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'Foodie' lands five-star business co-op at one of Boston's top restaurants

Harper Vickery, DMSB’20, poses for a portrait at Strega Caffe in ISEC. Vickery is Strega's first co-op. Photo by Matthew Modoono/Northeastern University

On a given day, Harper Vickery might be photographing desserts. Or analyzing the structure of food menus. Or planning a social media campaign. She might be on Columbus Avenue or in Boston’s North End. As the first co-op student with Strega—the Boston-based restaurant and café line known for its celebrity clientele—she wears a lot of hats. (Chef’s hats.)

Vickery, DMSB’20, a third-year international business major, said she’s always had a passion for food. And she got the opportunity to merge her academic focus on business with her foodie background last year, when she began working with assistant professor of marketing Daniele Mathras on research that examined food as a means of social change.

That work took her down a winding path that ultimately led her to Strega, where she’s blazing a trail as its first co-op student. It’s also her first co-op at Northeastern.

Photo by Matthew Modoono/Northeastern University

“For this to be both my first co-op and the first one ever for Strega—that’s really exciting,” she said.

Strega has locations across the Boston area—restaurants and “caffés” that serve everything from a ribeye to a latte. Their newest is a café in Northeastern’s Interdisciplinary Science and Engineering Complex. Vickery circulates among all the area locations, but spends a lot of time at Strega Prime, a steakhouse in Woburn, Massachusetts.

Vickery was only a few days into her new job in late July, but said she’d already been given the freedom to execute her tasks as she saw fit. One assignment entailed photographing the ISEC café’s desserts—handmade each morning—for a marketing campaign.

“I’m learning a lot on the job so far,” Vickery said. Setting up a photoshoot, for one.

“I can’t wait to see what the next five or six months bring.”

She’s also getting a chance to test out her Italian language skills with the chefs and others in the Varano Group, Strega’s parent organization. It’s a language she honed while studying abroad in Italy, and it has become such a passion that she’s now minoring in Italian.

Malcolm Wooff, CFO of the Varano Group, poses for a portrait at Strega Caffe. Photo by Matthew Modoono/Northeastern University

That knowledge also comes in handy when she’s proof-reading the restaurants’ ever-changing menus. “I can help make sure all the accents are in the right place on the wine menus,” she said.

Malcolm Wooff, chief financial officer of the Varano Group, said Vickery’s been “awesome” as Strega’s inaugural co-op student. “She’s engaging, she’s got a tremendous personality; she’s one of these people who, if you give her something to do, she’ll take it on from start to finish without needing a lot of guidance,” he said. “Harper typifies that Northeastern work ethic.”