By Brooke Adams, communications specialist, University Marketing and Communications
Duncan Cox came to the U as an already experienced software developer, with his career sights set on creating video games.
That’s still the plan, but during a study-abroad semester in Japan another interest took root: Becoming a food entrepreneur.
A foodie since childhood, Cox was astounded by the “awesome food in Japan. It was very different from what I had in Montana and Utah. The level of quality was incredible.”
“I didn’t have a meal plan so I had to cook for myself—ramen, udon. Really simple Japanese food, but I loved it,” Cox said. “It really made me want to do something in food.”
It turns out Cox’s inspiration came at the perfect time. When Cox returned to campus, he applied to be an ambassador for the Lassonde Entrepreneur Institute.
In his application, Cox described his passion for both food and video games and his dream of someday operating a food truck in Tokyo.
Cox made the cut, serving as an ambassador this past fall. This spring, he was asked to be the student leader of a new extracurricular initiative—the Food Entrepreneur Program.
The program, launched this fall, aims to foster basic cooking skills as well as food entrepreneurship and innovation. It hosts interactive cooking workshops, visits with local restaurateurs and social events.
So far, the program has sponsored a “cheap, easy eats” workshop taught by Peter Hodgson, the U’s executive chef; a session on how to make the perfect burrito—taught by executives from Café Rio—and a visit from a pizza truck. The participation has maxed out at every event, Cox said.
“Food is an easy sell,” he added.
On Friday, the program hosted Guactoberfest, a 10-team competition to see who makes the best guacamole.
Cox said his younger brother Connor, a freshman at the U, came up with the idea for Guactoberfest. The Food Entrepreneur Program supplied the basics (avocados, cilantro, onions, limes, salt and pepper) and the teams brought their own secret ingredients.
Future plans include workshops on how to run a commercial kitchen, farm-to-table discussions with local growers and a recipe contest, with the winning entries getting a shot at being placed on the menu at the Miller Cafe located in the Lassonde Studios.
“I am really interested in food but I didn’t think other people were as interested as I am,” said Cox, who is majoring in film and game design. “I’m pleasantly surprised to see so many people engaged with the idea of looking at what they put in their bodies, where food is made, how it is prepared and where it is sourced.”
Learn more about the Food Entrepreneur Program at lassonde.utah.edu/food.