Summer Recipes From The Phi Delt Grillmaster – Part 5

photo1By Michael McDearman, Tennessee Delta ’97

Grilled Truffle Mac & Cheese

What You’ll Need:

  • 1/2 lb of macaroni
  • 1/2 stick of unsalted butter
  • 2 T of all purpose flour
  • 1 1/2 C of warm whole milk
  • 1 C warm heavy cream
  • 1 lb grated aged cheddar cheese
  • 1/2 lb grated fontina cheese
  • 2 T white truffle oil
  • A pinch ground cayenne

Macaroni CheeseGrillmaster McD’s Tips, Tricks and Techniques

Sometimes, truffle oil is not made from truffles. Recipes call for white or black truffle oil. The oils are made from synthetics mixed with olive oil or grape seed oil. There is little difference. Get the one you like.

Bring a pot of water to boil over high heat on your side burner. Cook the pasta until it’s just getting al dente. Drain the pasta and run cold water over it and put it back in the pot.

In a sauce pan on medium low heat, melt the butter and stirring constantly mix in the flour. Make a peanut colored roux. Turn up the heat to medium and whisk in the milk and cream and bring to a boil while whisking frequently. Reduce the heat on the sauce to low and let it simmer for a couple minutes.

Preheat your grill to 375 degrees.

Set aside 1/2 C of the cheddar and 1/3 C of the fontina. Take the remaining cheese and mix into the sauce in 1/3 C scoops and stir the cheese until it melts before adding more. Add a pinch of cayenne and the truffle oil into the sauce. Stir 1 T of the truffle oil and the cayenne pepper into the mix. Pour the sauce over the pasta and stir well but gently. We don’t want to tear up the pasta. Season as always with salt and pepper to taste. Take ramekins and place the pasta in them with the reserved cheeses sprinkled over the tops of the dishes.

If you’d like a bit of a smokey depth, take a foil packet with forked holes in it and some water-soaked smoke wood chips and set it near the coals or burner to start their smoking process. Grill for 20-30 minutes or until you are getting the cheese sauce bubbly and the top is browning nicely. Remove from the heat and drizzle the remaining truffle oil over the ramekins. Rest them for 5 minutes and you could add scallions for some color or even some pimento peppers for sweetness (a true southern addition – the Carolinas). Yum!


photoMore About Michael McDearman

Get Fired Up Foods, LLC www.GetFiredUpFoods.com

World Champion GrillMaster Steak Coach

GrillMaster l American GrillMaster Experience, FoodEnquirer.com, MojoBricks, Bull Outdoor Products, Beef Checkoff, McCormick Spices, Heinz

Contributing Writer l BBQ Times, KCBS Bullsheet, GrillingWithRich.com

KCBS – Certified Barbecue Judge and lifetime member

Summer Recipes From The Phi Delt Grillmaster – Part 4

photo1By Michael McDearman, Tennessee Delta ’97

Pig Candy

What You’ll Need:

  • 1 lb of your favorite bacon
  • Brown sugar
  • Your favorite BBQ rub
  • 2 disposable half pans or 2 foil wrapped cookie sheets

Grillmaster McD’s Tips, Tricks and Techniques

IMG_0252Pig Candy is a delicacy for those who enjoy a richness with multiple points on your tongue being teased and satisfied. Like many dishes, you can cook it to your preferred crispness and the time depends on your smoker, grill, or oven.

Take a pound of thick and center cut bacon that is pretty meaty. This is a personal preference, but today, I am using Rice’s salt and sugar cured, a middle Tennessee smokehouse that produces some fantastic country ham and other pig products.

The goal is to have many flavor profiles happen in your mouth. This recipe will be salty from the bacon and possibly the BBQ rub that you choose, sweet from the brown sugar (possibly the BBQ rub as well and also the bacon can be sugar cured), and heat can come from the BBQ rub as well as some herbs from the rub. Think about that, four different flavors are going to mix together (possibly more depending on your rub) and that means that you will eat with your eyes, then your nose and then your mouth. YUM. Each chew will reveal another layer of flavor. Surprise and delight…

Cut your pound of bacon down the middle. I know this is a shocking statement, but trust is needed here. The candy side of it will take you over like it did to me this morning when I cooked a half pound and ate it all! Plus, you can manage the pieces in the half pan more easily. Wrap up whatever you are not cooking and store it in the fridge.

