It was 7 p.m. in the Student Union. The regular hustle and bustle was in full swing. Behind the doors of the Gemini Room, however, a warm family dinner was underway.
The Gourmet Club had its first meeting of the year on Aug. 29. Eighteen people showed up, but — if the past were any indication — soon they’d be down to five or six regulars. For those most dedicated members, however, it was a homecoming.
Healthcare studies sophomore and club secretary Lauryn Manning joined the club her first year at UTD.
“I’ve always been a big cook,” she said. “My dad is a big cook so he kind of passed down things that he knew to me.”
Manning said the Gourmet Club helped cure her homesickness, because cooking was always something she and her dad would do together.
“(Joining the club) was something I could do on my own, but still feel connected (to home),” she said.
At the end of meetings, Manning and the other club officers ask the members to submit ideas for what they want to cook throughout the year.
“While we’re eating, we like to talk a lot about where we came from and what we’ve cooked in the past and our experiences,” she said.
Last year, Manning remembers a student who came to the club who was from Scandinavia. His experiences, she said, diversified their conversations about what they traditionally cook back at home.
“It feels very homey. It feels like I’m finding a place to just get comfortable with friends,” she said. “I feel at ease just talking to people who have the same interest as me.”
Manning said part of the club’s appeal for college students is learning how to cook.
“You don’t have to just live off of Ramen noodles,” she said. “We can teach you how to make other, better food.”
In addition to learning new skills, Manning said the social atmosphere of the club started to feel like a family the longer she participated.
“I have a lot of memories of just, after we cooked, (sitting) around and (talking) for hours,” Manning said. “It’s just a really good place.”
Looking forward, Manning said she’d like to get the club interested in service projects. She said she could see the club helping out in the food pantry on campus and donating some of the money they make during their bake sales.
Kaylee Gross, the co-president of the Gourmet Club and accounting senior, said the group appealed to her freshman year because of her family’s history of cooking.
“I’ve always been a foodie growing up,” she said. “(My family) would always have meals together and I kind of wanted to extend that into college life.”
Like Manning, Gross said the vibe of the Gourmet Club often veers into familial territory.
“When you’re all cooking for one another, it kind of does make you like a family,” Gross said. “It also gives me a place to get away from school — to forget about tests.”
Although she’s been in the club for four years, she said its basic principles haven’t changed.
“We’re still cooking. We still meet up and cook together,” Gross said. “That’s the whole point.”
In the future, Sahil Sinha, the other co-president and neuroscience junior, said he’d like to add restaurant outings to the year’s activities, in addition to expanding the membership of the club.
Sinha, unlike the other officers, didn’t have much cooking experience before joining the Gourmet Club.
“I was feeling homesick because I couldn’t eat my mom’s food,” he said. “I had to learn to cook on my own.”
Although the five or six core members of the group often don’t see each other between meetings, Gross said she viewed it as a positive.
“It’s like a homecoming when we get together,” she said.