Careers Outside the Kitchen

Careers Outside the Kitchen

In the past, working in food typically meant becoming a restaurant chef.

But today, it's hard to even keep track of the diverse range of opportunities in the culinary industry. From food television to cookbook publishing, owning/operating a restaurant to crafting unique pastry products, our alumni work in every aspect of today's food world — and it's never been a more exciting time to be there. Here is a summary and quick views of careers outside the kitchen.

Even in the digital age, the number of printed food publications continues to grow. From longstanding magazines such as Bon Appétit or Food & Wine to groundbreaking quarterlies like Cherry Bombe and Gather Journal, to lifestyle publications such as Real Simple or Esquire, educated food writers and editors are always in demand. The responsibilities of food journalists vary widely. Certain roles involve significant domestic and international travel, while others may predominantly require recipe development work in a test kitchen. Relationships with publications also vary, as in certain cases freelance writers provide the majority of content, whereas other publications may work exclusively with full- or part-time staff.

Many professional food writers also find the opportunity to teach classes, write or ghost-write cookbooks or even work in television or online food content channels. There is no one stereotypical career path, but getting your "foot in the door" through internships, personal references or networking is the primary way in which to find opportunities in food media.

Representative Alumni Include:
• Kristin Donnelly – Contributor, EveryDay with Rachael Ray, Women's Health, and Cherry Bombe 
• Denise Mickelson – Senior Editor, Fine Cooking Magazine
• Sarah Copeland – Food Director, Real Simple Magazine
• Ed Behr – Editor/Founder, The Art of Eating

Ever since America was introduced to French cooking by Julia Child, food television has captured our curiosity. Today, the number of cooking programs on the Food Network or Cooking Channel, as well as cuisine-centric shows on such networks as the Travel Channel, PBS and Bravo, continues to grow.

Opportunities also abound in the world of digital food media, due to the popularity of video content on such sites as Tasting Table, Tastemade or Food52. Food photography and styling are also in high demand, as the market for visual food content has grown with the popularity of such platforms as Instagram and Pinterest.

Representative Alumni Include:
• Gail Simmons – Television Personality, Food Network
• Kristen Miglore – Creative Director, Food52.com
• Jamie Tiampo – President/Founder, SeeFood Media
• Greta Anthony – Senior Producer, Martha Stewart
• Eden Grinshpan – Host, “Eden Eats” on the Cooking Channel, Judge on Top Chef Canada
• Jenny Bierman – Culinary Producer, Food Network

Personal chefs work for multiple clients, preparing meals in private homes or delivering pre-made meals. Private chefs typically work for one client or family, and the range of work might include such responsibilities as cooking for parties/entertaining or for family members with specific dietary restrictions. On the personal chef side, there can be a fair degree of flexibility in terms of the number of clients per chef and the ability to find part-time work. We have often seen that personal chefs find related work teaching cooking classes or working freelance as a recipe tester or food stylist. As a private chef, your schedule is typically less flexible, but may involve perks such as seasonal travel with clients. On the private chef side, jobs are often sourced through staffing agencies. By contrast, personal chefs typically find their work through word of mouth and references.

Representative Alumni Include:
• Lindsey Becker – Chef/Owner, The Date Dish (Washington, D.C.)
• Dianne Blancato – Chef/Owner, 123 Cuisine (North Carolina)
• Linda Goldberg – Chef/Owner, Creative Cuisine (Boston)
• Amy Roth – Chef/Owner, Amy Kate Catering (New York / Hamptons)

Wine, beverage and mixology are a growing segment of the broader culinary landscape. The idea of pairing beverages with food has long been the norm in restaurants and hospitality, but the artisanal production of beverages and wine has significantly increased in recent years, providing a more interesting range of products for professional and home use. No matter how you pour it, beverages (alcoholic and non-alcoholic) are a multi-billion dollar sector of the overall hospitality market. To underscore diversity this sector represents, job titles in this area include Beverage Director, Sommelier, Mixologist, Wine Buyer and Beverage Chef.

Representative Alumni Include:
• Juliette Pope – Beverage Director, Gramercy Tavern (New York)
• Katrin Naelapaa – Director, Wines From Spain (New York)
• Justin Philips – Co-Owner, Beer Table (New York)
• Henry Davar – Wine Director, Batali & Bastianich Hospitality (Hong Kong)

There are many ways that a person with both marketing and culinary knowledge can combine that experience for an exciting career. Since nearly every culinary enterprise is a business that needs and wants customers, marketing and public relations is an important part of the mix.

Every city and market has a range of public relations firms that specialize in chefs, restaurants and food. Potential employees who have been to culinary school and/or worked in restaurants provide additional insights about the business that are often considered valuable. In fact, since most journalists who cover food and restaurants have this knowledge, they expect their PR counterparts to have similar expertise. Once a chef or restaurant group gets to a certain scale (or fame), they are more likely to have marketing and public relations staff in-house vs. using an agency. Besides restaurants, companies from supermarket chains to wine and beverage producers also need culinary savvy, marketing staff.