Grab a half pan or cookie sheet. If disposable half pans, put the seasoned bacon on in. If using cookie sheets wrapped in foil (easier clean up), wrap one cookie sheet (with edges so it holds the grease in the pan) with foil so the top side is covered and wrap another identical sheet with foil on the bottom. We will set the second sheet on top during the cooking process to keep the bacon from twisting and wrinkling up. Plus this helps with splatter.

Sprinkle rub pretty heavily (depending on your taste preference) on each side of the bacon and place in the half pan. The bacon will shrink so having it touch sides is not a problem, but overlapping can cause two pieces to attach. Try and keep them side by side. Take the brown sugar and place a light coat over the top of the bacon. I have found that you can put sugar on both sides or just one. If you choose just one, the salty flavor might come through quicker in your mouth if you have the un-sugared side down when you take a bite (hits your tongue first). The sugar will also turn into a glaze or syrup in the cooking process, so it will find its way underneath the bacon, either way.

You want to be cooking at about 400-425 depending on your cooker. I preheat. Just like an oven with cookies in it, you have some spots that are warmer than others. Knowing your own cooker is key here. Great thermometers are available for a relatively small price. Cook the bacon to your preferred doneness. You are dealing with sugar here so be careful. You want it to be bubbly and not burnt or scorched. If it is, it turns bitter. Brown sugar is white sugar and molasses mixed. The burn temp on them is irrelevant. On longer cooking items, we look at those type of things (Boston Butts, ribs, etc), but this is candied and quicker.

And like on the news…AAaannnd we’re back. Once your bacon is done to your liking, remove from the cooker and place it on a cooling rack or a piece of foil. You may need to remove the top pan to let some of the steam escape from your bacon. If you find that this is needed in your cooker, simply place a light piece of foil loosely over your pan to limit splatters. When cooling, DO NOT place on paper towels as your candy will solidify and attach itself to the paper. It wouldn’t be pretty or tasty.

Once your pig candy is cool, enjoy!


photoMore About Michael McDearman

Get Fired Up Foods, LLC www.GetFiredUpFoods.com

World Champion GrillMaster Steak Coach

GrillMaster l American GrillMaster Experience, FoodEnquirer.com, MojoBricks, Bull Outdoor Products, Beef Checkoff, McCormick Spices, Heinz

Contributing Writer l BBQ Times, KCBS Bullsheet, GrillingWithRich.com

KCBS – Certified Barbecue Judge and lifetime member

Summer Recipes From The Phi Delt Grillmaster – Part 3

photo1By Michael McDearman, Tennessee Delta ’97

Prosciutto Wrapped Shrimp with BBQ Peach Glaze

What You’ll Need:

  • Jumbo shrimp
  • Canned peaches
  • Prosciutto
  • Bull Snortin’ Hot BBQ Sauce

Grillmaster McD’s Tips, Tricks and Techniques

proscuitto-shrimp_300Take the jumbo shrimp and rinse while taking the shells, tails and legs off. Keep the shells and tails and freezer bag them to save for making a fish stock for gumbo, if you like. Prosciutto is very thinly sliced salt cured pork. Some brands of country could easily substitute. I recommend thinly shaved biscuit slices if used. A strip of prosciutto about 1” wide should wrap around the shrimp nicely. Prosciutto is slightly tacky to itself. Skewer the wrapped shrimp through the prosciutto.

You won’t need much time to cook the shrimp to a nice completely white color. Cook a few extras for tasting samples. Medium high heat will cook the shrimp and allow the prosciutto to release from the grill grates. As always, use a clean, well oiled grill grate (typically with a vegetable or peanut oil since it has higher burn temps). Remove the shrimp when the prosciutto easily releases from the grill grate.

