As the temperature drops and snow settles on Yale’s rooftops and towers, socializing outside is the farthest thing from most students’ minds. Yet to the Yale Undergraduate Barbecue Outreach, known to its members as the “Meat Club,” winter is the perfect time to figure out who the hardcore barbecue lovers are.
“The cold weather doesn’t really phase us,” YUBO founder and “Meat Chief” Sam Paris ’07 said. “I think people will still come out for their love of the grill. If anything, I think people will be drawn to the fire for warmth.”
Such a concept — that meat can bring people together — fueled the formation of YUBO earlier this year. Yet Paris, his co-Meat Chief John Petersen ’06 and their other meat-loving friends had been planning the club since they arrived at Yale.
“I’d say the idea was born freshman year, when we found that we all shared an intense love for meat and grilling, and really appreciated those things as an art,” Paris said.
The idea was put on hold last year because Paris left campus to travel and work abroad. It was never forgotten, though. When the founders returned to New Haven this fall, they still felt there was an empty niche in campus life that they could fill.
“A lot of clubs have barbecues for other purposes, but they’re limited in scope,” Paris said. “Essentially we’re different because the focus is on the barbecue as opposed to the barbecue being an activity for some other purpose.”
The events also create a fun social atmosphere for people on campus, Petersen said.
“We believe that a barbecue brings people together, and everybody who goes to barbecues appreciates the experience of eating and sharing meat with other people,” he said.
Since its conception this fall, the club has been warmly received, attracting new members and supporters. The three barbecues YUBO has thrown on Old Campus drew sizable crowds, just as the members had hoped.
“People reacted just the way we wanted them to,” said Michael Chan ’06, “Beverage Man” for the club. “They see us and they see meat and they go straight for the meat. That’s what we like to see.”
Passing by a cluster of barbecue-ers on Old Campus, one might assume the event was assembled spontaneously, a response to a nice day or especially voracious appetites. But a lot of planning goes into the Meat Club’s barbecues, including scouting for high-quality cuts of meat.
“When we have barbecues, we try to bring exotic cuts of meat that people don’t have access to every day,” “Meat Clerk” Koonho Cho ’06 said.
To find these exotic cuts, club members travel beyond the Yale dining halls. In the fall, they drove to a Brazilian butchery in Bridgeport on the recommendation of a graduate student.
The club plans to continue searching for new cuts of meat, as Paris said, “wherever they may be from.”
While introducing the campus community to different types of steak is one of YUBO’s goals, the group’s leaders also want to ensure that there is enough food for everyone who shows up at a barbecue. To this purpose, the club supplements its steaks with hamburgers, hotdogs, buns and beverages from the dining halls.
“We’re not barbecue snobs at all; we don’t look down on burgers and dogs,” Paris said. “We love those things and they’re fundamental elements of the barbecue. We’re just trying to go beyond that.”
The club is branching out in more ways than one, and hopes to extend its events beyond campus walls.
“One of our long-term goals, and the reason we called the club outreach, is that we want to reach out not just to the Yale community but to the local community,” Petersen said.
The club plans to take its barbecues to local elementary schools, although it does not yet have the funding to do so. Petersen said the club is currently working on obtaining corporate sponsorships.
Until then, however, the club plans to continue providing Old Campus with exotic cuts of meat.
“We’d like to dominate the meat scene on campus,” Chan said. “I want people to think of meat and think of us.”