Culinary Careers: How to Get Your Dream Job in Food, with Advice from Top Culinary Professionals (Clarkson Potter) is now out!
This book is the culmination of nearly two years of work, from proposal to publication. Institute of Culinary Education President Rick Smilow and I conceived Culinary Careers as a comprehensive guide to help students, career changers, prep cooks looking to move up, weary chefs in need of a new way to use their skills, budding food writers, or aspiring winemakers go about their job search and learn more about the industry as a whole.
Cooking, baking, managing, producing, distilling, brewing, distributing, planning, marketing, writing, editing, photographing, filming, styling, designing—the career opportunities in the food industry today are seemingly endless. Because such a plethora of career paths are possible, it can be hard to find out exactly what job would best suit oneself, or how to go about obtaining it, short of talking to everyone. In Culinary Careers, we did just that: We talked to people in all aspects of the industry about their education, career path, and day-to-day activities, to provide the most complete and useful advice possible.
I interviewed close to 120 people for the book. With word count restrictions, 89 are now profiled, including Thomas Keller, Daniel Boulud, Dan Barber, Rick Bayless, David Chang, Graham Elliot Bowles, Gale Gand, François Payard, Ruth Reichl, Michael Ruhlman, Gail Simmons, Mindy Segal, Erin McKenna, Michael Laiskonis, Elisa Strauss, Zingerman’s Ari Weinzweig, Chef’s Garden Lee Jones, Orangette’s Molly Wizenberg, Julie and Julia‘s food stylist Susan Spungen, Allagash Brewing Company’s Rob Tod, and Savannah Bee Company’s Ted Dennard, as well as more sommeliers, caterers, company owners, media producers, stylists, photographers, publicists, consultants, and educators.
Culinary Careers (click here for the table of contents) opens with three chapters that cover three different career-building stages: Getting Started features information on educational needs for beginners and career changers alike, describing programs and schools around the country, along with some top international programs. This chapter also offers tips for resume writing and job interviews. Career Development and Growth gives advice on advancing one’s career, from developing a palate to acquiring additional education and credentials. It also discusses how to change jobs, which organizations to join and trade shows to attend, and networking both in person and online. The third chapter, Ownership and Entrepreneurship, addresses the many entrepreneurial opportunities that the food industry affords, from owning a restaurant or a food product company to a public relations firm or a catering company. It covers the pros and cons of ownership, the components of a business plan, permits and certifications, and investors. Lessons from the Stratosphere features commentary and advice from those who have reached the pinnacle of their profession.
Eleven chapters then include exclusive interviews with both food-world luminaries and those on their way up that allow readers to discover what life is really like in their desired field. These professionals also offer their thoughts on salaries in their field and what they look for in a new hire, for up-to-date, frank information on what one can expect to earn when working in the food industry. Those job category chapters are:
Pastry and Baking
Catering, Events, Personal and Private Chef Work
Wine and Beverages
Retail, Distribution, Sales
Media, Marketing, Public Relations
Assorted Business Services
Nutrition and Nonprofit
I can’t describe how inspiring it was to work on this book. All the people who were generous enough to share their experiences, knowledge, and advice were a daily source of positive energy, thanks to the passion they exuded. I’ve repeated that so many times it sounds trite, but it nonetheless remains true. Despite the long hours and the sacrifices they often make or have made as part of their careers, people who work around food just love what they do—and love sharing it. I would end interviews with my brain racing, in an exalted state, because of how excited people were about their own jobs. I feel so lucky, and am so thankful, to have gotten to share a small slice of the lives of the people now featured in Culinary Careers. Writing a book is a pretty brutal process: You stay glued to your computer for weeks and months on end, cutting down on nearly all social obligations to research, research, research and write, write, write. Then you suffer terrible anxieties wondering if your editor will actually love the manuscript, which are nothing compared to the anxieties that come once the book goes out to the media, and then finally is available for public consumption/criticism. Getting to interview such wonderful people, spend months researching in depth so many aspects of the industry that’s been mine for nearly 10 years, and share it all with people who want to be or are part of that amazing world made it all worth it.
Now it’s out of my hands and I can only hope that readers learn from the book and find jobs that they love as much as I love mine.