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From the Issue: Matt Powell

We continue to respect our heritage/amorous affair with our mother-magazine, The Blue & White by posting each issue of the magazine online. The latest issue, available this week around campus, is a cornucopia of delights: an interview with Dean Peter Awnthe quixotic quest for a Quidditch teamand a reflection on Columbia’s recent media malaise. In Campus Characters, the Blue & White introduces you to a handful of Columbians who are up to interesting and extraordinary things and whose stories beg to be shared. From the current issue, staff writer Matthew Schantz profiles Matt Powell, CC ’12, of Cooking with Bwog fame.

Future face of the Food Channel? Check back at Milano to find out.

Illustration by Chloe Eichler

Ask people how they know Matt Powell, CC ’12, and they will describe a food. Sir Mike, beloved EC security guard, recalls spicy, subtle hints of ground jalapeño in the best burger he’s ever eaten. One of Powell’s closest friends, Hannah Christ, CC’12, will tell you about the fresh baked cupcakes which cemented their friendship. Someone from Powell’s San Diego high school might tell you about homemade peach cobbler.

During his sophomore year of high school, Powell gobbled down a plate of peach cobbler at an African American history event. When the caterers refused to give him their secret recipe, Powell devised his own. “That whole summer was dedicated to making peach cobblers,” Powell remembers, “which was really convenient because we had a peach tree in the backyard. I probably made five different cobblers until I made the perfect one.” When Powell shared his hard work with his classmates, cooking had hooked him. “I really liked the reaction people gave me when I gave them something delicious.”

Today Powell is co-president of the Columbia Culinary Society and demonstrates new appliances for Good Housekeeping. This summer he will be working for upscale food store Dean & Deluca. But Powell didn’t always know he wanted to devote his life to food. Originally, he planned on studying sociology, but while sociology “is interesting, it’s just not as interesting as food. I found it was much more enjoyable if I crafted my studies to center around food—for my sociology major, I’ve done a study on the kitchen in Daniel [Daniel Boulud’s New York City restaurant], I’ve done a study on the top five pastry chefs in the city.” Powell takes food seriously and it shows.

“I have strong food views,” Powell admits. “I’m very pro-butter and bacon.” Among his culinary commandments is a rule against cooking the same thing more than once a year, and a law that no dish shall be complete without three colors on the plate. In his quest to create the perfect tablescapes, Powell has tracked down props from all corners of New York and lugged them across campus. After spotting Powell brandishing a sprig of holly for a holiday meal, a friend of Powell’s texted him: “I think I saw you with a tree.”

It would be strange to see Powell without food. “Food is his personality,” Claire Bullen, CC’11, fellow co-president of Culinary Society explained. “Matt’s passion for food is so all consuming that it really is the core of who he is.” Yet food does not overwhelm Powell’s character; rather, it is a vehicle for his creativity, sense of humor, and love of friends. Bullen describes a “Gods and Goddesses” themed dinner that Powell hosted: “Matt has a special, trick fork that looks like a normal fork but can actually extend to three feet long. He began the meal eating normally with the fork before subtly extending it and grabbing food off a freshman’s plate sitting several chairs away. We joked that it was Culinary Society’s version of hazing.”

“When you think of Matt you immediately think of delicious food, but there is definitely more to him than that,” Christ reflects. “When you’re sick, he’ll make you chicken soup and bring it to your room. When you are feeling upset, he’ll come to visit you and cheer you up. He’s there for his friends unconditionally.” Sir Mike of EC puts it best: “The thing about Matt is he’s a good person and he’s a good chef.”

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  • biggest says:

    @biggest tool I’ve ever met in my life. and i’ve met a lot of them. this guy knows very little about food. doesn’t have what it takes to succeed in the business.

    1. First look to the log in thine own eye says:

      @First look to the log in thine own eye You can’t call somebody the “biggest tool I’ve ever met in my life” with any degree of credability if you follow it up with “doesn’t have what it takes to succeed in business.”

      1. yo says:

        @yo THE business and THE industry refer specifically to the culinary profession in this context. just like if this dude wanted to go into fashion blahblah

      2. credability says:

        @credability ’nuff said.

    2. Anonymous says:

      @Anonymous You are astonishingly wrong on all counts, and you couldn’t have met Matt for longer than three seconds if that’s what you came away with. This smacks of bitterness. Jason Bell? Is that you?

      1. nah says:

        @nah i’m jason (THE industry comment)

      2. jason says:

        @jason and, for what it’s worth, I have spent quite a bit of time talking with matt, both as a journalist interviewing him, and in social contexts. i’m consistently impressed by his enthusiasm for the industry.

    3. Anonymous says:

      @Anonymous This is pretty off the mark. Matt is legit

  • This article in ten words or less says:

    @This article in ten words or less I didn’t know Columbia was a culinary arts school

    1. ... says:

      @... this is the true story…. of 6 humanities majors…. graduated and jobless… picked to live in a beautiful house in park slope….. where humanities were their love… but food is their true passion….

      which will make it?

      who will make it pay the bills and the student loans?


      coming this fall to A&E

      1. Core scholar says:

        @Core scholar Sir or madam, I think you got off at the wrong subway stop

        1. ... says:

          @... yahduh. but that’s besides the point…

          you can be the obnoxious one that is obviously smart and has a gift for diction, but fails to network properly and earn side work, instead frequently having to call home to ask for additional money to pay that guy on craigslist to fix your wordpress. your photography skills will be ok, but the much more sexually attractive and easy going half-hipster one is far better and you get annoyed when you have to ask for photo help. you can be ok in the kitchen, but hobbled by a penchant for pricey dishes/ingredients and the show offers you a very limited budget to work with that you have trouble supplementing. over the course of the show’s first season, your blog revenues sum total to a check for $13.26 from google adwords. you feel you may be in danger of being voted out of the brownstone.

          1. Core scholar says:

            @Core scholar Nah, dude. I just hope to get tenure one day. On a side note, try to lay off the crack, will ya?

          2. ... says:

            @... well i hate to break it to you, you’re a very, very, very, long way away. certainly long enough such that you are in no position to be judging whether or not your peers “got off at the wrong subway stop.”

            but you know, attitude like that is exactly what the producers of THE FOOD BLOGGERS are looking for! bitchiness makes for great television!

  • hey biggest tool.. says:

    @hey biggest tool.. is this Josh Arky?

  • fooooooddd says:

    @fooooooddd matt powell makes my gmail inbox twenty times better every monday with his emails

  • Anonymous says:

    @Anonymous Matt you are awesome! Many blessings to you!

  • Anonymous says:

    @Anonymous serious question: is he gay?

    1. Anonymous says:

      @Anonymous That would be a negative.

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