For many college students, gourmet cooking is a rare occasion, if it's ever an occasion at all. Money's an issue, dorm kitchens are small (or nonexistent) and cooking instruments are lacking. And so college kids rely on fast food, cafeteria grub and microwaveable dinners to get by.
But it doesn't have to be that way, argues Aaron Hill, star of ABC Family's new Web series "College Chef." "Chef" shows college kids how to whip up easy, cheap, somewhat sophisticated dinners using Tupperware for mixing bowls and a Foreman for a grill.
Episode one had Hill make hot dogs soaked in India pale ale, enhanced by garlic and chicken bouillon. The dogs are smothered with grilled peppers and onions, accented by beer-spiked mustard and served on toasted rolls. That beats the cafeteria hot dogs any day.
Episode two, which ran Monday, Nov. 15, shows college kids how to spruce up Ramen noodles. "Essentially you're starting with a palette that costs you all of 20 cents," Hill explains during a conference call with reporters. "It's using those noodles as a base ... taking away the flavor packet, which is just salt and preservatives, and adding chicken broth you can get from a can and other ingredients, like if you want to add some pork. You can also grill chicken and put in green onions."
In the episode, Hill even adds sake for some zing. Upcoming episodes have Hill making huevos rancheros with a French twist and miniature pizzas using English muffins, olive oil, pizza sauce and shredded cheese.
Hill isn't actually a professional chef. He isn't even a college kid; he plays one on TV, starring as The Beaver on ABC Family's comedy "Greek" (returning for season four Jan. 3). But he says hosting "Chef" is a natural fit.
"I already cook, I love to cook, I'm comfortable in front of the camera and I'm occasionally funny," he says. "That seems to be the combination you need."
That and showcasing dishes college kids will actually want to prepare and eat. "Our goal for the college student is to find things that are really inexpensive ... add a little bit of fresh ingredients and elbow grease and have a great meal," Hill says.
"Most of the time if you go to the grocery store or a 7-Eleven and buy something, you're going to be able to make more than you can eat for one meal. You'll have leftovers, but if you can share that, then you're also splitting the cost."
Those dogs for instance may require more ingredients than just meat, bun and ketchup, but split amongst four people, Hill's sausage feast will cost less than $5 each.
The first episode of "College Chef" is available now at abcfamily.com/greek or by clicking here. The Ramen and huevos rancheros episodes are also available.
Tired of Ramen? College Chef Aaron Hill Has a Cheap, Tasty Recipe