Not surprisingly, as time goes by, the scope of what’s included in marketing and public relations has changed. Today, digital and social media are essential parts of the marketing mix. Chefs and restaurants regularly rely on social media — Instagram, Twitter and Facebook — to get their names out there and gain customers. In general, these efforts are managed by people with both marketing and culinary experience.

Representative Alumni Include:
• Carla Siegel – Brand Creative Director at The Dinex Group
• Marushka Bland – Project Manager, Whole Foods Market Headquarters (Austin)
• Alicia Laury – Marketing Manager, Constellation Wines (San Francisco)
• Leitha Matz – Senior Director of eCommerce, Fresh Direct
• Chad Belisario – Director of Communications, Harvard Club

Today's increasingly food savvy public is eager to bypass the supermarket for specialty food retailers, which means that there are plenty of career opportunities in this area of the food industry. If you have a keen sense of curiosity about products and ingredients, you might consider a career as a cheese monger, butcher or purveyor of specialty pastry and baking items.

While opening a small business is one way to find work, many major national companies also hire professionals with a true passion for ingredients to help them source, buy and merchandise culinary products.

Representative Alumni Include:
• Jon Zeltsman – President, Down to Earth Markets
• Ryan Farr – Owner, 4505 Meats (San Francisco)
• Laura Nuter – Owner, The Filling Station (New York)
• Steven D'Onofrio – Managing Director, Swiss Chalet Fine Foods

Positions in food policy and non-profit work are important aspects of the industry, as they provide valuable educational services and help to produce and provide access to better food for all. If you're looking for a career that will combine your love of food with your interests in making the world a better place, there are a multitude of paths you might take. Local food banks and other non-profits tackle issues of hunger relief and healthful food access for the needy, while other organizations may focus on children's school food policy or advocacy for small food businesses. Still other dimensions of policy work are carried out at the myriad variety of trade associations that exist around the globe.

Representative Alumni Include:
• Elizabeth Meltz – Director of Sustainability, Batali & Bastianich Hospitality Group
• Andrew Rigie – Executive Director, New York Hospitality Alliance
• Claire Insalata Poulos – Founder, Table to Table
• Beth Collins – Founder, Local Plates and Lunch Lessons
• Gretchen VanEsselstyn – Education Director, Specialty Food Association

Catering is one of the largest segments of the food industry. From elaborate seated wedding dinners to prepared lunch sandwich platters, catered food is constantly in demand. Many burgeoning culinary entrepreneurs are interested in the field as a catering business can be started with minimal funding, in comparison to full-scale restaurants. Caterers typically work out of an owned or rented industrial kitchen space and deliver their orders to their client directly. Catering operations employ not only cooks but servers, bartenders and even maintenance staff. Hours can vary greatly depending on season and demand. Caterers that provide a unique and individualized dining experience and unique or special themes can demand premium prices for their services.

Representative Alumni Include:
• Dan Obusan – Executive Chef, City Catering (Seattle)
• Matthew Riznyk – Executive Chef-Catering, Great Performances (New York)
• Sebastian Gumowski – Executive Chef, Sterling Affair (New York)
• Sonia Philipse – Chef/Owner, Food Fantasies (Amsterdam)

Writing and getting your own cookbook published is a lofty goal, but by no means impossible. In today’s world, lower printing and production costs and digital technology make it easier to publish books with lower press runs. Every year, we see a group of ICE alumni names on new books. The topic and subject list is diverse — from international and ethnic foods, to cooking for children. In some cases, the book is an outgrowth of the author’s already established business. Another route is to become a contributor or co-author of your employer’s book. This is particularly true in the case of working restaurant chefs who may need staff help to get their book ready to publish.

Representative Alumni Include:
• Jill Sandique – Fundamentals of Professional Cooking and Baking
• Dave Crofton – One Girl Cookies
• Sarah Copeland – Feast: Generous Vegetarian Meals for Every Appetite
• Kim O’Donnel – Meat Lover’s Meatless Celebrations

For those who enjoy working with food, putting together the details of a party and providing great client hospitality, a career in event management is likely to cover all these interests and more. Those embarking on this career path thrive on the energy of pulling off a great event and excel at the organization and attention to detail required to create successful experiences and events. Culinary and beverage knowledge will be helpful since virtually all events have a food and beverage component.

These types of positions can be found in a range of settings, from catering and event companies to hotels, resorts, museums, universities and restaurant groups.

Representative Alumni Include:
• Omri Green – Director of Special Events, Union Square Events (New York)
• Tracy Friedman – Event Sales Manager, The Rainbow Room (New York)
• Roxanne Peterson – Special Events Manger, Buddakan (New York)
• Valarie Beckford – Meeting & Events Coordinator, The New York Palace Hotel

Food stylists create the eye-popping, mouth-watering dishes that get photographed for magazines, newspapers, books, television and advertisements. It takes an artistic eye as well as an ability to cook to develop a successful career as a food stylist. Many food stylists work independently for photographers, bringing to life the vision of a cookbook writer or advertiser. They may also work in television or for other visual media outlets. After preparing the food, they "stage" it and get it ready for its media debut. An attention to detail is paramount, and as part of the photographic process, the stylist may use tricks of the trade to make the food appear its most appealing, or may choose to keep it in its most natural state.

