The days of ramen and peanut butter may finally be over, friends! Or at least they will be next year when Nom^3 gets off the ground. Bwog’s Friend of the Foodies Mark Hay sat down with the Nom^3 team to hear about our coming culinary salvation.
For the past semester, Dehui “Jordan” Kong, CC’11, has toyed around with the idea of opening some sort of student restaurant on campus. Like so many of us, she looks at the fare coming out of 212 or Ferris Booth and wonders how it can be so pricy, so … so-so, when student chefs are capable of making gourmet dishes out of JJ fixin’s and a little spice. But Kong’s dream of showcasing student cooking and bringing affordable, seasonal food to the campus were stymied by a degree of laziness, fear, or both. “None of [my friends] thought it was really feasible,” says Kong, reflecting upon the reticence of students to engage in such a long-term and costly venture while balancing coursework and other obligations. For most, the risk of failure is too high. But then she met Matt Powell, CC’12, a member of the culinary club who shared her dream.
As the two commiserated in the weeks following Spring Break, the idea slowly began to take on a more concrete form, and the gravity of its new mass drew students towards it. Through some indirect advice from the French Culinary Institute, the duo have decided to change their focus from opening a restaurant to launching a food truck in Morningside Heights. Students will staff the truck and serve an ever-changing seasonal menu crafted with as many locally grown and sustainable crops as can be achieved. Given the low overhead cost of running a truck, Nom^3 will be able to offer entrees like duck breast arugula salad for a maximum of $8. Additionally they hope to draw in customers with a membership program – members would receive recipes and either a free meal after a set number of purchases or a complimentary amuse-bouche with every purchase. They have prepared their food during several presentations and received rave reviews for quality and presentation – there has also been talk of cooperation with the Mimi truffles girls.
Kicked into practical considerations by their participation in the Columbia Venture Competition, they have, in just three short weeks, put together a comprehensive business plan and financial plan and constructed a full website for their pet project. They now estimate that launching the truck, fully equipped and staffed, will cost about $70,000 – a daunting number, but Nom^3 is up to the task. Having forged a natural alliance with various green and sustainable groups on campus (and adopted green as their group’s color), they hope to attract investors with an environmental edge (pondering the use of biodiesel and B.Y.O. Tupperware policies). They have proven in a few short weeks their dedication and the quality of their work and it has drawn them a strong student following.
If all goes well, the Nom^3 crew believes they can have a truck on the streets by this fall. Realistically, though, they believe that the truck will not be active until next spring. In the meantime, though, they hope to launch a food delivery service, cook for events, and perhaps begin a series of quick cooking classes for students. After all, as the Nom^3 board stresses, although this is a for-profit venture, the focus is on exposing students to new flavors and ways of eating. It’s about weaning us off of a dependency on mom’s cooking and helping us, in this transitional period of life, to realize that we can eat delicious, healthy food without a substantial investment of time or money. This may be one of the most interesting student-led initiatives on campus to date, and certainly Nom^3 has the energy and the talent to see it through – now about that money…
Photos via Jordan Kong and http://www.nom3.org/