In 2019, Street profiled an up–and–coming chef who was creating major buzz in Hill College House. And it’s no mistake that same young talent has been featured once again in this season’s Dining Guide. A young first–year Joel Olujide (W ’23) would take over the Hill fourth floor kitchen every week, cooking up complex meals to fulfill fellow students’ orders from a few days prior. Joel’s passion for cooking has shaped every day of his time at Penn, from accidentally setting off the Hill fire alarm to his upcoming anniversary plans for his girlfriend.
Name: Joel Olujide
Major: Management and Finance
Hometown: Columbia, Md.
Last time Street talked with you, it was all about cooking. Is that still something that you are involved in?
Yeah. It’s funny that we’re doing this interview now, because for me it’s a very full–circle moment. When that article came out freshman year, it really changed my life, even though it sounds very cheesy. I’ve [been cooking] since 8th grade, and it’s always been a passion of mine. When that article came out, I was just starting to cook like that, and the week after was my biggest week. People came out, but right after that article Penn shut me down, because it was a violation of university policy to sell anything in the dorm [since] I lived in Hill. After that, I was really sad and wasn’t cooking, so I reached out to some alumni who had a similar experience that I had at Penn. I was able to connect to one individual who has been a really great mentor and friend of mine since then. He got me two jobs, and I’m actually working for him right now, so that’s [also a] full–circle moment. Now I’m back here, still cooking and working with him too, and it’s just been very complete.
I’m still getting started for sure, but back in freshman year I never could have pictured that this is what that would lead to, so I’m happy with that. I’m still cooking since I moved off campus junior year, so there’s going to be a new meal announced soon.
Where do you see your Penn experience and education fitting in with this passion?
I feel like that intersection is perfectly encapsulated with what I’m doing now in food [venture capital]. Though I came into Penn as a marketing [concentration], I realized that management was pretty cool. I was scared of numbers, which was the biggest thing. I thought a lot of finance would just go over my head, I’ll be honest. I’d look at financial statements and anything like that and just think, “That’s too much.” My alumnus has been investing for a long time, so he introduced me to the finance world, which I was hesitant to enter, but I wanted to give it a shot. Of course at Wharton you have to take courses that force you to be introduced to that world, [but] I ended up honestly really enjoying it.
I didn’t expect that coming into Penn, but now with my passion for food and restauranting, especially working in the VC space on projects that I really am passionate about while using my finance and technical skills, that’s really powerful for me. In terms of this operation in general, I know I need to scale it up, and I won’t be lacking the background to do so. If I’m in a conversation with extremely talented accountants, at least I know the basics of what’s being said, so I think that’s the greatest benefit to me of having been at Wharton and having this education.
What else has been particularly important to you during your time here at Penn?
My relationships. I met my girl here freshman year through WAVe, and it’s our three year [anniversary] really soon, so that’s going to be crazy. My roommates are also my two best friends who I met freshman year, and I’ve just made really amazing friends here. I think Penn truly has amazing people, and that’s what I’m going to miss the most about being at Penn. I’m excited to be an adult and have adult money and do cool stuff, but I’m going to miss always seeing my friends every day because they’re really amazing people. They’re go–getters, they’re passionate, they care about what they do and other people, and the people I’ve met have definitely been the greatest part of my Penn experience. One thing about me entering Penn is that I wanted to leave the space differently than [how] I found it. Up to this point I can say I’ve made an impact of some sort, whatever that is, but it makes me really happy. It’s honestly just been a really great time, getting closer to people who I didn’t even talk to that much freshman year.
How does this work into your post–grad plans?
I kind of want to scale it up after I graduate, and whatever I do I want to still put some time into that and build it up. I see it getting a lot bigger than it is now. I’d start off with a catering business to do events and build from there. I kind of want to go to culinary school, because I think that would honestly be very valuable. I know I can cook, but I know there’s a lot of techniques I could learn to improve my cooking even further, so I’ve been thinking about that a lot.
For the future, are you thinking of staying around Philly?
Yeah, I definitely want to stay around Philly. Everyone’s going to New York—I know it’s a Wharton thing where everyone goes to New York. Personally, I like Philly, and I know people have their pros and cons, but I see myself here for the foreseeable future while I’m young and I can do things. It’s not too far from home in Maryland, not too far from New York, and I love the cost of living. I don’t want to feel poor, and I feel like if I go to New York I’ll just feel poor. I don’t think I’d stay in the University City area, just because I want a change of scenery, but I’d like to stay here for the next year or two, for sure.
Last song you listened to? I love [Lil Uzi Vert]. If you ask my friends, he’s all I listen to. “Space Cadet” by Uzi, which is from his new EP, is very good.
No–skip album? Brent Faiyaz’s new album, Wasteland. That’s a movie.
Must–eat spots in Philly? Wm. Mulherin’s Sons—the last date my girl and I went on.
Favorite dish you’ve made? Rasta Pasta. It sold out—my biggest night ever last semester. I didn’t have a job, and I wanted to take my girl out for Valentine’s Day, so I sold the Rasta Pasta and it was a big hit. I was like, “Dinner’s on me!”
There are two types of people at Penn… People who live in a Greek life house and people who don’t.
And you are? I don’t. There are two different kinds of Penn experiences, and it’s important for people to be aware of that. We just threw our freshman [Black Student League] party, and we don’t often have the resources to throw those kinds of parties, but I know people in fraternities and sororities have endowments to support throwing those parties a lot. For BSL to have that kind of party, we have to heavily convince a lot of members of the university to [give] us that funding. Some people never have that issue, but it’s always important to keep that in perspective.
This interview has been edited and condensed for clarity.