The Underground Stanford Dining Society

On a Sunday evening in warm Stanford, California, seven college students joined together around a table to procrastinate on their schoolwork with the promise of good cheer and a delicacy unseen in dormitory cafeterias: saffron risotto.

The first Food Talks members meet for an Italian-style dinner of saffron risotto in a semi-secret location on campus.

The first Food Talks members meet for an Italian-style dinner of saffron risotto in a semi-secret location on campus.

BenGusto's Food Talks #1

The summer before starting college, I thought of many different projects I could start with a single goal in mind: to meet as many people during my four years at university as I can. I originally planned to produce a BenGusto cooking video series titled “Cooking with Stanford,” where I’d invite professors to prepare simple, dorm-friendly dishes in the humble kitchen of a freshman dormitory. I eventually confronted the unfortunate reality that making such videos would take more time away from meeting new people on campus than it would create such time. After flip-flopping from idea to idea for months, I finally came up with Food Talks. 

Sarah, the woman behind the iconic Stanford tree and a junior in psychology, and Jake, a sophomore electrical engineer with an incredible knack for building things, keep the risotto balanced with stock.

Sarah, the woman behind the iconic Stanford tree and a junior in psychology, and Jake, a sophomore electrical engineer with an incredible knack for building things, keep the risotto balanced with stock.

Miriam, a native of Norway studying psychology, and Emma, a freshman passionate for film and the theater, shave parmigiano off a brick I've been storing in my roomate's fridge (thank you, Riley!) since October.

Miriam (on the left), a native of Norway studying psychology, and Emma, a freshman passionate for film and the theater, shave parmigiano off a brick I’ve been storing in my roomate’s fridge since October. (Thank you, Riley!)

Jenée Desmond Harris, a JSK fellow specializing in journalism and coverage of race and politics in the media and Harvard Law graduate, prepares a salad of radicchio and pecorino.

Jenée Desmond Harris, a JSK fellow specializing in journalism and coverage of race in the American media and Harvard Law graduate, prepares a salad of radicchio and pecorino cheese. You can check out some of writings here. She does some incredibly important and profound work in her field. 

This winter quarter represents the beginning of a new culinary adventure for BenGusto. Last Sunday evening marked the first dinner of a dining club program I’m calling BenGusto’s Food Talks. Food Talks is all about bringing small groups of 5-8 students pulled from all parts of campus–grads and undergrads from bioengineering to political science majors–who don’t know each other to come together over engaging conversation and Italian comfort food. The dinners are sponsored by the good people of OpenXChange (shout-out to Logan and Abby), a program supported by Stanford President John Hennessy.

Jake was at the stove for most of the night. Emma watches from a distance.

Jake was at the stove for most of the night. Emma watches from a distance.

Jenée stands ready to garnish the plated saffron risotto with microgreens. We organized a nice little system where Jake plated, Jenee garnished with microgreens, and Emma finished things with sauteed oyster mushroom on top.

Jenée stands ready to garnish the plated saffron risotto with microgreens. We organized a nice little system where Jake plated, Jenee garnished with microgreens, and Emma topped things off with some sauteed oyster mushroom on top.

Jake plates his finished saffron risotto.

Jake plates his finished saffron risotto.

 

My friend Thiago, a first year law student from Brazil (you meet a lot of cool people by strolling into a thumping international law school party on a Friday evening), hosted the first dinner. I invited seven people who had never met before, and we gathered for a dinner of saffron risotto, salad of radicchio and pecorino, and gelato with fresh berries. The entire dinner was prepared by all the dinner guests–I gave some little tips and advice here and there, but never lifted a spatula. At the end of the dinner I had everyone give me the email address of one person to invite to the next Food Talks dinner, spanning the semi-secret dining society’s membership even wider in size and diversity. Next stop: the underground tunnels of Paris!

A tavola!

A tavola!

The first Food Talks members gather for an underground university meal. Mariana and Thiago, both graduate students at the Stanford Law School from Brazil, are seated at the far right.

The first Food Talks members gather for an underground university meal. Mariana and Thiago, both law students from Brazil, are seated at the far right.

BenGusto's Food Talks #1

Cheers to bringing people together over food! What’s better in life?

Ben G.

2 responses on “The Underground Stanford Dining Society

  1. I’m a wistful grad and avid chef, thinking about all the group meals I had at Stanford as a way to meet new, interesting people. What a great idea!

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