When she first moved into her apartment, Sandy Bui took time out of her college routine to cook fresh meals. Now over a year after graduating, Bui is still cooking with college life in mind.
Bui, a UCLA economics and political science alumna, has taken her cooking experiences from university and used them to start “Full-thyme Student” – a pun on “full-time student” – her cooking blog for college students. Bui’s blog features detailed recipes for meals that are quick, cheap and easy to make, such as “2-Minute Microwave Chocolate Cake.”
Since it went live in March 2013 – soon after Bui, a former Daily Bruin assistant News editor, graduated from UCLA – the blog has gotten about 30,000 unique hits per month andbeen featured on BuzzFeed.
“When I graduated I wanted to relive college,” Bui said. “Cooking was a huge part of my college experience, so my way of reliving college is to run this cooking blog.”
Bui said that food blogging appealed to her as it combined two of her passions: cooking and writing.
Bui also learned to take food photographs with the single-lens reflex camera her parents gave her as a graduation gift to better integrate photography into her blog.
“She has really good pictures for each step, like ‘This is the batter and it should look like this,’ which let me know if I was doing everything right,” said Talya Sharps, a fourth-year African and Middle Eastern Studies and French student who studied abroad with Bui in Paris in 2012.
Sharps said she turned to Bui’s blog as a cooking guide during the summer, and said she appreciates the detail that Bui puts into each of her recipes.
“It was my first time experimenting in the kitchen; I was making the ‘Quick Baked Honey Dijon Chicken’ from ‘Full-thyme Student’ and it was really simple,” Sharps said. “She gave a lot of steps and I like that she said that if you don’t want to buy this thing you could also substitute this cheaper thing.”
To help inexperienced cooks such as Sharps, Bui said that she works to simplify the steps in each recipe she posts and focuses on making food that can be made quickly.
“I put myself in the shoes of a college student and think, ‘Would I have made this? Do I recall making this at 8 p.m. when I was really hungry and studying at the same time?’” Bui said. “You can make most of my recipes during a study break.”
Before “Full-thyme Student,” while in her senior year of college, Bui said she had attempted to run a cooking blog called “One, Two, Three, Fork.”
“I didn’t manage the site very well; it was just really difficult to keep up the blog as a student,” Bui said. “My previous blog wasn’t that well designed either, so I learned how to code and design a website for ‘Full-thyme Student.’”
“Full-thyme Student” also features posts like “Basic Grocery Shopping List for College Students” and “How to Stock a Kitchen Pantry: A Basic List” that tell inexperienced cooks what cheap and accessible ingredients to have stocked.
In her latest feature entitled “How to do Thanksgiving in College,” Bui substitutes turkey with chicken in order to make the meal more affordable and accessible to students who are unable to return home for Thanksgiving.
“I have a cousin at school on the East Coast who is not coming home for the holidays, and I thought, ‘What was he going to do for Thanksgiving?’” Bui said. “So I made this feature where all the dishes could be made in a dorm microkitchen or a student apartment.”
The feature also includes an example menu with links to various recipes such as “Thanksgiving Chicken Breasts” and “Basic Thanksgiving Stuffing” as well as a grocery shopping list.
Bui said that while the cooking blog has enjoyed some popularity, she hopes to build her audience so that it is an available resource to more people.
“I’m not really that good at social media, but I’m really trying to use it as a way to publicize my blog,” Bui said. “It’s currently on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and Pinterest – I get a lot of visitors from Pinterest.”
However, Bui said she is not as interested in the number of followers she has on social media as she is in the followers who visit her site or make attempts to communicate with her.
“It’s fun that I get emails from college students who ask me questions and for suggestions about cooking,” Bui said.
In the future Bui hopes to eventually start getting student submissions for guest writing posts as a part of a series called “Cooking Knowledge in College.”
Allison Soung, a UC Berkeley alumna and longtime friend of Bui, has already written a post for this series entitled “Four Tips on Cooking while Studying Abroad.”
“I studied abroad my senior year in Scotland and reflecting upon that experience I wrote out some suggestions for people who are studying abroad and want to cook while there,” Soung said.
Beau Hoover, a fourth-year economics student, is also currently working on a guest post about his study abroad experience.
“Beau is great; he loves cooking!” Bui said. “He and I used to cook together all the time when we were at UCLA. We’d make risotto together.”
Hoover is currently abroad in Milan, and is set to write a two-part feature when he returns. Bui said that he will not only write about his time overseas, but also will include various Italian recipes.
In addition to this series, Bui said that if the resources arise, she hopes to bring short video features to her blog that document college students in the kitchen.
Whatever her plans for the future are, Bui said that she works to continue being a useful resource to college students and to inspire students to cook.
“I don’t think there are that many food blogs that focus specifically on college students, and that’s a significant population that needs resources to cook well,” Bui said. “I know many students who eat only packaged foods and I want to prove that they don’t have to.”