“Elaine’s cookbook” used to be a purple three-ring binder with misspelled chicken scratch on loose-leaf paper: notes copied hastily while watching the Food Network’s “Good Eats with Alton Brown.”
Now, it’s a self-published, designed and photographed 70-page volume with a flashier title: And a Chocolate Drizzle — and it’s for sale on Amazon thanks to its author, Elaine Khodzhayan, and her 28,000-strong Instagram following— something the college senior said she could never have imagined.
Khodzhayan’s Armenian parents moved to Erie, Pennsylvania, just before she was born and opened three successful restaurants. Growing up in the industry meant Khodzhayan learned how to create menus, advertisements and flyers; connect with vendors; train employees and take orders after school. Over recent summers, she helped her family’s restaurants convert from paper menus and ordering systems to computers for on-site, online and mobile ordering, she said. Something seemingly simple, but hugely rewarding.
Khodzhayan will graduate Pitt this year with a Bachelor of Science in business administration, but in some ways, her business education started when she was a child.
Having double-majored in business information systems and human resources management, the polyglot — who speaks Armenian, Russian, Spanish, English and knows some computer coding — wants to ultimately fuse her people skills with her love of technology.
“I want to be able to explain technology to people in its simplest, basic form, even when it’s complicated,” she said.
As Apple’s Lead Campus Rep at Pitt, she currently helps train up-and-coming student reps to host educational workshops and events for the campus community. The idea is help people learn more about the devices they have and use daily, she said. “To become better students, better teachers, to be able to pursue their hobbies more, be more productive, whatever it may be.”
What does that look like for Khodzhayan personally? Crafting and honing her brand — one of the takeaways from her business classes at Pitt.
In her second year, Khodzhayan began an Instagram account dedicated solely to the confections she baked in the small kitchen of her Oakland apartment. Each photo was captioned with a brief descriptor and the “and a chocolate drizzle” signature, which made for a natural title.
Somehow, she said, the account gained a following. No longer a kindergartener practicing her English by jotting down Alton Brown’s recipes step by step, she now was reaching more than 28,000 people around the world with her own treats.
As a food blogger, Khodzhayan focuses on cultivating kindness and positivity. The goal of And a Chocolate Drizzle, she said, is to inspire people and leave them smiling — not unlike her job as a Pitt Pathfinder, giving campus tours to prospective Pitt students and helping them acclimate to college life.
Worlds collided once when a follower who was also a prospective Pitt student specifically reached out on Instagram to ask about the College of Business Administration, Khodzhayan told The Pitt News in an interview. The two met months later to discuss their love of baking and the academic merits of Pitt. The encounter remains a standout experience for Khodzhayan.
Anthony F. Rodi, clinical associate professor of business administration in the Joseph M. Katz Graduate School of Business and College of Business Administration, was surprised to learn about his student’s popular food blog — Khodzhayan never mentioned it, he said — but not shocked.
“I see her as an executive,” said Rodi, who taught Khodzhayan in project management and information systems ethics.
“She’s an outstanding student who thinks beyond the task at hand. She motivates the people around her. She’s a leader; the group member that you want on your team, that’s for sure.”
Khodzhayan’s dream is being part of the Apple team, she said, or consulting for a business or university. She’d like to play a part in closing the technology gap in this country.
“Just imagine ... someone might be able to solve a problem that we have in our world right now, if they had access to that knowledge and that data,” she said. "We don't know what creative ideas they have."
Rodi, for his part, is looking forward to seeing Khodzhayan out in the world.
“I always bring really exceptional students back to give presentations to my classes,” he said. Beyond any success she’s already had and will undoubtedly have more of, he said, “you just like being around a person like that. She’s a great role model.”
After taking some time to visit family in Armenia, Khodzhayan isn’t exactly sure what lies ahead. But even when she enters the professional world, And a Chocolate Drizzle likely will stick around.
“As long as it’s still fun for me, I’m going to keep doing it,” she said.
On the face of it, her array of interests could seem scattered, Khodzhayan said. But she tries hard to carve out time for them all, because “each one of the things that I learn from everything that I’m involved in is another ingredient in the recipe I’m making of whatever my life is becoming.”