build here.”

In order to be a team member and contribute, the cost is a one-time fee of $15. As for team members of the UTD “Spoon University” chapter, work must go through upper management before publication.

“It’s just like any kind of publication. You have to go through your editor-in-chief. You have to go through your photography director. It’s not like you just upload your work, like with a blog,” Nguyen said.

The UTD “Spoon University” is recruiting writers, photographers, videographers, marketers and a public relations team. These positions are managed by leadership roles, such as marketing director, editorial director, video director and photo director.

Nguyen said she wants to build the best team in order to make UTD’s “Spoon University” chapter be up to par with the chapters of other big universities, such as Harvard.

“The better it is, the better it is going to serve our students and our community here,” she said.

UTD will have its own unique link to allow students to search for contributions relating to UTD through the main “Spoon University” site. Students will also have access to articles from universities across the nation.

Nguyen said she hopes to further UTD’s diversity with the establishment of “Spoon University.”

“We have a lot of international students and they don’t know how things are around here. … I think it would be a great guide because we have so many students from all over Texas, from all over the country and all over the world. It would be really cool if we had a database of food places to try.”

Nguyen’s said her excitement for food is not only rooted in her desire to try new things, but also in her family life and Vietnamese culture.

“My mom and my grandma are great cooks. … With the Asian culture, too, you put an emphasis on home-cooking,” Nguyen said.

Although she was surrounded by people who made cooking a part of their everyday lifestyle, Nguyen said that her mother and grandmother never formally taught her how to cook. 

“I read cooking books even though I just look at the pictures. I never follow the recipes,” she said. “I love cooking because I see it as a chance for me to cook for the people I love. … It’s like transferring happiness, but through food.”

Sanya Lakhani, an EMAC sophomore, has had the opportunity to taste Nguyen’s cooking.

“She puts a lot of time and effort into it. … With the moon cakes (she made), she spent hours making them and preparing them. …With (her) banana bread, she’ll put less sugar in it and substitute bad things for good things to make the banana bread healthier.”

Lakhani’s appreciation for food has led her to share Nguyen’s enthusiasm for “Spoon University.”

“There aren’t a lot of clubs at UTD related with food. … I think a blog written by college students so other students can use it is really smart. … It gives them more credibility,” she said.

Nguyen’s favorite dish is a Buddha bowl, which she described as a vegan and vegetarian dish made with vegetables that almost resembles a Tex-Mex bowl. Her mixture of simple ingredients, similar to the Buddha bowls gives her a unique outlook on how cooking good food is possible and can be easy.

She plans to relay this through her own work with “Spoon University” in the near future.

“What makes this publication different is that it’s specifically for our generation, the generation that is so busy, the generation that is so lazy and those who just want simplicity. We want to eat well, but at the same time, we don’t want to put so much of an effort into it. With everything I want to do and everything I want to write, I want to keep that in mind,” Nguyen said.