When Courtney Matinata came home from Virginia Tech, her parents quickly became annoyed with her constant talk of her favorite college town dishes. When visiting Blacksburg after graduation, Matinata and her friends would fight about what foods to eat first.
Thus, an idea for a cookbook series was born.
“We were like, 'Other schools, they have to be crazy fanatics like we are for their own dishes,'” Matinata said. “So we really wanted to give fans access to their favorites.”
Along with her two business partners — her husband and her sister-in-law — Matinata began working on a series of collegiate cookbooks full of favorite local recipes.
They started with large schools in North Carolina, beginning with UNC.
“We really wanted to pick a school that had really supportive football fans and sport team fans because a lot of loyalty comes with that,” Matinata said. “And we just wanted a big enough school where we’d find the type of fans we were looking for and the type of students and just the community in general. It was a great community to start with.”
To nail down some of the favorite dishes of UNC, Matinata had to do extensive research, often sifting through reviews and blogs. She talked to alumni, students and friends of friends.
“It’s interesting because the more people you talk to, you really hear about the same top ones,” she said.
Matinata said the group tried to get recipes that could work for an average home cook, taking into account the accessibility of ingredients and the scope of a restaurant versus a home setting.
“Through the book you can see little tips. So with some of the recipes, of what you can substitute, or if there’s a local ingredient and you can’t find it, what you can use instead,” she said. “We wanted to concentrate on not just having the favorite dishes but having recipes that people could understand.”
Abby Reimer, a junior journalism major and the president of the student-run food club Carolina Eats, said one of her favorite dishes at UNC is sweet potato tater tots at Linda’s Bar and Grill.
She said she would be interested in a UNC-central cookbook, especially if the cookbook profiled recipes from smaller restaurants.
“I would want to see other recipes than just the classics,” she said.
Avery Hall, a junior journalism major who loves anything from Mediterranean Deli, said she thought it would be cool if the cookbook included southern-inspired food that you wouldn’t find anywhere else.
“Something quirky that would remind me of being here,” she said.
Although Matinata currently works full-time as a communications professional, she hopes writing collegiate cookbooks will become her full-time job.
She admits when she started on the project, she wasn’t a huge foodie. But now, she said she’s in love with the project.
“It was a project that caught me off guard,” she said. “I can’t picture writing something else now.”
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