Drizzle a 50/50 mixture of your BBQ Sauce and canned peach heavy syrup over the shrimp and serve. Beware that the mixture of the sauce and peach syrup can still have quite a kick, so use it as a seasoning. You want sauce seasoned shrimp not shrimp seasoned sauce.


photoMore About Michael McDearman

Get Fired Up Foods, LLC www.GetFiredUpFoods.com

World Champion GrillMaster Steak Coach

GrillMaster l American GrillMaster Experience, FoodEnquirer.com, MojoBricks, Bull Outdoor Products, Beef Checkoff, McCormick Spices, Heinz

Contributing Writer l BBQ Times, KCBS Bullsheet, GrillingWithRich.com

KCBS – Certified Barbecue Judge and lifetime member

Summer Recipes From The Phi Delt Grillmaster – Part 2

photo1By Michael McDearman, Tennessee Delta ’97

Bacon Explosion

What You’ll Need:

  • 1 lb breakfast sausage
  • 1 lb bacon
  • BBQ Rub
  • Brown Sugar
  • Cheese
  • Pepper chopped
  • Sweet Onion Chopped
  • 1 link of sausage (we used apple and chicken) chopped

Grillmaster McD’s Tips, Tricks and Techniques

baconexplosionTake the breakfast sausage out of the fridge and work while it is cold. Use a rolling pin to flatten the sausage into a rectangular shape about the width of a strip of bacon. I caramelized the onions prior to spreading them over the sausage along with the peppers. Spread an even layer of cheese and chopped link apple sausage. If you do all of this on a piece of wax paper, the “roulade” technique or pin wheel in the U.S. works well. Roll the meat before it warms too much. If it warms, it sticks to the paper or flexible cutting board.

Next, create a basket weave of bacon. On what will be the inside of the bacon (between the sausage and bacon) spread a thin layer of BBQ rub and brown sugar. Place the rolled sausage on the end of the basket weave (again on wax paper or a flexible cutting board) and roll the bacon around the sausage. Top with a good dose of BBQ rub and you are ready to put it on a preheated 300 F grill or smoker. Don’t hesitate to add wood chips to the grill with a deep V wood chip box and remember that foil is your friend. A heavy duty piece of foil with the edges turned up or a half pan will keep your grill clean and eliminate flare up issues.

Cook to an internal temperature of 165 F, remove and rest for 10 minutes before slicing. Different flavor profiles can be used. Make a breakfast version for the holidays, Italian flavor profile with Italian seasoning, garlic, onions, peppers, sun dried tomatoes, etc…possibilities are endless.


40128_167084806642841_100000239694863_439562_2336932_nT-Bone Steak with Blue Cheese Butter

What you’ll need:

  • (1) T-Bone Beef Steak
  • (4) Sprigs of fresh Thyme
  • (2) Garlic Cloves – minced
  • (1) Stick of Butter
  • (5) Sun-dried Tomatoes
  • (3) Tablespoons fresh Parsley
  • (1) Cup of Blue Cheese crumbles

Grillmaster McD’s Tips, Tricks and Techniques

When at the market choosing your steak, run your finger across the meat. If the marbling is bumpy, it will have connective tissue attached. Find the soft white fat for the most juice and flavor!

To prep the steak, take the leaves off the stem of thyme. Pat 2 sprigs worth of leaves and a clove of minced garlic on each side of the steak. We taste both sides of a steak, right? Also, use a food processor to mix the stick of butter (to cream the blue cheese), the blue cheese (no need to add salt with this on the steak), sun-dried tomatoes (for sweetness) and parsley (for freshness). Blend until it is a smooth cream. Store in a zip bag in the fridge if prepared earlier.

The steak should be cooked on a grill grate that has been cleaned and oiled. Preheat it to 350 (medium heat on most grills). Place the steak on the first side until you see one great set of grill marks (usually 5-7 minutes in most altitudes and day). Turn the steak to the second side and cook until 140 degrees internal temp. Remove the steak from the grill putting on a nice Z line of the compound butter. Rest 5-7 minutes and enjoy!


photoMore About Michael McDearman

Get Fired Up Foods, LLC www.GetFiredUpFoods.com

World Champion GrillMaster Steak Coach

GrillMaster l American GrillMaster Experience, FoodEnquirer.com, MojoBricks, Bull Outdoor Products, Beef Checkoff, McCormick Spices, Heinz

Contributing Writer l BBQ Times, KCBS Bullsheet, GrillingWithRich.com

KCBS – Certified Barbecue Judge and lifetime member

Summer Recipes From The Phi Delt Grillmaster

photo1By Michael McDearman, Tennessee Delta ’97

BBQ Ribs

Pork ribs are a staple at tailgates and backyards alike. It’s hard to wrong with BBQ Ribs.

