Amanda Shulman C’15 seems to have been interested in cooking from an early age, but she took the first steps toward her current acclaimed position in the food world—which includes accolades from the James Beard Foundation, Food & Wine, and numerous “Best” lists—here on Penn’s campus, first cooking for her friends and then creating increasingly elaborate pop-up dinner parties for random groups who snapped up reservations as soon as she sent out a message on her phone.
The Gazette recognized her early on—as a writer. Shulman wrote a pretty terrific essay for us on her double (triple?) life as a student, cook and cleanup crew, and party host. Senior editor Trey Popp was her editor on that piece, and in this issue’s cover story, “Fake Simple”—a reference to Shulman’s ambition to create complicated food that “tastes simple”—he catches up with Shulman on all that’s happened since then.
(Trey used to moonlight as a restaurant critic for Philadelphia magazine. He gave up the gig some years back, so he missed Shulman’s rise until a news item about her being nominated for a James Beard Emerging Chef award jogged his memory and prompted our story. But his experience shows, especially in the vivid recounting of his visit to Shulman’s Her Place Supper Club on Sansom Street.)
Trey interviewed some of Shulman’s friends and housemates, who happily shared memories of the dinners and desserts she prepared for them on their way to more traditional post-Penn careers. The contrast between their prospects and hers was a source of some anxiety for Shulman, who nonetheless embarked on the peripatetic pilgrimage required of fine-dining acolytes, working for low (often no) pay to hone her kitchen skills. After stops in Italy, New York, Las Vegas, and Montreal, she landed back in Philadelphia during the pandemic. That’s when she hatched the plan for Her Place Supper Club, which embodies her ambitions both for the kind of food she wants to create and the type of industry she wants to work in, with decent salaries, health benefits, and even weekends off. (Her Place operates Monday–Friday).
In addition to high praise for her cooking, Trey also highlights Shulman’s gifts as a host, presiding over Her Place’s small dining room from the open kitchen. While the companionable vibe from those old campus pop-ups can never be recovered, she tells all her customers the one house rule is to “introduce yourself to the people at the next table over.”
In the 50 years since the Penn Women’s Center was established, it has provided a welcoming space to generations of Penn women, and increasingly to other minority and marginalized groups. In “A Place Where I Could Be Myself,” frequent contributor Julia M. Klein traces the center’s history—talking with participants in the “Stop Rape” sit-in in April 1973 that led to the center’s establishment and a women’s studies program at Penn, with several center directors past and present on their time in the role, and with alumni and students who found companionship and a rallying point and refuge there. She also examines the ongoing debate—at a time when “many of our students are challenging the notion of a dual-sex world,” as one former director says—over whether the center should change its name to better reflect the populations it serves.
Also in this issue, in “Another Realm” we offer a sampling of images from photographer Arthur Drooker C’76’s latest project, Twilight. Shot at a single location in California, Twilight offers dozens of images of the day’s final moments as abstracted bands of yellow, red, orange, purple, and more shades.
—John Prendergast C’80