In-house chefs provide nutritional benefits to greek houses


Photo: Whitney Sager/Iowa State Daily

Corey Hansen, head chef at Gamma Phi Beta, prepares cooked carrots on Tuesday, Jan. 12, for the house women. Hansen said it takes 4-5 hours to prepare a meal for the more than 60 women who live in the house. Meals are prepared two times a day, Monday through Friday and at noon on Fridays. The Gamma Phi Beta house is the only greek house that serves locally grown food.

Karen Jennings

ISU fraternities and sororities feed hundreds of hungry members on a daily basis. To do this massive task, many use Greek House Chefs Inc., a local company that caters to greek students and provides 24-hour access to salad bars, snack bars, milk and juice machines.

The chefs are professionally trained, and most went to culinary school, said Corey Hansen, chef and owner of Greek House Chefs Inc. Hansen has chefs who have served in the military, and even one who has cooked at the White House.

Greek House Chefs Inc. serves six fraternities and two sororities at Iowa State. The company also does special events such as dinners, parents’ weekend, founders day and tailgate events for the houses. Outside of greek houses, the company does full-service catering in the summer for weddings, corporate events and private parties.

“We serve anywhere from 20 people a day at one house to 100 a day at another, depending on the size of the house,” Hansen said. 

Iowa State has 13 sororities and 27 fraternities in total. Those that do not use Greek House Chefs Inc., hire other chefs, cooks and restaurants or are catered by companies such as Hy-Vee, said Jennifer Plagman-Galvin, assistant dean of students and director of Greek Affairs.  

Hansen mainly works at the Gamma Phi Beta sorority. He has been working with the sorority for three years of the 16 that he’s worked as a chef.

“I like the food here, it’s more home cooked meals and fresh,” said Gina Gore, junior in community and regional planning and a member of Gamma Phi Beta. 

There are about 55 women in Gamma Phi Beta. Their favorite meal for lunch is chili, for dinner there is not a favorite meal because Hansen cooks everything, Gore said.

“[Fraternities and sororities] set their budget for us, based on what they can afford,” Hansen said. “A typical fraternity of 65 to 75 men usually spends approximately $1,800 a week on food, including snacks, milk, juice, etc.”

While getting something to eat that isn’t from the campus’s dining centers requires students to leave campus, chefs are on hand to provide service to students in fraternities and sororities, which saves them from having to cook themselves.

“I came to Iowa State in 2007, and saw the need for the service,” Hansen said. “There was one large, nationally-owned company doing a small amount of business on campus. I knew I could provide better service at a lower cost, so I started soliciting the business. Since I am local and on campus daily, I feel I can provide the day-to-day, on site management that the larger companies could not.”

Having chefs in the kitchen most of the day provides the students in the houses with healthy meals.

“He makes more natural ingredients and low fat meals for us,” Gore said.

As Hansen and the chefs make sure sororities and fraternities get the right nutrition, Hansen is also appreciative of his environment and the women of the house he works at. 

“I love the kitchen they provide me, the board of directors are very accommodating, the women in the house are nice and respectful and I have the summers off,” Hansen said.

The work that Hansen does doesn’t go unnoticed by the students he serves.

“I really like the tacos he makes here and breakfast for dinner, that is really good,” Gore said. 

Members of both sororities and fraternities have their own favorite meals, but there is definitely a difference in their favorite meals.

“Everyone in [Pi Kappa Alpha] is a fan of spicy chicken sandwiches and fries,” said Brandon Maske, junior in marketing and management and member of Pi Kappa Alpha. “I am also a big fan of steak dinners we have Monday nights at the formal dinners with the chapter.” 

Pi Kappa Alpha, hired its own cook and gets along with her well, Maske said.

“She is great and very social when she is here,” Maske said. “She always helps out around the house, and is great to talk to.”

Sororities and fraternities are big houses with many responsibilities. When the house has a crowded night, chefs like Hansen are put to work. 

“On Monday nights, more girls come over so it’s at least 70 [that are being served],” Gore said. 

When it comes to chefs, sororities are a little more lenient because most houses aren’t as big as fraternities.

Greek House Chefs Inc. caters to its houses based on what the sororities and fraternities can and cannot eat. It caters services to people with allergies, vegetarians, etc., Hansen said.

To avoid any allergic reactions happening to anyone in the house, chefs keep in mind the fact that people in the house have their own preferences.

“Last night he made chicken pot pie and he knows there’s a girl in the house who is lactose intolerant so he made a separate plate for her and left her name on it,” Gore said. 

The chefs provide whole-balanced meals, taking out the whole-processed foods and incorporating fresh fruits, vegetables, dairy and grains with each meal, Hansen said.

Chefs adjust their cooking to benefit the sororities and fraternities that they serve.

“All of our recipes comes from our experiences,” Hansen said. “Most of the cooking is 95 percent from scratch. We have a lot of stable recipes that we use. About 80 percent of our menu items are just off the top of our head.”

Greek chefs are open to a broad assortment of food. 

“It is always a variety,” Hansen said. “You’ll never see the same menu again.”

Chefs and cooks are a lot cheaper than a meal plan with ISU Dining, Maske said.

“You know what is going in your food and it’s not what you pick everyday,” he said. “It’s about nutrition and it goes for a healthy diet.” 

Greek House Chefs Inc. make recipes based on requests. The chefs get to know the students’ preferences.

“We had a student bring in their grandmother’s meatloaf recipe and we made it for her and the rest of the house one evening for dinner,” Hansen said.

To provide students with the best food possible, chefs maintain a cooking style that reflects their personal specialties and that fits the houses that they cook for.

“All of our chefs have specialties and unique recipes,” Hansen said. “I have one chef that can put a fresh, delicious Asian twist on almost all of his menus. Another chef is a fantastic southern chef. I think they all have a signature style, and that is how we decide which house suits each chef.”

While the chefs who cater to the various students on campus differ depending on where students live and what services they choose to pay for, one fact remains the same: All chefs cater to students and aim to provide them with the healthiest meals possible.