What You’ll Need:

  • Spare Ribs – 1 rack
  • 3EYZ rub
  • Sauce of your choice

Grillmaster McD’s Tips, Tricks and Techniques

ribsTo prep the meat, simply remove from the store packaging, rinse and turn the rack to the bone side up (the side with a membrane on it). We want to remove the membrane to give the rub flavors access to the meat as the smoke work its magic. To remove the membrane, work the edge of the membrane up in a spot and grab/pull with a dry paper towel. Presto. It’s off. Take 3EYZ rub or any BBQ rub that you enjoy and apply a good dusting on all sides to flavor the meat. Let the ribs sit for about 15 minutes and they are ready to go on the smoker.

We will use an indirect smoker today. Basically, it allows us to cook the ribs indirectly over the fire. We want to keep the temperature as close to 225-250 as possible without spikes and valleys. Make sure your coals are fully lit (grey and ashen) before putting the meat on the smoker. With smoking wood, soak it overnight in water to slow the burn and create a smoke that is thin and blue. White pillowy smoke puts acidic residue on the meat.

Once the cooker has stabilized in temperature, place the ribs on the grate and shield with a water pan (for steam and heat distribution). Close it up and keep the cooker at the 225-250 range for 3 hours in the smoke. If you are looking, you aren’t cooking. Keep the doors closed! It takes up to 30 minutes for some cookers to recover.

At the 3 hour mark, put the ribs into foil pouches with a couple tablespoons of apple juice, use some squeeze butter with honey and brown sugar on both sides. I also put the meat side down in the pouch. Cook at the same 225-250 temp for 2 hours in the sealed pouch.

When you take them out of the foil pouch after the two hours, lift them with tongs long ways. Sliding your tongs halfway under the rack of ribs, they are done when you lift them and see an almost 90 degree bend. If they do not bend that way (where you almost reach under them because you think they might fall), then put them back in the foil for a bit more.

Once they have the bend but don’t break feel, we then sauce the ribs and put them back on the indirect heat for as long as it takes for your sauce to tighten or turn into a bit of a paste. This step does not have a specific time, but some sauces can take up to a full 6th hour. I usually tighten a sauce for about 20 minutes.

Always rest the meat for a bit. On ribs, I let them sit unstacked and off the heat for about 15 minutes. Then, it’s on! Dive in and enjoy!


7119975487_ab65716a0a_mCreole Mustard Crusted Pork Loin

What You’ll Need:

  • (1) Pork Loin
  • (1) bottle Creole Mustard
  • (4) sprigs fresh Rosemary
  • (3) T of minced Garlic
  • (10) peppercorns

Grillmaster McD’s Tips, Tricks and Techniques

Pork can handle many flavor profiles. Looking for a more tender or juicy pork chop? Try soaking chops or smaller pieces in buttermilk for less than 2 hours. Then pat off the excess and cook like the recipes say. Yum!

Take a paring knife and cut finger sized slits (about 10) in evenly spaced locations (preferably from the top to preserve any juices). Spread the peppercorns, garlic and rosemary (after you have slid your fingers against the leaves to get them off the stems) in the holes evenly throughout the pork loin. Generously coat the outside of the loin with Creole Mustard. Set in a roasting rack or on a wire rack.

