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Student initiatives expand food appreciation

Student group Brownie Bites, startup Kat + Ella sell treats, host food-centered events

As the semester comes to a close, students with culinary interests are beginning to cook up plans for next semester. Two new initiatives, the student organization Brownie Bites and the startup business Kat + Ella, launched their first events as a preview of the baked treats students can expect in the fall.

Tiffany Chang ’16 and Ho Jun Yang ’16, co-founders of Brownie Bites, launched the group as a rebranding of Brown Culinary Palette, a student-run blog that aimed to foster an appreciation of good food on campus and ran occasional cooking workshops. After the Brown Culinary Palette became inactive, Yang and Chang contacted the group’s former leaders early this semester and agreed to take over and revive the organization, Chang said.

But Brownie Bites has its own agenda. While Chang and Yang recruited a new editor-in-chief to sustain the group’s food blog, the online publication will be treated more as a “side project,” Chang said, adding that Brownie Bites will prioritize on-campus events.

Though the club is still in development and has yet to solidify its specialty dish, marketing director Nini Nguyen ’18 said the club aims to foster a bigger food-appreciation community and provide a space for food lovers to congregate.

Though there are a lot of “cultural groups that host food-oriented events,” Brownie Bites seeks to provide desserts “without any cultural ties,” Chang said. “We wanted the group open for everyone to enjoy,” she said.

Brownie Bites launched a fundraiser April 15 in the Kasper Multipurpose Room as its first event. Group members sold pre-made treats donated from Seven Stars Bakery and the Duck and Bunny. But they added a twist to an otherwise typical bake sale by simultaneously holding a demonstration session. “We wanted to do it in a way that made us more distinct,” Nguyen said.

For the demo, Brownie Bites presented a collection of do-it-yourself desserts in Mason jars. They initially researched online recipes for the desserts, which included Oreo cheesecake and banana cream pudding and later modified them to “fit our own needs,” Chang said. For instance, they used egg substitutes for the banana cream pudding and created their own special filling for the chocolate pudding, she added.

Meanwhile, Kat Hsu ’17 and Ella Bohn ’17, founders of Kat + Ella, hosted their second panna cotta sale at the Blue Room the same day. Due to popular demand, they set up their second round of sales within a week after their first one, Bohn said.

Hsu and Bohn, both members of French House, shared their passion for food and event planning when they teamed up to coordinate the program house’s first-ever formal in December, Hsu said. Subsequent dinner parties at which friends praised their panna cotta sparked the idea for their business, she said.

While Hsu and Bohn researched online recipes for the base of their panna cotta, they continuously experiment with various toppings. For their second sale, they infused the panna cotta base with black tea, while most of their other items stayed a conventional vanilla, Bohn said.

Kat + Ella will likely host another panna cotta sale as part of the Earth Week Fair this weekend, Hsu said. The duo will also prepare a three-course dinner party May 1 in the hopes of showcasing their culinary finesse.

“It’ll be a starting point to get our name out there,” Hsu said, adding that she eventually aims to solidify Kat + Ella’s identity as a catering organization for other student groups.

By comparison, Brownie Bites is “more of a recreational organization,” Chang said.

The group will resume its bake-and-make sessions next semester. Group members aim to introduce an array of events that are fun and informative, she said, adding that ideas include Iron Chef competitions and a panel for professors to share their research on food and agriculture. Looking beyond College Hill, the group also anticipates collaborating with students from Johnson and Wales University, capitalizing on its culinary arts program.

“We’re still in development, so we’re still open to student feedback,” Chang said. “How Brownie Bites will take shape — that’s something to be on the lookout for.”

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