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Wharton freshman Arianna Alexander plans to use her education not to pursue a career in finance or consulting, but in the restaurant business.

Credit: Julio Sosa

Wharton freshman Arianna Alexander is cooking up a unique career path. Unlike many of her Wharton peers, Alexander is not interested in banking or consulting. Instead, she is carrying out her dream to open her own restaurants.

When Alexander was in first grade, she was assigned to think of what business she would have if she could. “I created an aquarium restaurant where you could look at the fish and then eat them, but I realized that wasn’t ethically sound,” Alexander said. “Over the years I thought about what my favorite food was … and thought I need a soul food restaurant."

Although some details of her vision have changed, Alexander is still determined to achieve her dream of becoming a restaurant owner. To do so, she knew she needed to go to the best business school she could get into.

In her freshman year of high school, one of Alexander’s teachers asked her what she wanted to do, and when she said business, he recommended Wharton. “I immediately fell in love and that drove me to do the best I could in high school,” Alexander said.

While looking for colleges, Alexander was met with an array of choices, as she got into 26 schools, six of which were Ivy League. In addition, Alexander received over $3 million dollars in scholarship money. This included the Gates Millennium Scholarship Program, which gives free admission to the school of the recipient’s choosing.

Wharton’s rigorous undergraduate business program stood apart from other schools in Alexander’s mind. She intends to pursue the Entrepreneurship and Innovation track in the management concentration. In her time at Penn, she feels she will have the opportunity to prepare for the business side of starting a restaurant.

Alexander is hoping to design her menus with her own original recipes. She has taken advantage of the the kitchen she has in her dorm room at Du Bois College House. When there are hall meetings, she usually either cooks or bakes for her hallmates.

In her free time she tests out recipes and has even started to get requests to cook from friends and peers. Alexander has been encouraged by positive feedback from the people who have tried her food.

Currently, Alexander has no immediate business plans, as she is focusing on the culinary aspect of her future business. Her family has been a big part of her decision to pursue entrepreneurship, and some members were even entrepreneurs themselves. 

“Just being with my grandmothers and learning recipes from them, the ones you have to beg for, and just being in the kitchen with them solidified my love and passion for food,” Alexander said. 

Alexander believes that she is best at making traditional African American soul food, but has also taken lessons in Italian cooking. During her time at Penn, she is looking forward to hopefully studying abroad in Europe, where she can enjoy and appreciate the culinary arts of France and Italy.

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