Don’t be afraid to add a bit of thin blue smoke during this cook. Preheat your smoker or grill (indirect heat) on 350 degrees and cook for approximately 50-55 minutes until the loin reaches 145 degrees internal temperature. Pork recently changed its food safe temp and can be eaten at a medium rare. If you like it a bit more done, find that internal temperature you desire. If you like it more of a medium to medium well go for 155 degrees. Let the meat rest for 5 minutes, slice and enjoy!


photoMore About Michael McDearman

Get Fired Up Foods, LLC www.GetFiredUpFoods.com

World Champion GrillMaster Steak Coach

GrillMaster l American GrillMaster Experience, FoodEnquirer.com, MojoBricks, Bull Outdoor Products, Beef Checkoff, McCormick Spices, Heinz

Contributing Writer l BBQ Times, KCBS Bullsheet, GrillingWithRich.com

KCBS – Certified Barbecue Judge and lifetime member

LinkedIn Question of the Month – How Can Undergraduates Get The Most Out Of Their Summer Internships?

Mitch_BetterMitchel Better • Remember that internships are not about the money, but the opportunity and experience. Try to diversify yourself with multiple skills and knowledge to make yourself more marketable when applying for full-time jobs.

Michael_PhelpsMichael Phelps • Keep a journal. Record what you see and hear and think. Save questions and pick the best five and ask them weekly unless answering any one of them is necessary to execution on any given day. Listen lots; talk not so much. Link in with all that you meet–you never know. Never burn a bridge. Everything begins with a sale–including selling yourself to a boss, co-workers and customers. Keep all conversation focused on the other person in the conversation.

Roger Elias • First – “Do not believe everything you think!” 2nd – ask good questions, 3rd – listen intently and then 4th make sound decisions …

Once you get the hang of that process, then volunteer to do extra projects, look for a mentor to help you understand the office politics …. you never know what you might learn or who can help you in the future … have fun!

Internships can be great learning experiences …. you may learn positive things … but you may also learn a lot about things you will never want to see or do again! Your interniship will be a journey … be adaptable!

Ryan_ElmerRyan Elmer • Network! Sometimes the work performed by interns isn’t the greatest, but remember to be an engaging professional to everyone you meet at your internship. Having the right advocates during the career search process will make the world of difference to you.

Abhayam SharmaAbhayam Sharma • While you might find yourself swimming in new information and processes there are a few things you must be cognoscente of:

1. Try to keep track of how long it takes to you become fully functional during the ramp up process. Quick studies are sought after by employers and it is an effective talking point to bring up during an interview.

2. Try to understand how your coursework translates to your work during the internship. Too often students get to graduation but don’t have any idea what they learned or how their knowledge/training can be used in the workplace. There is also very little accountability on your school to make sure that your coursework is actually useful. This is one of the reasons that employers shy away from new graduates. It is your job to sell what you are able to do so try to align classroom learning with the things you see around your office (there are going to be other people doing things that you actually learned how to do. Take note of their position and take the time to try to talk to them about their work so that you can be informed about your opportunities when you graduate)

3. Track your tasks and accomplishments/goals reached. They are important during an interview process because the hiring manager will often ask you about them.

4. At the end of the internship you should be able to answer the question “how did you help the firm?” every employer is asking that question. If you can answer it for them it leaves little left to perception

5. Make friends and contacts! Networking is the way to a permanent job. Make friends both inside and outside the department in which you work. You never know when someone can help you. Make connections and add them on Linkedin it will expand your ability to view job openings on this site.

6. Do not forget the recruiting manager: Stay in contact with this person. Make a point of speaking to this person as often as you can while you are working. If you make them feel like you are appreciative and they matter they are more likely to place you within the firm or refer you to their counterparts at other firms (This is how I got my job)

6. GET A LETTER OF RECOMMENDATION!!!!!! This is one of the most powerful documents that will help you get a job. After your academic record this is one of the things that will separate you from the crowd. 90% of graduates do not have letters of recommendation. Imagine what a couple of these would do to separate you from the pack.

7. Overachieve! Think of an internship as a tryout. If you don’t give it your all you have nobody to blame but yourself. Believe it or not 3 months will fly and even though you might not be able to work at that pace for a whole year your future employer doesn’t know that!

John_SchurzJohn Schurz • You have access to the “experts” of your potential chosen field. Ask as many questions as you can and lobby to be given specific projects so you can learn on the job. Practice beats theory almost every time.

