Chilling with Randos: Meet Sam Savignac

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Anna Lowenthal, Editor-in-Chief

Illinois Wesleyan University has a fairly small campus, with only a little over 1,800 students strolling across our single square mile of educational facilities. You’d think it wouldn’t be often that you’d find yourself crossing paths with a stranger, let alone taking the time to get to know them.

Some of the most interesting people are those you haven’t met yet. Take, for example, Sam Savignac, a senior psychology major here at IWU.

We bumped into each other outside of Ames Library this past Tuesday and got to talking.

“When I graduate, I don’t think I’ll do anything with my major,” said Sam. “I’m actually really interested in the culinary arts.”

Sam hopes to eventually open a restaurant similar to Bloomington’s Destihl and cook in the kitchen as well as brew beer. Currently, he is working on a batch of mead, or honey wine.

“It’s a cool process, making mead,” he said. “You’re working with yeast, which is alive. They feed off of the sugar in the honey and turn it into alcohol.”

“Depending on how much honey you use, the yeast can either eat all of the sugar and die, or they can kill themselves off from the alcohol they produce before they finish all of the sugar in the honey. If they die before they finish the sugar, the end product will end up tasting sweeter,” he continued. “That’s why I used a lot of honey in this batch.”

The mead will also sweeten over time, which is why Sam plans to save some of this batch to age for a year.

He was happy to share information about the processes of making mead, and even happier to squeeze funny factoids into the conversation.

“Did you know that carbon dioxide is excreted by the yeast when they eat sugar?” he asked me, chuckling. “Your dough basically rises because of yeast farts.”

Sam has been making food his whole life, and has always seen the culinary arts as a potential career path.

“I’ve always cooked. I remember making homemade cinnamon rolls with my grandmother and having to stand on a footstool to reach the counter,” Sam said.

Though Sam has mostly focused his studies within the Psychology department, one course at Wesleyan gave him some of his most beneficial knowledge.

“I took ‘Chemistry in the Kitchen’ to fulfill my Physical Science Lab requirement,” Sam said. “I learned so much about cooking – what’s actually happening to the food as it cooks, how to mix and portion ingredients and even the simple stuff like melting chocolate. Now, I don’t even follow the recipe because I just know what to use and how much of it to use.”

Sam was kind enough to meet with me later and show off some of his culinary skills, and even shared a fiery desert.

What can you make with some leftover fruit, tequila and vanilla ice cream? Heaven on Earth.

With a smile, Sam tossed the chopped strawberries, blueberries and bananas into a pan with melted butter and added a pinch of cinnamon and eucalyptus honey over the top.

And, casually, he poured half a cup of tequila into the mixture and set it on fire.

“The alcohol will cook off,” he said, holding the flaming pan over the stove and flicking his wrist. “Whatever is left that isn’t alcohol will just add to the flavor.”

Within a few minutes, the hot fruit compote was steaming over a scoop of vanilla ice cream and begging to be devoured. Shamelessly, I ate two helpings. It was that irresistible.

“I like making things with my hands, and I like to make people happy. I just happen to be good at making food,” Sam said. And man-oh-man was he good at it.

It’s easy to get roped into the routines of hanging with the same people, and avoiding the “randos” on campus who really are worth getting to know. So, make sure you take the time to chill with the randos you meet from IWU. Maybe you’ll learn something new and even make a new friend out of it!