Food for Thought: ICE Grads On Their Careers In Media
Pursuing an education in culinary arts opens a ton of doors for potential career opportunities -- far beyond the traditional roles confined to a kitchen. A few decades ago, working in food media meant only a handful of paths to consider: authoring cookbooks or editing food magazines, with not many other options in between. But thanks to social media and the age of the internet, culinary expertise can be translated into a wide array of viable career options -- as demonstrated by these ICE graduates who have gone on to do just that.
From styling food for avant-garde startups to founding a media company dedicated to culinary video production, these ICE graduates are making big strides. Here's what they had to say about leveraging culinary training to land a job in the media world.
Eden Grinshpan, Food TV Personality
Having been the host of two cooking shows on a major TV network, Eden Grinshpan is proof that networking will get you pretty much anywhere.
"Through ICE, I was introduced to many people in the field that have helped me along the way with my career," Grinshpan says. "Since leaving ICE I have worked on 'Eden Eats,' a show that I created with my business partner Samantha Schutz, and 'Log On And Eat with Eden.'
I had such a great time in the program [at ICE]. I met so many people from all walks of life that were just as passionate as I was about food and the culinary industry. The school gave me a great platform to learn about the service industry and also allowed me to network and meet great people in the industry.
Since graduating from ICE, I have been able to pursue my dream of food television and I am very grateful to the Cooking Channel for taking me under their wing and believing in me and my shows."
Julie Resnick: Founder of feedfeed
What happens when a former digital marketer turned ICE graduate has an excess of produce from her CSA [Community Supported Agriculture] to prepare? She takes to social media for inspiration -- and ends up building a following of over one million in the process.
"I began by posting pictures of my own food and then asked people to share what they were making by also tagging their food with #feedfeed," says Resnick.
"That started to develop a community of people who were cooking the way I was. I would do a search for sweet potatoes and find some really cool sweet potato dishes, and I would follow those people and engage with them and comment on their posts. Then I would say, 'Hey, by the way, don’t forget to add #feedfeed to what you’re cooking and that way we can all share with each other.' It was my need that was driving it. It took off from there."
Of course, curating a hit Instagram account isn't going to happen overnight. But if you're looking to start cultivating a following, Resnick does have a few words of advice to share.
"First, I would say that it’s important to be active on social," she says. "Don’t just spend time composing a beautiful, well-lit shot, posting it and then logging out of Instagram or whatever social media platform you’re using. Spend the time looking at what people you follow are posting, like the content and comment on the content. I think there’s also this perception that you shouldn’t be following too many people — I disagree with that. If there are people out there who are putting out nice content that you’re interested in, follow them, engage with them and get to know the people behind these accounts. Read what these people are writing, don’t just look at the pictures. It’s about relationship building."
Jamie Tiampo, President and Founder of SeeFood Media
Jamie Tiampo is the founder of a company that fills a niche in which it has no real competitor: a “one-stop shop” featuring seven kitchen sets, a rooftop for outdoor cooking segments, separate prep kitchens for food stylists, an in-house prop shop and a team of seasoned professionals who have produced several hundred food-centric video and photo shoots.
“I started with the fundamental question of how to make food look better,” says Tiampo. “From there, it was a matter of engineering the systems and facilities from the ground up to support that mission. If there was one thing I learned from living through the first dot-com bubble, it was that nothing is sacred. SeeFood Media started in an era of big TV cooking shows with custom sets in gigantic studios. Yet we’ve witnessed—and benefitted from—an evolution where food brands have realized they can also leverage digital video, and hire us to script, produce and edit extremely high quality videos which speak directly to their consumers,” Jamie explains.
“What drives our business is bandwidth. Today, people can watch a video on their phone while they walk down the sidewalk. For brands, that means video content can reach an audience anytime, anywhere.”
Kim O'Donnel, Cookbook Author and Food Journalist
"I worked as a reporter for about five years before exploring a culinary career," says O'Donnel. "Once I realized I wanted to work in food, I pursued a job under James Beard Award winner Ann Cashion in Washington, D.C. It was in the days of pre-internet communication, so I typed her a note (on an electric typewriter) asking about openings at Cashion’s Eat Place for rookies, like myself, who wanted to learn. Ann came to be one of my mentors, and what I learned on the job in just five months really set me up for culinary school."
Since attending ICE, O'Donnel has become one of the country’s most respected food writers, celebrated by the M.F.K. Fisher Award for Excellence in Culinary Writing and serving on the James Beard Foundation’s Journalism Awards Committee.