Jay_PetersonJay Peterson • Make yourself invaluable. I had two interns last summer. One needed constant supervision, and details of what to do and how to do it. But she didn’t ask questions or for help if she didn’t understand something. The other – asked questions, offered suggestions, clarified expectations. She not only did her projects, but she took INITIATIVE by doing beyond what was asked – but did what she knew would benefit the organization. She also met with key personnel to learn about their function, and asked what would be helpful to them to make their jobs easier. She was prompt and ultra organized. She detailed all of her work/projects and left notes on what else needed to be done to either continue or improve upon the projects she started.

Frank_ModicaFrank Modica • I have come to the thread late. Most of my points have been made above.

Treat an internship as a 12 week interview. Realize employers WANT you to succeed. Otherwise they are recruiting for open positions which takes time and effort.

Politely back away from gossipers, complainers, and other toxic personalities who will kevtch about all that is “screwed up about this place”.

Treat an internship as a dress rehearsal. Your perception of what a job is may not match up with the reality. Learn as much as possible about as many jobs as possible. This will help in making employment decisions later on.

Jason_SmithJayson Smith • Don’t be afraid to get your hands dirty. Listen and ask questions at the appropriate time…however don’t let a question that you have go unasked!

David_KovacovichDavid Kovacovich • Here are a few tips:
1. Get to the office early and stay late.
2. Ask a lot of questions.
3. Offer to take on extra projects.
4. Do not feel as though any task is beneath you.
5. Find a mentor (or several).
6. Set goals every Monday and recap them every Friday.
7. Focus on positive feedback!!!
8. Make adjustments when given constructive feedback.

Skills is stronger than luck! Work Hard!

Mo_HallMo Hall • It’s very easy for interns to be seen and not heard, and by the time they get comfortable, it’s time to move on. As quickly as you can, be someone that your peers will remember after your internship is complete; a strong, seamless social integration will also help ease some growing pains of learning your job and responsibilities.

To re-emphasize a comment upthread, keep in mind that everyone wants you to succeed–but be sure to have confidence in yourself.

Dale_WeberDale Weber • I think all the above are great, wish I’d known a few earlier (keep a journal!)

I’d just like to add to grasp the opportunities to talk to your co-workers. Consider putting the lunch you brought with you back in the fridge and getting a bite with somebody in the office. The stories between the lines – what they do in their roles and what educational and work experiences got them to those roles – can be very useful when you graduate and need to choose a career path to meet your talents and interests.

Jonathon_PalmieriJonathon PalmieriHere is an Article that I shared with my chapter. In my opinion short work towards being someone you yourself would want to hire for your own company.

Paul_SabatinoPaul Sabatino • Put your best foot forward: Quite often, companies view internships as tryouts for future hires. Looking to receive an offer at the end of your internship? Hitting it out of the park with each assignment or task that crosses your desk is the best place to start.

Spatial Awareness: For many, a summer internship is their first look into corporate America. If your time as a summer associate is nothing more than an internship, you’ll want to be able to paint a clear and concise picture of the experience you’ve gained. So, take a moment to learn about the company you’re at:
1. What service, product or widget do they provide to the world?
2. What vertical or industry are they part of?
3. Who are their competitors (potential employers who may have interest in the industry knowledge you are acquiring)?
4. What internal divisions are you coordinating with (Accounting & Finance, Technology, Legal & Compliance, Sales & Marketing, etc.)?

Resume Building Blog: At the end of your internship, one of the more challenging undertakings will be summarizing and highlighting your work experience. From your first day forward, grab a legal pad or a spiral notebook and keep a running log of your day to day activity. Start where most of your time is spent, leverage the position description you applied to, summarize mini-milestones, project initiatives and tasks completed as well as new software systems you’ve been exposed to (Accounting suites, CRM’s, ERP’s, heavy Excel usage etc.). Your Resume Building Blog will provide you with building blocks as you update your resume in the fall.

Build your Professional Network: Are you part of the LinkedIn community? Well, you should be. Unless you have a website or blog, LinkedIn might be your only professional corner of the web. Take some time to review and update your current profile early on (Be sure to add your new position). Employment dates, titles, Degrees (expected or completed) should mirror your resume as many companies choose to review both. Send invites to your co-workers, team members, managers and executives that you interact with over the summer. Last but not least, try to identify a few managers or mentors that have taken interest in your work or been impressed with your efforts that might be open to writing a recommendation for your profile. Two or three should do the trick!

