Can Openers: Chefs Sam and Kyle Orskog


Blog Post #90 — We had just arrived at the Albright Training Center at the South Rim of the Grand Canyon. It was the site of the Penn Impact Lab, a week-long social leadership class. I was among 30 Penn students selected to attend. 

As I arrived at the first dinner, I stopped in my tracks. There was a taco buffet with all the fixings... the lettuce, the tomatoes... the cheese

"Sam," I said, approaching the woman standing at the end of the table. "Did you make me a separate plate? Is it in the fridge?"

I was concerned. I had been assured that the meals would accommodate my allergy, and a buffet like this didn't look too dairy-allergy friendly. Sam simply smiled. "Don't worry, JJ," she said. "It's all safe for you." She gestured to the table of fixings. Indeed, it was all safe: the lettuce... the tomatoes... even the cheese.

Sam is Sam Orskog, who, along with her husband Kyle, were the resident chefs at the weeklong seminar. They were in charge of preparing the meals.  Like I do before I attend any event, especially those where I will be away from home, I discussed my allergy with the coordinators.

Beforehand, I didn't expect too much. I expected my meals to be safe, of course, but I didn't expect much by way of making my meals too fancy. At these types of events, I'm used to a dry chicken breast with a side of baby carrots (bonus if the carrots are warm); I can go without flavor for a week. And I definitely don't expect that everyone's meal be safe for me (I can still hear my friend yelling "This ain't pizza!" after his mom tried to make our little league team pizza party JJ-Friendly). 

Sam and Kyle had a different approach. Not only were my meals safe. Not only were everyone's meals safe. The meals were incredible. These aren't just my words. Everyone raved how amazing all the meals tasted!

Casseroles, lasagnas, pasta dishes... meals that looked and tasted straight out of the best restaurants. And it's no wonder. Sam was the head chef at the original Friday Saturday Sunday in Philly, and Kyle was the head baker at Old City Coffee. They are professionals who make magic with ingredients. 

Sam and Kyle Orskog gave me the greatest culinary week of my life. And they didn't even make a big deal out of it. They live in the Land of Can. They are true CAN openers!


JJ Vulopas is a rising senior at the Wharton School at the University of Pennsylvania. An advocate for young people, JJ has lived with food allergies his entire life. He is the author of the children's book, Land of Not. You can read his daily blog at Follow him on Instagram and on Twitter @thelandofcan.