If Wesleyan students do not know Ari Rudess ’15 as the co-founder of WesStuffed, Wesleyan’s only food blog, they probably recognize her for her spirited personality and vibrant presence on campus. Recently, Rudess graciously invited me into her Fauver apartment, where she offered me some of her new Teavana tea and let me sit in her fabulous massage chair. While receiving a heated Shiatsu massage, I chatted with Rudess about the Wesleyan food scene, her time in Italy, and her involvement with the Wesleyan crew team.
The Argus: Why do you think you’re a WesCeleb?
Ari Rudess: Well, to be honest, I’ve always dreamed of being a celebrity. It started when Haley Sacks [’13] literally begged The Argus to make her a WesCeleb and made them a cake or something, and then [The Argus] wrote probably the best WesCeleb piece of all time. But, like, celebrity life isn’t foreign to me. I was involved in theatre for a number of years in my early childhood. But I’m assuming that the reason I have been acknowledged for my celebrity status is because of the food blog that I write, WesStuffed, with Alex [Irace ’15], who is my co-founder.
A: When did you two start WesStuffed?
AR: We started it our sophomore year. So, in addition to being a WesCeleb, I’m probably also a Middletown celeb. But that’s another story. I might even be more of a Middletown celeb. That’s debatable.
A: What’s an example of the kind of things you write about on WesStuffed?
AR: We write about everything from the hottest new item at the Usdan Café to full-fledged reviews of restaurants in town. We also have guest contributors who come and write on the blog. It’s gone through waves that have been more us and then other waves that have been more guest writers. We also write a weekly Argus article.
A: Would you be interested in pursuing food writing as a career after graduation?
AR: Writing as a field has always been something that’s interested me. I’ve kind of dabbled in the realm of food writing. The summer after my sophomore year I wrote for this brilliant food blog that I’m obsessed with called Serious Eats and it was so much fun and it’s a great place. But I don’t know. First of all, it’s extremely difficult. Second of all, I’m not sure that the career of my dreams is to be a professional food blogger, but I think that writing will always play a part in my life.
A: Once you graduate, is someone else going to take over WesStuffed to keep it alive?
AR: That’s the dream. I would love it if the blog lived on! Especially because right now, food culture and food writing specifically are extremely trendy and our campus is such a foodie—I hate that word!—The people on this campus are such serious eaters, you know? I hope that someone would take it over. That’s something Alex and I are going to have to work on. If any of you readers would like to take over the best food blog and the only food blog at Wesleyan, hit me up.
A: Can you recommend a recipe for something that one can easily make in a dorm?
AR: Me and Alex like to put shredded cheddar cheese on a plate and eat it with a fork.
A: What is your favorite food specifically at Wesleyan?
AR: When I was a sophomore, I was obsessed with the white chocolate cranberry cookies, and we wrote a post about it for WesStuffed saying that we wished that the ratio between white chocolate and cranberries was a little bit more even. After that, they actually changed the ratio! So I really am a WesCeleb.
A: How about your favorite food in general?
AR: Oh man, this is hard! Well, in the last year, a lot of my time was spent in Italy. I studied abroad then went back and lived there. My host mother would make this thing called torta salata, which is basically Italian for quiche. But instead of a pie crust, they use a puff pastry, and it’s so good! I could live on it. Like, I actually probably could, because it’s not that bad for you. I also really love sushi.
A: Wait, so you lived in Italy?
AR: Well, I studied abroad there for like five months through a Wesleyan program, ECCO. I highly recommend it. And then I went back and au paired there this summer for the brattiest child in the world. But her parents were gems. They were amazing. It was a great experience.
A: So you are also a coxswain on the Wesleyan crew team. How did you get into rowing?
AR: The story of how I became involved in rowing is when I was a freshman in high school, my aunt, who rowed recreationally in Seattle, was like, “Hey, Ari! You’re small and have good rhythm! You should be a coxswain!” And I was like, “Great, okay!” Disclaimer: I probably had never run for more than two steps in my life. I just was not athletic at all, very uncoordinated, and afraid of exercise equipment, which is probably valid because, like I said, I’m very uncoordinated. Anyway, so I started crew and really sucked at coxing my freshman year of high school. We didn’t really get any training and the coaches weren’t really there. Our first race was states and it was the first time I had ever coxed, and I’m pretty sure I zig-zagged down the course, but we didn’t get disqualified! My sophomore year of high school, I joined another team where there was some coaching, and I was like, “Oh, this is really fun!” And I’ve just been coxing ever since.
