By SYDNEY BRASON Alana Al-Hatlani, 21, was born and raised in Seattle, Washington, where she never quite felt like she belonged. She discovered that she had a passion for cooking at a young age, and in the 8th grade, inspired by the TLC hit show “Cake Boss,” decided to bake a cake for her class project. Her choice for the cake design? A red Mini Cooper, details and logo included. Since then, she has followed her instinct to pursue her love for food and for the art of cooking through classes, internships, and ultimately in her decision to attend NYU so that she could create her own major in Gallatin.
Seattle to NYC: I went to a small, Waldorf-style high school called The Bush School, and I graduated in a class of only 50 students. My education was mostly experiential based, and so we spent equal time inside and outside the classroom. I enjoyed rock climbing and some other outdoor type activities, but with Seattle being so outdoorsy I sometimes felt like I didn’t belong. I knew that New York City could give me the pressure and energy I wanted to feel. I thought about going to culinary school straight out of high school, but I wanted to go to college so that I could get a degree and have options. So I decided to combine Food Studies with Journalism and Anthropology.
NO MORE CUPCAKES: I began to bake cakes for friends and family for special occasions in high school, and so I developed a skill for baking, designing and decorating cakes. Then when I got to NYU, two days into my freshman year I ran into my RA who was working at Georgetown Cupcake. He encouraged me to apply for a job, and I think I got the job because I sent them photos of cakes that I had designed in the past, and also because I knew how to frost and decorate. I worked there for two years until I went abroad last semester. I worked morning shifts because I was a student, and so my shift would be from 7am to 1pm. I used to eat cupcakes for breakfast and lunch. I am so sick of them now!
Gaining experience through internships: I took an internship at Vice “Munchies” in their test kitchen and alongside their editorial team. A typical day consisted of working through an idea for a recipe, helping write up the recipe, and assisting with article ideas. I also interned for Seattle Weekly, which I didn’t like. I helped critique recipes, and in my opinion since food is so subjective, just because one person has a bad experience with a recipe doesn’t mean that everyone will hate it. I instead enjoy reading Lucky Peach, which is a food and lifestyle publication, because it looks at food from a deeper perspective and unique angle in terms of its cultural significance.
Studying Abroad: I studied abroad in Florence last semester. I started taking Italian my freshman year at NYU, and when I was researching places to study abroad I liked the Italian food culture. My favorite place I have traveled to is actually a tiny village in Italy called Modena. It was the most beautiful and quiet place with colorful buildings, and there was just something perfect about it.
Life after college: When I graduate I want to go to pastry school in Europe. I know that’s cliché and it’s so expensive, but that’s the dream and I’m saving up money by working part time while I’m still in school. Right now I am working at an Italian restaurant, mostly as a bar back, but it’s still restaurant experience and I like the atmosphere there. My dream job would be to work for Bon Appetit magazine, so that I can cook in a test kitchen and write recipes and articles as well.