Courtesy of Christin Boggs Peyper

Matthew Merrill, A Cornell freshman and cooking enthusiast

November 18, 2022

A Dining Conversation with Matthew Merrill

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Matthew Merrill ’26 is a freshman in the School of Hotel Administration from the Washington D.C. area. Matthew is known for his videos, “Matthew in the Kitchen,” and posts videos of himself cooking delicious meals that have gathered him over 2 million followers on TikTok. Matthew has appeared on several Food network cooking shows, such as Kids Baking Championship Chopped Junior, Guy’s Grocery Games and Val’s Cooking. With his transition from high school to college, Matthew shares how he adjusts to cooking in his dorm room and shares advice for college students to create meals when they have time. 

S: How has cooking in your dorm compared to your home kitchen? What influenced you to start your “Cooking in the Dorm Room” videos?

M: It has been an adjustment. There is less space. The rolling dressers are a perfect height if you’re sitting down. They are convenient to store the ingredients when you have less space and they are all in one spot compared to when they are stored in different cabinets in a kitchen. I have been creating content on social media for two years and was asked “What are you going to do now?” During my senior year of high school I had no idea what was going to happen in the future and started making cooking videos in college. I started making dorm room cooking videos such as videos of me cooking boxed mac and cheese and ramen to gather a new audience of college students.

S:What is your favorite dish at Morrison Dining Hall? 

M: Udon noodles and pizza!

S:What is your favorite dessert?

M: The Dairy Bar ice cream is pretty hard to beat. I would say the Bavarian Raspberry Fudge!

S: Where are your favorite places to eat?

M: I love eating the burrito bowls and gyros at Terrace in the Statler. I also like the sandwich bar at Mac’s! Mac’s Café chops the salads in front of you which is a plus.

S:What are your favorite dishes you made here at Cornell so far?

M: I had the chance to make a lot of interesting meals. My first one was a dish I made in a video for social media — I made French macarons as I had not had them in a while. I love the technique! It is a simple recipe but it requires precision, the strategy of getting the lip on. I have been making them since I was eight years old. It was disastrous the first time but it is part of the art as it is not going to go perfectly at first but you will later learn the skill set! My second favorite was Cornish Hens and sweet potato gnocchi and it was amazing. I didn’t cook that much but it was cool to see what people can do in their kitchens here. So it was really amazing. It was and then I’d say my favorite thing. I also made a brown butter and sage butternut squash, it may sound complicated but it’s a pie crust with butternut squash and butter; it is really good. I also made a gourmet McDonald’s Snack Wrap for my friend. 

It is a piece of chicken tender with ranch, lettuce, cheese and a tortilla. And I made a gourmet version of that using a breaded chicken breast cutlet with sriracha aioli and shredded cheddar cheese.

S: How do you balance cooking with studying

M: The Hardest part of the Cornell experience for me is that I overcommit to things. Academics are always first and I have to prioritize that. I joined the a cappella group known as  “Last Call;” it is a lot of fun but a big time commitment. I am also a part of  Hotel Ezra Cornell for a conference in April. It takes a whole year to plan because it’s all student run.During the Fall semester, I create content on Wednesday mornings. I use cooking as a way to soothe. However, when it turns into a job for social media, it can be tedious. I like to buy produce from the Farmer’s Market to relieve myself from stress. 

S: How can a college student start developing habits to cook more in their dorm room even if they have never cooked before?

M: Take something simple from basic materials and elevate it to the next level. You can learn so much about what you can do. You can build nutritional awareness by eating Ramen and supplementing it with an egg. You can also eat Ramen with pork or a rotisserie chicken you bought from the grocery store and make sure it is well seasoned for a delicious meal. Penne alla vodka is the easiest to make and it tastes gourmet. Gigi Hadid popularized it by using vodka sauce. All you need is sauteed onions, garlic, parmesan and tomato paste mixed with half an ounce of vodka. 

S: What advice do you have for other college students cooking in their dorm room?

M: At the end of the day it is all about adapting. It is possible to cook for yourself if you feel inclined. There is a good choice of dining halls such as Appel and Oakenshields! The life lesson I learned from baking is to follow directions. If you try different ways to do it you won’t get that desired result. If you say you are bad at cooking, I don’t believe it. It really depends on how badly you want to do it. 

After speaking with Matthew, I learned so much about ways to use creativity to create delicious dishes within a small time frame. Creating meals can be something as simple as turning it into a nutritious meal. I wish I cooked more in my dorm during my freshman and sophomore year. It is never too late to pick up a couple of ingredients and create a memorable meal using limited resources. 

Salomée Levy is a junior in the school of Industrial Labor Relations. She can be reached at [email protected].