I spent a lot of time binge watching shows on Netflix this summer. One of my favorite shows is Chef's Table. If you've seen the trailers or is a fan, you know why it's so enjoyable. The chefs are extremely passionate about their food, the quality and sourcing, and are super creative in re-inventing familiar dishes. Furthermore, many of them have rags to riches stories and/or are involved in philanthropy.
One of the more recently episodes featured Nancy Silverton, an amazing baker + chef based out of LA. She is the genius behind La Brea Bakery and the Mozza-plex (Pizzeria Mozza, Osteria Mozza, and Mozza to go). After watching her episode and doing some research on her restaurants, I just had to go. They are some of the most affordable spots featured on Chef's Table, a splurge that my college budget can support. Furthermore, given her spunky attitude, you know her food has got flare.
Last weekend, we went to Osteria Mozza, an upscale Italian restaurant that used to have a Michelin star until all the Michelin stars left LA. "According to Directeur Général Jean-Luc Naret, Michelin Guide chose not to publish a guide on Los Angeles restaurants because Angelenos 'prefer to select the restaurant not based on the number of Michelin stars, but based on the number of stars who go to the restaurant.'" (NBC). To be fair, if you really wanted to catch a model-esque celebrity, you would go to the new juice bar with all the superfoods for detox, not an Italian restaurant.
If you go to Osteria Mozza on a Friday or Saturday, you would need to reserve roughly a month in advance. Reservations for Sunday through Thursday can be made just a week or two in advance. Insider tip from our waiter: Nancy works Tuesdays through Saturday at the mozzarella bar if you want to catch her in action.
Our meal begin with a complimentary amuse-bouche from the chef that had burricotta and olive tapenade. Our appetizers followed with Burricotta with braised artichokes, pine nuts, currants and mint pesto, and Smoked Mozzarella di Bufala with Porscuitto di Parma.
For primi, we got Orecchiette with sausage and Swiss chard and Calf's Brain Ravioli with burro e limone.
Finally, we ended with desserts of Cioccolato (bittersweet chocolate cake with Perugian chocolates), Strawberry Crespelle (sauteed Albion strawberries with spiced almonds), and Honey Baked Peach (hazelnut cake, poached blueberries, sweet corn gelato).
It was the most sublime dining experience of my life. Next up: Pizzeria Mozza.
With 45 Nobel Laureates on its Faculty Roster, it’s not surprising that research is an integral part of the Caltech undergraduate experience. One of the programs that promotes such research is the Summer Undergraduate Research Fellowship (SURF). There is no minimum knowledge or experience required to participate in a Caltech SURF. In fact, students can participate in a SURF as soon as the summer after their freshman year. It is not difficult to get a SURF. All you need to do is find a mentor who is working in an area of research that interests you and willing to mentor you through a research project. The mentor can work in a Caltech lab, at the NASA Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL), or at another participating institution. Once you find a mentor, you work together to write a project proposal that you later send to the SURF office for review and approval. About 98% of the SURF proposals get approved. This fellowship is a great way to explore various fields of research and obtain real, hands-on experience where you get to apply the theoretical knowledge you’ve learned in class. Not only do you get to work and learn alongside your mentor, but you also get compensated for your time. The length of the SURF is ten weeks, and it starts at the beginning of the summer. However, it is not uncommon for many students at Caltech to continue their research project throughout the academic school year.
Like many students at Caltech, I suffer from a slight boba addiction, where side effects may include over caffeination, minor sugar highs, and of course, a large toll on one’s wallet. This addiction is not helped by the fact that there are at least three boba shops within walking distance of campus. So, after an entire term’s worth of boba runs, I came back from winter break with a new year’s epiphany: it was time to get a job. Rather than try to curb my addiction, I decided to find a way to subsidize it.
Research at Caltech looks different for every student, and can often vary term by term. As a chemistry major, my course requirements are on the lighter side for a Caltech major, and many chemistry majors take advantage of the lighter course load to join research groups. This can be whenever the student wants, but many people join labs during their freshman or sophomore years. Some may work in one lab only, and some may switch between labs during the course of their undergraduate studies, depending on if their interests change.
SURF, short for Summer Undergraduate Research Fellowship, is a quintessential experience for any Caltech student. It is a widely accessible research fellowship for Caltech students that funds your proposed research for one summer term. While many of my classmates did their first SURF the summer after their freshman year, I sent in my first application to the program as a sophomore. As a CS major, I was trying to chase meaningful work that intersected computation with the field of neuroscience. I ended up doing a SURF at the Stanford School of Medicine that first year, studying hand gestures in children diagnosed with Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD). Since then, I’ve been working in the research space of applying computational analyses to ASD.