Frat Chow: Higher prices mean better food

By Danielle Rideau
Arizona Daily Wildcat
Friday, November 4, 2005

While other fraternities are preparing their own meals, ordering from local restaurants or being served by cooks, one fraternity is enjoying fine dining every day at its chapter house.

The Alpha Epsilon Pi fraternity has invested in professionally trained chefs to prepare its weekly meals because it finally has a full kitchen, said President Matt Van Horn.

Head Chef Mateo Otero and his assistant Armando Duarte are graduates of Scottsdale Culinary Institute and have Le Cordon Bleu training, which is a French style of cooking that prepares chefs for working in any full kitchen as well as a variety of styles of cooking, Otero said.

For 15 years, the chapter house didn't have a kitchen, and when it was finally completed over the summer, the chapter's brothers voted to foot the extra bill and hire a chef for "higher quality food," said Van Horn, a senior majoring in marketing and entrepreneurship.

Otero couldn't say how much he gets paid to work at the fraternity, but said professionally trained chefs usually make from $35,000 to $40,000 a year, and his salary is accurate with the market price.

To live in the house, the men pay $1,300, which includes their meal plan of 15 meals per week, Van Horn said.

At the other UA fraternities that offer meal plans, the average price the members pay in dues is about $875, according to figures from the Greek Life Web site.

While hiring professionally trained chefs hasn't become a trend at UA fraternities, the men got the idea from the Alpha Epsilon Pi chapter at the University of Southern California, which also has a specialty chef instead of a general cook.

Otero and Duarte said their experience is unconventional compared to other professionally trained chefs, but they enjoy the freedom to choose their own menus and reasonable hours.

A typical day for them begins around 7 a.m. when they begin preparing for breakfast. Otero and Duarte's breakfasts include made-to-order omelets, fresh fruit, and sometimes French toast or waffles.

Once breakfast is finished, the men begin preparing lunch at 11 a.m., which ranges from chicken egg rolls and grilled vegetables to Ahi tuna steaks, said Zak Jacoby, an Alpha Epsilon Pi member.

For dinners, the brothers enjoy meals featuring filet mignon steaks or sushi rolls and tempura, Van Horn said.

Hiring chefs to prepare daily meals for his fraternity is the "best thing" they ever did for their meal plan, Van Horn said.

Jacoby, a sociology junior who used to eat out for most meals before his chapter hired a chef, said it's a good thing to have a chef in your own house.

"The food is great and they are highly trained chefs with restaurant experience," Jacoby said.

Other fraternities on campus do not have professionally trained chefs, but they do have their own versions of a meal plan.

The Sigma Phi Epsilon fraternity does not have a cook, but it has a meal plan in which members pay at the beginning of the year. They also order meals from local restaurants like Chili's or Applebee's. The brothers also make good use of their barbecue grill, where they even make grilled pizzas or steaks, said Sigma Phi Epsilon member Jacob Samuels.

While the fraternity does not have enough money to hire a cook, he would rather have their version of the meal plan because they have the freedom to request their meals, Samuels said.

"I prefer our way of doing it because we have some sort of say in what we want to eat," said Samuels, an economics junior.

Delta Tau Delta has a meal plan similar to Alpha Epsilon Pi, said member Eddie Betterton.

The Delta Tau Delta chapter has a cook who prepares nine meals a week for its members.

"Our cook customizes his menu, and his food is always extremely good," Betterton said.