Some stylists work part time for different photographers and can put together an independent, active career, while others are employed full time by TV stations or magazines. Typically, externships or apprenticeships with seasoned food stylists are the best way to begin a career in this creative sector of the food world.

Representative Alumni Include:
• Ulli Stachl – Food Stylist (New York)
• Laurie Knoop – Food Stylist (New York)
• Molly Shuster – Food Stylist (Boston)
• Bianca Henry – Food Stylist, Today Show (New York)
• Dana Bonagura – Food Stylist (New York)

Beyond restaurants, many chefs work in corporate kitchens, developing recipes and products that are consumed by millions of people. All the packaged food products that we purchase in the grocery store have been designed and created in research kitchens by chefs with an eye for analytic detail. From concept to execution, research and development chefs create recipes and then work to bring them to market. They understand a bit of chemistry along with their ability to cook, crafting items that balance taste, texture, perishability and marketability.

In addition to large food corporations, some ingredient producers and distributors employ test kitchen chefs to help them find new applications and usage concepts for their products. In the food media world, magazines and even TV shows have test kitchen staff to help develop their editorial content.

Representative Alumni Include:
• Maxime Bilet – Chef & Co-Author, Modernist Cuisine
• Tina Bourbeau – Director of Research & Development, FreshDirect
• Einav Gefen – Research Chef Director, Unilever Consumer Kitchens
• Jenn Tanaka – Research Chef, Vosges Chocolate Test Kitchen

Corporate and institutional dining is the practice of feeding large groups of people at once, often in office buildings, schools or hospitals. Corporate dining covers everything from the company’s employee cafeteria where pizza is served to the private executive dining room and where lavish four-course meals are prepared. Institutional dining can be found in hospitals and schools, where the goal is often tasty yet efficient and nutritional food for the masses. Corporations like Google have proven that institutional dining doesn’t need to be bland and boring, but rather can be just as fresh and vibrant as smaller scale operations.

Many chefs enjoy the stable hours and weekends off that most corporate and institutional kitchens provide, while others are primarily motivated by bringing healthier or fresher foods to cafeterias everywhere.

Representative Alumni Include:
• Pnina Peled – Executive Chef, Memorial Sloan Kettering Hospital
• Derek Nottingham – District Manager, Bon Appetit at American University
• Kerry Rivelli-LaValley – Chef Supervisor, Delaware North/Metlife Stadium
• Michael Morelli – Executive Chef, Chartwells at SUNY Plattsburgh

A vital role in any food & beverage team is the purchasing director. The purchasing department works closely with the chef and general manager to source all ingredients and supplies, negotiate good prices, maintain inventory levels and ensure that received items are accurate and of high quality. Successful purchasers count on a diverse skill set of organizational ability, accounting acumen and excellent product knowledge in the areas in which they are purchasing.

These roles are typically found in higher volume operations, such as hotels, full-service catering companies and larger or multi-unit restaurant settings.

Representative Alumni Include:
• Valerie Broussard – Forager/Purchasing Director, W Hotel Austin
• Irina Beregovich – Assistant Purchasing Manager, Abigail Kirsch
• Catherine Lederer – VP, Supply Chain Management, Chop't

Developing one's own product line is challenging and competitive, but highly rewarding when successful. Of course, the challenge is related to the scope of the ambition. The good news is that one can start small and increase production as a successful product finds its market. All the trends in our country point to more room for entrepreneurial product development. The public continues to appreciate artisanal, seasonal, local, healthy and unique ingredients and food products — from salsa to pickles, cocktail bitters, chocolate, smoked meats and cheeses. The best new products almost never come from big companies; they come from entrepreneurs.

Typically, successful entrepreneurs have significant prior culinary training and restaurant experience. The understanding and appreciation of how to make an existing product “better” or “unique” comes directly from the experience of cooking in a restaurant and working with chefs. Prior culinary experience also gives entrepreneurs a common language and understanding that can be useful when talking to producers, co-packers, distributors and even customers. We see that often the entrepreneur will combine their retail/restaurant business and their product development business, too.

Representative Alumni Include:
• Rick Mast – Co-Owner, Mast Brothers Chocolate (New York)
• Dave Crofton – Owner, One Girl Cookies (New York)
• Kitty Travers – Founder, La Grotta Ices (London)
• Ryan Farr – Chef / Owner, 4505 Meats (San Francisco)

ICE graduate Gaby Melian shares her experience working in food media for Bon Appetit magazine

"The first week [at Bon Appétit], I was like, these people are crazy, everyone is so happy, what do you guys eat for breakfast? I love it and I’m learning a lot. Because it’s a test kitchen, you have to work with food editors and chefs and you get to test the recipes, or “cross test” — that’s how you say it. I’d like that to be my next step forward, a full-time cross tester."

Gaby Melian
Culinary Arts '05