ACTIONABLE RESEARCH ON GEN Z AND MILLENNIALS
Cooking Up A Cool Factor

Cooking Up A Cool Factor

Cooking is a key ingredient in culture today as YAB member Camilla explains. Due to a combination of factors including the economy, Gen Y’s desire to make things (their DIY attitude), and the socialization that exists surrounding food, cooking has sparked Camilla and her peers’ interests. Plus, the rise of Pinterest, celebrity chefs, and cooking shows have only furthered her generation’s fascination with food!

Fully two-thirds of Millennials cook because they enjoy it and 42% cook to express their creativity, as we discovered in our recent Lifeline Survey on Food and Beverages. Camilla reiterates these findings as she discusses why cooking has caught on with her generation and how it reflects the Millennial flavor of experimenting, sharing, and bonding with others.

Cooking Up A Cool Factor

What are you making for dinner tonight? While the ramen noodle dinners from days of yore haven’t completely lost their vital role in student life, young adults are cooking more and more. Whether alone, with a friend, or for numerous attendees of a dinner party, home cooked (or semi-home cooked) meals have definitely become a part of the young adult culture. Where does this trend emerge from? Predictably — as with many current fashions — it derives in part from the current economic situation (read: not great for meals out). But that is not all…it also shows an interesting move toward the concept of dinner parties, highlighting a shift towards an older mindset among young adults. ‘Older’, here, both in years and in era: the dinner party tradition evokes a “Mad Men”-esque setting.

There’s also the food served to examine: it’s not uncommon to see Millennials making meals with complex dietary requirements — one friend is a vegan, another is diabetic — but the more restrictions, sometimes, the more inventive one has to be and the more one can show of their culinary creativity. 

Finding out what young adults are cooking — as well as why — lends insight into their mindset. Many of my peers, in particular boys, try their hand at enormously complex gourmet meals (to the delight of their friends). I’ve eaten college-boy cooked sous-vide salmon accompanied by kale and potato dauphinoise at a friend’s birthday dinner — and that was just one course! This culinary creativity and expertise demonstartes a couple of things: at face value, the current “coolness” of cooking, helped by celeb-chefs such as Jamie Oliver and Gordon Ramsey. Many of us have watched  “Top Chef” or “Master Chef” in our spare time, and envied the skill of producing a delicious meal from very few ingredients in a short period of time. On a deeper level, this shows the utility of culinary arts as an outlet for creativity, for frustration, and a means to eat good, inexpensive food. As an example, a boy a couple years older than me started up a local gourmet bistro/cafeteria upon finishing his degree at Oxford. Entrepreneurship, certainly, is a good direction for graduates in an environment of unemployment. Even more so is business with heart behind it; someone who loves to cook beginning to shift his hobby to a profession is an exciting development and one that reflects the attitude and spirit of this generation.

While the advantages of home cooking are many, an important one lies in its flexibility: people can eat what they want in amounts they desire. Some of the most impressive outcomes have arisen out of specific dietary requirements. A particularly memorable meal I had recently was catered for the cook’s diabetic girlfriend (no carbohydrates; no refined sugars) and myself (no meat). I think someone at this meal also couldn’t eat dairy. At any rate, the food didn’t suffer at all; it was delicious. At a restaurant, the vegetarian or vegan all too often has one option among many, and food allergies and intolerances become a major impediment. Cooking at home makes these issues unimportant and in fact allows for creativity by presenting the chef with hoops to jump through. This dietary requirement-based cooking is aided (exponentially so) by the number of well-known websites catering to specific dietary audiences. For example, there’s Chocolate Covered Katie for healthy vegan desserts, or Gluten-free Goddess to help in food preparation for those with gluten intolerances. I’ve trolled these websites many a time for a recipe that doesn’t include a certain ingredient (or, one memorable occasion, when I didn’t feel like going to the grocery store and thus needed an egg-free, flour-free cookie recipe — they turned out excellent, by the way).

For these reasons — flexibility, finance, creative outlets, etc.— people my age have resurrected the kitchen as a major social landscape. When I go over to my best friends’ house, we hang around the kitchen, drinking wine, maybe chopping a vegetable or two while listening to music and chatting; during this time, the host cooks. It’s a lovely ritual, but it’s also a window into the joys associated with cooking that have been forgotten or lost: traditions, comfort, and security manifesting as a delicious home-cooked meal.

About Camilla

Camilla NordCamilla is a returning YAB member who has finished her undergraduate degree at Oxford in 2011, where she studied physiology, psychology, and philosophy. Now, she’s 21 and studying for a Master’s degree at the University College London Institute of Neurology, where she hopes to do research in clinical neuroscience and neuropsychiatry. She grew up primarily in Washington, D.C., where she attended National Cathedral School, and has also lived in Budapest, Hungary for four years. When she’s not studying the brain, she is probably painting, practicing Bikram yoga, cooking vegetarian food, or thinking about manatees. When she IS studying, her favorite part of the brain is the basal ganglia, and her favorite neurotransmitter (those chemicals that shoot around the brain sending signals) is dopamine. The recent involvement of neuroscience techniques in product development and marketing has driven her interest in Ypulse, coupled with a lifelong love of writing — and, of course, a healthy obsession with pop culture.