A: What is your favorite WesCrew memory?
AR: My freshman year, my friends and I had this thing we would do—Gillian [Mahoney ’15] actually started it—called food-punching. Basically, the gist is if someone walks over to the table with a nice piece of cake, you just punch it. So, being the alternative person I always have been, I decided to create my own little rendition of that called food-squeezing. One time, we were at one of those huge, long tables at Usdan. It was maybe the first or second week of school, like when the freshmen are really bonding with each other but no one else yet. So we’re all sitting there and Avery [Mushinski ’15] had this plate of spaghetti with red sauce and I just grabbed a handful of it and squeezed it and the juice came all over my hand and I made this weird face. When I stopped, I realized that the entire team was just staring at me, and I think that moment really established my identity on the team from that point on. Actually, sophomore year, it was sort of relived when me, Emily [Garvin ’15], Avery, and Gillian went to a diner and I got my hand ready to squeeze some pasta and then Avery was like, “Stop! There’s a knife in there.” So good thing I didn’t do that.
A: Why do you love rowing for WesCrew? Why would you recommend someone join the team?
AR: I think one of the cool things about Wesleyan is that it is such a passionate community of people, and in my unbiased opinion, no group epitomizes that passion and incredible work ethic as much as rowers. Because in order to be a rower, you need to be able to push yourself to these crazy extremes and get yourself to this level of pain that most human beings don’t like to experience and choose not to whenever possible. In order to be able to get yourself there, you need to be incredibly passionate and incredibly hard-working.
A: Changing topics, what is your major?
AR: I’m a [Romance Languages and Literatures] major with a writing certificate.
A: Do you plan on writing a thesis?
A: What’s your favorite class you’ve taken at Wesleyan?
AR: I’m taking this history of musical theater class right now that I love. Another really cool class I took was when I was a freshman was called Middletown Arts. It teaches you to perceive helping out a community as more of an outreach thing and less of a service. In order to experience that firsthand, we went into Middletown. And a lot of people actually aren’t aware that there’s a pocket of Middletown that is a very dense little neighborhood that’s extremely poor on the other side of Washington Street called the North End. And interestingly, there are many organizations there, many of which were started by Wesleyan alums, that are arts organizations, and many of them cater towards the lower-income community that lives there. So in this class, we experimented with community outreach through the arts.
A: Do you have a particularly memorable experience from your time at Wesleyan?
AR: Some of my favorite Wesleyan memories are from WesStuffed….There was this one point when the blog was huge and booming and we had, like, 12 columnists, so that was really cool. A lot of my favorite memories are with the crew team. But I’ve got to think of a favorite. There was this one day where my team raced Trinity College at home and my boat beat them for the first time in like, a million years. And then afterwards, my friend Gillian, our freshman roommate, another friend from our freshman hall, and I went on a hike at Wadsworth Falls with my friend’s dachshund. It was just a really great day.
A: Do you have advice you wish you could have given freshman Ari?
AR: Yes. I think a lot of it is a little rated PG-13. Or R. It should not be included in the Argus in case my coach reads it. Or my grandparents. Just kidding, I don’t do anything bad! But wait, let me think about this. Real advice: don’t eat fish at Usdan, ever. I don’t know, just eating fish at a dining hall is something I wouldn’t do. The other advice I would give my freshman self is to not be afraid to poop in the gender-neutral bathrooms. Because eventually you’re going to have to, and you can’t walk to Allbritton every time you have to take a shit.
A: Noted. Is there anything left to check off on your Wesleyan bucket list before you graduate?
AR: There’s a lot of things on the bucket list. First, I should write a bucket list, because that’s something all seniors have to do. Then I can check that off the bucket list. The first thing on the bucket list would be to write one.
A: Anyone you want to thank or give a shout-out to for helping you gain celebrity status?
AR: Yes, first I would like to thank the Academy. Then I would like to thank my mother, Haley Sacks, the entire Wesleyan crew team, and whoever has taken the time out of their schedules to read this article.