Penn Appétit staff whips up new cookbook

Members of the student-run food magazine recently released a cookbook with some of their favorite recipes, organized by occasion and led with forewords from Penn alum.

Chicken cacciatore in a large pot with a towel by its side
Chicken cacciatore. (Photo: Noel Zheng)

Consider Penn Appétit’s new cookbook a first step into adulthood.

“We did our 21st magazine, and a funny thing occurred to us: ‘If we’re an adult now, what is the next step to take?’” says Rachel Prokupek, executive director of Penn Appétit, who was culinary director during the making of the book. “I thought, as director, ‘We have all the staff we need, the editorial team, the photographers, why not publish a cookbook?’”

So, they did. 

A whisk covered in a thick white batter in front of a black backdrop
The cover photo for the “Whisk” cookbook. (Photo: Noel Zheng)

The 130-page cookbook, titled “Whisk” as a tie-in with the Penn Appétit logo, released on Oct. 28, and will be celebrated at a launch event at the Institute of Contemporary Art on Nov. 1, from 6-9 p.m. Published by BookBaby Press in Pennsauken Township, N.J., the book contains 55 recipes, some brand new, and others thoughtfully plucked from the publication’s magazines—some revised—and organized by social occasion: picnic, dinner party, brunch, and post-festivities (think: snacks, apps, and desserts). Each section is led by a foreword from a Penn alum in the restaurant industry, like High Street Hospitality owner Ellen Yin.

Recipes, which were made and tested three times before being cemented into the book list, were crafted to be accessible with a slight air of sophistication—capable of being put together by the less-culinary-inclined student who panics at peeling a cucumber, but also appealing to a wider and, perhaps, more adept audience.

“[‘Whisk’] is for anyone, really,” she says. “We’re realizing a lot of our sales are from friends and family, and not just Penn students. Parents are buying it, a lot of people in our Philly community are buying it—it’s for anyone. It’s something students can cook with, but it’s not limited to college recipes at all.”

Mushroom risotto on a white plate garnished with white cheese shreds and parsley
Wild mushroom risotto. (Photo: Isabel Zapata)

Among her favorites from the book: squid ink farfalle with shrimp and chorizo for dinner, wild mushroom risotto for dinner, chiles en nogada for a snack, and an apple pie baked in a brown paper bag that, she promises, makes the pie extra crispy and will not catch fire in the oven. 

A premium feature of the book is its photography; Penn Appétit welcomed Bon Appétit photographer Alex Lau to teach a “crash photography course” for the staff. Nearly every recipe is accompanied by a photo. 

Prokupek, a junior in the Wharton School from Denver, Colo., says the book has had a heaping number of preorders so far, enough that they’ll soon order another printing and start exploring options to carry “Whisk” in bookstores. Sales essentially cover the cost to make the book, which was partly funded by a grant from Kelly Writers House that covered the expense to print the first 100 copies.

Chilis en nogada with a white sauce and sprinkled with pomegranates
Chiles en nogada. (Photo: Isabel Zapata)

Penn Appétit is the oldest student-run food magazine in the country. It consists of approximately 90 students and, Prokupek says, the club has recently expanded its offerings to include professional insights for members—recognizing that many students today join clubs hoping to get a leg up in the industry they’re pursuing. The result has seen the club host excursions to New York to meet with restaurant industry veterans and hands-on—and resumé-building—opportunities like “Whisk.”

“Penn is such a pre-professional school. Everyone is looking to get the best jobs and internships, but an issue we’ve been having is people didn’t see our club as desirable,” Prokupek says. “People who wanted to do food or write or cook would join, but a lot of people participate in clubs here because they think it will help them look good on their resumé or get them a job, so that’s part of why we’ve been trying to shift in the past year or so. We want to be more desirable.”

At the “Whisk” launch event on Nov. 1, the Penn Appétit team will serve hors d’oeuvres from the cookbook, and guests will have an opportunity to mingle with makers of the cookbook—as well as place an order for a book, currently available online for $25, plus shipping fees. Gallery hours will be extended to 9 p.m. for the occasion.