"My newly released cookbook, PNW Veg: 100 Vegetable Recipes Inspired by the Local Bounty of the Pacific Northwest is my third over the past seven years," says O'Donnel.
"I've made a name for myself as an omnivore writing vegetarian cookbooks, inspiring folks like myself to make more room for plants. But there's other news as well: I'm the chef-in-residence at a Seattle branch of the YMCA, overseeing programming for its new Healthy Living Kitchen. I'm rolling out Meatless Monday demos, and the branch will be a CSA pick-up spot this summer. Additionally, I'm going to Houston in July as a returning volunteer chef with Culinary Corps -- my first trip with CC was to New Orleans in 2007."
Jiselle Basile, Chef and Food Stylist, Extra Crispy
Traditionally, food stylists are utilized in the commercial or magazine world. But thanks to the wide world of startups, there's a need for food stylists beyond the fold — like at Extra Crispy, a website dedicated entirely to breakfast.
"There’s not a typical day, which keeps it interesting," says Basile. "At Extra Crispy, there’s a startup mentality — within a major company — but it’s still a startup. Most of us take on a lot of different roles so no two days are similar. Usually I’m either researching recipes at my desk, or I can be at a video shoot with a chef, or testing and styling in the kitchen. Tomorrow, I’m going to be making Scotch eggs with an ostrich egg on Facebook Live. I have to pick up ostrich eggs at Union Square Market at 8:00 a.m., so I’ll start here whenever I get back."
As far as the current food media landscape goes, Basile says there's a major shift happening. "The whole foodie culture thing is having an impact," she says.
"People are either talking about things more than ever or social media is having an impact and brought to life how much people talk about it. People are more aware of their food. I've seen restaurants focusing more on where their food is coming from and I guess it’s in part because people are so concerned about the surrounding issues. It’s interesting how owners and chefs now look at how social media affects their restaurants. Nowadays a lot of people, before they set foot in your restaurant, will see if you have an Instagram and check out what your food looks like, which has a huge impact on whether someone will eat in your restaurant."
Ed Behr, Founder and Publisher of The Art of Eating
Ed Behr had quite the journey to where he is now -- heading up the respected quarterly journal, The Art of Eating, which he created. "I was working as a carpenter and builder, which I did for about a dozen years," he says.
"I decided I wanted to open a restaurant, and to do that I felt I had to go to cooking school, not because I wanted to cook in the restaurant, but because I knew I didn’t know enough to recognize and hire a good chef. In the end, I never opened a restaurant. Since 1986, I’ve been writing about food and wine as the editor and publisher of The Art of Eating."
Behr earned one of the food industry’s most prestigious honors: an induction into the James Beard Foundation’s “Who’s Who of Food and Beverage in America” in 2015. But he's more than humble about the work he's doing. "Like so many other people, I spend most of my time looking at a computer screen," he says.
“I try—but rarely succeed—to devote the morning to my own writing. My days are a mix of editing, writing and emailing (writers, editors, photographers, illustrators and people who can help with research). Actual interviews, in which I might quote someone, I normally do over the phone or in person. Now and then I look up something in an ink-on-paper book, as most of what I want to know is still not anywhere online. I also spend a fair amount of time on the nuts and bolts of publishing.”
Sara Deseran, Director of Marketing and Branding for Tacolicious
"After some 20 years of working as a food writer, I'm now the marketing and branding director for Tacolicious, a restaurant group my husband Joe Hargrave and I own," says Deseran.
"We have five restaurants in the Bay Area, plus a cantina called Bar San Pancho and a tequila bar called Mosto. We started as a little market stand at the Ferry Plaza Farmers Market in 2009.
As someone who's written cookbooks, done food styling, food writing and even worked in restaurants in the kitchen way back in the day (and pretty much sucked at my job as a prep cook), this job allows me to kind of do it all. Barring straight operations, I do a lot of everything.
It's also given me a lot of humility in regards to how unbelievably hard it is to run restaurants! Every day there are about 10 fires to put out. I'd tell students to immerse themselves in different elements of the food industry, but veer towards your strengths rather than your dreamy ideas of being that big name chef. Not everyone is cut out to work in a kitchen (like me, for instance). It took me catering, cooking, serving, writing, styling, hard work, plus an element of luck to get where I am now. Figuring out what you're truly good at is empowering. There are a million ways to get into food."
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