Spinach-and-ricotta-stuffed chicken breast, penne with pancetta and caramelized onions, and oven-roasted turkey are on the menu for some Penn students this week.
As many of their peers wait in line at Hill Dining Hall or cook Ramen noodles in their apartments, some Greeks have the option of enjoying weekly dinners from a gourmet chef.
Corey Meserva is responsible for providing fraternities and sororities at Penn with a combination of weekly dinners from Sunday through Wednesday nights, as well as Sunday brunches.
Meserva, who attended culinary school at the Restaurant School in West Philadelphia, prepares meals for Sigma Alpha Epsilon, Beta Theta Pi, Chi Omega, Delta Delta Delta, Pi Kappa Alpha, Delta Phi, Phi Delta Theta and Sigma Kappa.
Before serving college students, Meserva began his culinary career by calling “every restaurant in the Zagat Guide” until he “scored an interview at the Bellevue Hotel restaurant specializing in French gourmet.”
After his experience in the restaurant industry, he took a job with Aramark, a national food-service provider. He began working as a full-time chef for Pi Kappa Alpha fraternity after an alumni expressed interest in hiring a chef.
Meserva operates his business out of the SAE chapter house kitchen. He delivers trays of food to the different fraternity and sorority houses that have bought one of his custom meal plans.
He recently hired the head chef at Parc restaurant in Rittenhouse Square to assist him on Sundays, but Meserva does his weekly cooking without any help.
In order to use the SAE kitchen, Meserva does not have to pay rent or utility fees. This allows him to buy food in bulk so he can offer low-price meals for maximum quality.
“The burger that costs you $12 at a restaurant incorporates labor, rent and utilities. I’ll give you a burger, side, salad and a dessert for less than $10,” Meserva said.
Students in chapters with meal plans pay a fixed rate for meals at the beginning of the school year. On average, Meserva said, his meals cost around $10 each.
“With serving students, you aren’t trying to change lives with your fabulous food,” Meserva added. “I try to supply good, simple food that students can identify with.”
College junior and Pi Kappa Alpha brother Frank Wang, who works directly with Meserva, said many chapters nominate a student to coordinate their meal plans. However, Meserva is responsible for pricing and menus.
When fraternities and sororities hold events that need catering, Meserva can also provide the food needed for an additional but lower cost than a local professional caterer. He recently catered an annual Beta and Kappa Alpha Theta barbeque event on Sunday.
“I try to help them out with getting grills and supplying food too” in order to prevent last-minute trips to the grocery store, he said.
Wang added that meals are “essential” to his fraternity’s bonds because “having a sit-down meal with your brothers resembles a home-cooked dinner … It brings everyone together during a busy time.”
Wharton and Engineering sophomore Adetayo Sanusi, however, did not sign up for the dining plan with her sorority, Alpha Phi.
“It makes more sense to make dinner on my own time,” Sanusi said. “We still have a large number of events we do together — this is just one thing I do not partake in.”
Meserva said he notices “a difference in those fraternities that eat together more often,” since “even watching ESPN in a group while eating some good food can create a connection.”
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