Unique Culinary Careers: Jamie Tiampo

When ICE President Rick Smilow and Anne E. McBride wrote "Culinary Careers: How to Get Your Dream Job in Food," they discovered a plethora of food jobs they had never heard of before. Since the book's release, they have been discovering even more interesting career paths in the food world. DICED shares some of them with you in a reoccurring feature, “Unique Culinary Careers.”

Jamie Tiampo worked for years in enterprise software and as a technology executive at IBM, but followed his passion for food and photography to a culinary career as a food media specialist. Now, he is a food photographer, video producer and small business owner. Jamie has worked in all kinds of food media, photographing top-selling cookbooks and videoing culinary events such as the James Beard Awards for his website EatTV. His company, SeeFood Media recently opened a studio with four kitchens designed for film production. Just last week, Tiampo won a 2011 InternationalAssociation of Culinary Professionals (IACP) Cookbook Award in the Children, Youth and Family category for his photography in "Sara Moulton’s Everyday Family Dinners" and he was recently elected to serve on the IACP Board of Directors. In case that wasn’t enough, he is also a partner in dell’anima and L’Artusi restaurants.

How would you describe your job?

I deal in one thing — food. I just talk about it on different platforms through SeeFood Media. First, we do rentals of our kitchen studios for TV and film. We have four sets, and are about to have a fifth. Second, we offer creative services and end-to-end production for companies looking for media content. And the third thing we do is produce our own editorial content for EatTV. So, we produce, shoot and edit really, really interesting things.

How would you describe your career path?

I started out in enterprise software, but I always had a passion for food and eventually I felt it was time to explore that. I went to culinary school, got a master’s degree in food studies at NYU and came to ICE to complete the Culinary Management program. I did all this without necessarily knowing that I would work in food media, but I had also always been passionate about photography and along the way I fell into it. I went to Italy for an NYU class and was taking a lot of photos there. When I got back, I got a call from Izabela Wojcik at the James Beard Foundation. She had seen my photos and suggested I do an exhibition for the Greenhouse Gallery at the James Beard House. That’s when I made the connection that I could have a career in food photography. Working as a food photographer, I saw a market need for video, so I started learning and working more on that platform. Then, as a video producer I was seeing a need for facilities, so I set out to create the space that was configured and set up to capture images of food and cooking.

What have been your biggest challenges?

Well, the biggest issue generally is managing the cash flow. It’s incredibly expensive and payroll is one of my biggest expenses. I’m working with people who are highly skilled and use a lot of technology, and it can cost a lot.

What has been the most satisfying?

It has been incredibly satisfying going out to market and seeing that was actually a need for what we are trying to do. There has been a great reception. We’ve had some shows in studio since opening and it’s great to hear production companies say this is exactly what we needed.

What was your favorite EatTV video to produce?

We went to a slaughterhouse and that was really interesting. It was very weird to be there and see the goats being slaughtered, but it was fascinating to see where our food comes from. I felt like it was a great privilege, in many senses of the word. Not only were we able to see something most people don’t see, we got a better understanding of what it means to sacrifice another life for food and where our food comes from.

How did ICE help prepare you for your career?

At ICE, I was exposed to a huge variety of restaurants and it helped me get my feet in the industry, but it has also helped me build an incredible network. Part of the ICE program was making contacts. My advice to any students would be to join industry organizations like IACP to connect with other professionals doing similar things. It’s a great resource for inspiration and support.

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