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MSU Food Critic Club offers insight into East Lansing's best eats

October 12, 2023
Photo by Zachary Balcoff | The State News

Food critiquing has become an increasingly popular pastime. On social media platforms like TikTok, many people have gained millions of views by recording themselves trying new foods and reviewing them, often resulting in positive or negative attention to the restaurant itself.

For students unfamiliar with the Michigan State University's campus and surrounding areas, finding a go-to-eatery can be a daunting task. This is something MSU's Food Critic Club aims to improve.

“A couple new people that we’ve met this year are transfer students, or freshman, and they don't know about a lot of the food (options) nearby,” Club President and social work senior Abby Perrien said. “So I think one cool thing about trying all these new places is just making East Lansing and MSU feel more like a place that you belong, and like a place that could be your home.”

The Food Critic Club was established by Perrien and co-founder and journalism junior Reese Carlson in 2022, making it a new addition to MSU's campus. Pierren said the idea came from Associate Director for communications for the Residence Education and Housing Services, or REHS, Bethany Balks.

“It kind of started just with me and some of my friends,” Perrien said. “We wanted to start a club, especially a club that can be more casual and social.”

Carlson said what started as a "little thing" just to "try new foods" evolved into a larger student organization with a sizeable amount of members.

The club meets every two weeks at new food venue, which members decide on beforehand through discussion in the club's GroupMe

Perrien said the club’s "casual" set up involves a membership fee of one dollar, which isn't required. With students often having to take exams and honor other commitments, she said, they also don't make attendance mandatory

Mechanical engineering junior Nicole Stensen said she joined to accompany Carlson, her friend, and stayed because of the club's welcoming nature. Stensen said that everyone who comes to the club is "very friendly."

Food Critic Club has garnered attention lately by attending events like Sparticipation and posting their food excursions on social media, like Tik Tok and Instagram

Perrien said a positive side effect of the reviewing eateries is that it not only encourages students and community members to try new things, but it also shines a light on local businesses.

As the club continues to grow, Carlson said, they hope to increase engagement and have greater impact on local communities.

“One thing we've talked about is doing a sign up for meetings,” Perrien said. “We could also ... break up into two groups that actually go to two different places.”

Carlson said they want to implement a semester-long calendar that allows club members to more individually select where they want to go.

Some Food Critic Club members recommended their favorite East Lansing restaurants

“I usually say SushiYa, has been my favorite,” Perrien said. “I think it was cool, just because all the sushi came out in like this huge boat and we're all just kind of like sharing with each other. So it was really fun (and) really good.”

For Carlson, the various experiences can make it hard to pinpoint a favorite.

“At my core, I’m a complainer,” Carlson said. “I have nothing, zero favorites.”

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