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Meet the Junior Working on an App and Two Entrees This Summer


Photo by Anthony92931 / CC BY-SA 3.0

If you go to Penn, there's a pretty good chance that many of your friends are working on some app this summer, and many will do the same after they graduate. For some students, though, an app just isn't enough. Ken Brinker, a rising Junior in the school of Engineering, is one of those students. 

When I met up with Ken at his one-bedroom apartment in Tribeca, he seemed like your average Penn kid. He came to the door in a wrinkled fling tank and a pair of sweatpants, stained with what was either ketchup or tomato sauce. Although it was after 11 o'clock in the morning on a Sunday, he had clearly just woken up.

"I knew I wanted to live and work in or around New York," Ken explained to me. "So many people are here, and there are great opportunities. Then, when I realized that I'd have to commute to Jersey City, I knew Tribeca was the place to be. It's expensive, but it's worth it. I mean, my commute is less than half an hour."

Penn kids commute to Jersey City all the time, to jobs at Goldman Sachs or Forbes, for example. In Ken's case, though, he's commuting to a Chili's Grill and Bar. 

"I realized Chili's was where I wanted to spend my summer, but there actually isn't a Chili's location in Manhattan. Crazy, I know. My options were to go to Jersey City, or to trek out to Queens or Long Island or something. I love Jersey, I love the culture and the cuisine and how close it is to other states, so I opted for the Jersey City location," Ken said. "It's really worked out well."

Ken is spending the summer taking advantage of Chili's enticing "Dinner for 2" deal, in which customers get to pick one appetizer and two entrees for only $22, a steal by any standard but especially cheap considering New York prices. Ken goes every weekday, enjoying all that explosive flavor and low cost, high quality food by himself.

Ken assured me that the price isn't even the best part. "The really special part of the deal is the variety," he declared. "Think about it: you get an appetizer, and two entrees. There are, like, a lot of options for each category. I haven't done the math, but there's a lot of possible combinations there."

I did the math. There are 5 appetizers to choose from, and 12 different entrees (not including the 10oz Classic Sirloin, which is just a larger version of the 6oz Classic Sirloin and increases the overall price of the deal by $4). Insisting on each of the two entrees being different, you have a total of 330 combinations, if my calculations are correct.

"Most of my peers spend their summers working on one or two projects, doing the same things day after day. Not me..." Ken trailed off, smiling as he looked out the window, across the Hudson towards Jersey City. "One day, it's the Spiced Panko Onion Rings to start, then a Classic Bacon Burger and some Cajun Chicken Pasta. Another day maybe I'll mix it up, start with Salads for Two and then WHAM! follow it up with a Half Rack of Ribs and an order of Fajitas."

I was wondering the same thing you are: how does Ken make money to afford this apartment in Tribeca?

"How are you living down here, in one of the most desirable parts of Manhattan, if you don't have a job?" I asked, eyebrows raised.

"My parents are rich and they think I'm working on a real app," Ken said. "I'm just going to pretend I worked on the Chili's mobile app, and list a frat brother as my reference on my resume."

Once we were done with the interview, we headed to Chili's. Ken and I shared an appetizer of Texas Cheese Fries (Half), and I had the Southwestern Quesadillas— Bacon Ranch Chicken. Ken got the Crispy Chicken Crispers®, one of his favorite entrees. You know, I thought to myself, I could get used to this.