Stand out & Finish Strong: Leave your mark while you’re there and stand out from the intern crowd. Working for a company that lacks documentation or direction for interns? Consider creating a FYI binder throughout the summer for the next intern; the little things go a long way and it’s a desktop reference manual for you as well. Do not slack off on your contribution toward the end of the summer; this is the time to put in your best work, finish strong and end on a high note. Remember to thank those you worked with and let them know how much you appreciated their time and direction over the summer. Exchange of personal contact information might not be a bad idea, let them know you are reachable should additional information on your project work be needed.

Garrett_GosselinkGarrett Gosselink • Be sure to connect on LinkedIn with everyone you meet in your internship, co-workers and customers alike!

Phi Delta Theta in the World of Tomorrow

Ben_PutanoBy Ben Putano, Ohio Lambda #728

I consider myself very lucky as I reflect on my first weekend at Kent State during my freshman year. I followed a group of new friends to a fraternity cookout, where I was told there would be food, beer, and girls. When I arrived to the house that afternoon, there was no beer—or girls for that matter—but plenty of food, volleyball and a group Phi Delt brothers. Later that night, I went back for a bonfire, talked with several members, played chubby bunny (look it up), and I was hooked. On day one of my college career, I found a great chapter from the best fraternity on the planet. Like I said, I was lucky.

I texted my dad that day to tell him I was hanging out at a fraternity. He replied, “Be careful”. And I said, “No Dad! Would you believe that the fraternity has an alcohol-free property? Don’t worry!” He said back, “Isn’t that an oxymoron?”

In a way, Phi Delta Theta is sort of an oxymoron in the fraternity world. Over the past decade, we have grown faster, stronger, and smarter than many any other fraternal organizations. In the words of Brother Rich Fabritius, “We have colleges calling us, wanting us on their campuses.”

It’s a turbulent time for many Greek communities, and many organizations are doing little to help themselves. Excessive drinking and hazing has pushed many chapters and organizations to the brink of existence. I’m proud of the tough decisions that Phi Delt has made, the example that it has set, and the benefits that it provides to young men.

I think the reasons for my pride and the Fraternity’s success is simple, but it may not for the reasons you would expect. When Phi Delt adopted alcohol-free housing, we set the groundwork to become the best fraternity that we can be. Now, I am definitely not some anti-booze snob who will stick my nose up at the sight of alcohol, but I do believe that there is a time and a place for drinking, and our policies have established the guidelines perfectly.

Living in an alcohol-free property at Ohio Lambda for three years, I was reaffirmed of this over and over. Yes, my brothers and I would go out and have fun, but at the chapter house, we made our own fun, like kids playing on a playground. We bonded and grew to know each other in unaltered states of mind. In the absence of alcohol, we focused on each other, and we became a better chapter because of it.

I also believe that much of Phi Delta Theta’s success stems from the Fraternity’s approach to leadership conferences. The training that our members receive at Kleberg, Recruitment Workshops, and the Presidents Leadership Conference, in absence of alcohol, is second-to-none. There is NO WAY we could have an effective conference, waking up at 8 a.m. and going until 10 p.m. for three days, if our members were out drinking the night before. Because of this, our members return to their chapters after a conference and they are prepared and motivated to make serious change at their school.

When I was at PLC this winter, I had a friend also attending a conference for his fraternity at the same time. After the weekend, we exchanged stories. The majority of his energy was spent out at bars and wild excursions through the city. Although it sounded fun, I knew his experience could not top my own. Phi Delt takes preparing its leaders seriously, and it shows in the quality of our chapters and our alumni. We are a different breed of Fraternity man.

Phi Delta Theta has always been a leader in the fraternity world, but it has never been truer than it is today. I believe that in an uncertain future for fraternities, Phi Delt is preparing itself greatly for long-term success.  Because of the decisions we’ve made and the vision we possess, I feel confident that Phi Delt will truly be a Fraternity for life, and for my son’s life, and for his son as well.

I am grateful for an opportunity to give back to a Fraternity that has given me so much. I’m Proud to be a Phi.