Irene and Rita Wu

Irene Wu and her sister, Rita in their restaurant, Baumgart's. (http://food.lohudblogs.com)

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.”

Students at ICE study for careers in the kitchen but also for careers in the front of the house running and managing restaurants in the ICE Culinary Management program. While working at ICE, Irene Wu was inspired by the students of ICE and decided to embrace her lifelong passion for food and take on managing the newest location of her family’s restaurant Baumgart’s in Nyack. The family-run restaurant offers a Chinese and American menu, complete with an ice cream bar for dessert. Wu, the restaurant’s Operations Director, manages the staff, ordering, and day-to-day operations. We talked to her about what it’s like to be on the other side of the kitchen, owning and operating your own culinary business.

How would you describe your job?
I operate and manage the front of house at one of my family’s restaurants. We are a family-owned pan-Asian and American restaurant in the New York and New Jersey area. Originally, Baumgart’s was an ice cream soda shop in the ‘40s and ‘50s. My parents bought the space in 1988 and basically just started serving what they knew, which was Chinese food. They also kept the diner decor and the best of the homemade ice cream. From there, people really enjoyed it and we were fortunate enough to expand to multiple locations. We opened in Nyack in September 2011. More…

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 culinary career paths. DICED shares some of them with you in a reoccurring feature: “Unique Culinary Careers.”

We’ve already met some professionals who have dedicated their passion for the culinary arts to helping others learn to cook or find careers in the restaurant world. But there are also careers that put a passion for food to work helping to feed the hungry. Ed Debiec, a 2006 ICE Culinary Arts alum, is the Demonstration Chef at the Desert Mission Food Bank, a part of the John C. Lincoln Health Network in Phoenix, Arizona. There, he helps educate the food bank’s clients about nutrition and cooking to promote healthy eating. Debiec graduated from the ICE program when he was 62 years old and has gone on to find a career than makes him in his own words “a truly happy man.” After he stopped by to catch up with his old Chef Instructors a few weeks ago, we asked him about his line of work and what it means to him.

How would you describe your job?
The Demonstration Chef’s job is varied, challenging and interesting. Mainly, the job is to deliver nutrition education to clients and students — presenting recipes, providing samples for clients to taste, delivering outreach programs to schools and community centers, cooking demonstrations, serving as a resource, quality control, healthy eating and sanitation all make up the chef’s job. More…

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 culinary career paths. DICED shares some of them with you in a reoccurring feature: “Unique Culinary Careers.”

James Ransom is a food photographer. His work can be seen every week at FOOD52, where he snaps a variety of recipes from their start as raw ingredients all the way through to final presentation. As anyone who has dabbled in food photography knows, it’s not as easy as it looks. Crafting that perfect shot requires a mix of careful styling skills, knowledge about lighting, and much more. Just thinking about it leaves us in awe of Ransom and the quality of his work. We talked with him about his career path and his advice for would-be photographers.

How would you describe your job?
My job is to create an image that makes you want to eat the food I’m photographing. Sometimes that’s harder than it sounds.

How did you get this job? What has your career path been like?
I studied photography in high school and college and received a BFA in Photography from Brigham Young University. As soon as I graduated, I packed up my car and drove out to New York. I started out as an in-house photographer at an e-commerce site called UncommonGoods where I photographed products for their website and print catalog. After a few years I decided to set out on my own to freelance. I picked up small clients here and there and put in a good number of years as a photographer’s assistant. About three years ago, I started shooting food and really fell in love with it. Through a series of fortunate events I was introduced to the folks at FOOD52, where I shoot the bulk of my food assignments at the moment. More…

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 culinary career paths. DICED shares some of them with you in a reoccurring feature: “Unique Culinary Careers.”

A well-written recipe is no small undertaking. When it comes to creating reliable, readable recipes, it’s hard to underestimate the importance of careful and thorough recipe testing. Readers and cooks quickly figure out when a publication or website isn’t testing its recipes enough. Creating delicious and trustworthy recipes is the job of Claire Tansey, the food editor at Chatelaine magazine. With her team, Claire produces a bevy of recipes for every issue of the lifestyle publication. From start to finish, the process involves careful attention and measurement to develop recipes anyone can make at home. We asked her about how she manages it all and what it’s like to work in a magazine test kitchen.

How would you describe your job?
I am a food editor for a magazine. I run our test kitchen, developing and testing every recipe. In every issue, there are about 30 pages of food content, and there are 12 issues a year. There are 50 new recipes every issue, so that’s about 600 recipes per year. I oversee the development of the recipes. I have a team that I work with to do everything from purchasing ingredients to final copy edits. I do tasting and approving, brainstorming recipes, writing drafts, and troubleshooting recipes to see food stories completed through from concept to shelf.  I work with a team of five recipe testers and developers who work on drafting, cooking and tasting every recipe. All of our recipes are triple tested so they are foolproof and delicious. Three different people read and cook the recipe to make them perfect. We do have an in-house photographer who does some of our food photos, but we freelance food stylists and work with photographers outside the building as well. More…

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 culinary career paths. DICED shares some of them with you in a reoccurring feature: “Unique Culinary Careers.”

The food business is dependent on the network of food suppliers and purveyors. Chefs must source all the food they cook with from the businesses that sell it — if an ingredient isn’t available or of poor quality then the menu suffers. Joe Navin is the founder of Fresh Focus, a boutique fresh-cut produce processing company. In addition to a line of commercial packaged fruit and vegetables, they also offer an assortment of consumer-ready fresh-cut produce. From single-serving apple slices to stir-fry mixes, they offer an extensive variety of fruits and vegetables prepared to a wide range of specifications. Their 4,000 square-foot facility and office is located in Maspeth, Queens. All of their produce is cut on-site to order, ensuring that customers receive fresh-cut, ready-to-use produce. It’s a unique company and we sat down with him to get a look inside the world of produce.

How would you describe your job?
Fresh Focus is a fresh-cut fruit and vegetable processing in Queens. We’re still a start-up so I’m heavily involved in all aspects of the business and overseeing operations, as well as obtaining new business. We deal in lettuce, carrots, celery, peppers, pineapples, and anything else our customers ask for. The produce is either vacuum-sealed or heat-sealed in trays depending on water content. But we also offer consumer-ready packaging. We are selling mostly to distributors and wholesalers who sell the product. More…

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 culinary career paths. DICED shares some of them with you in a reoccurring feature: “Unique Culinary Careers.”

At Covenant House in Toronto, Stephen Field is the Culinary Facilitator/Foodservice Manager for Canada’s largest youth shelter. As more than just a place to stay, Covenant House provides vocational training in the culinary arts as part of their Cooking for Life program. Field teaches essential culinary skills to youth essential culinary skills in the program, helping them find careers and get a new start in life.

How would you describe your job?
My position is culinary facilitator/ foodservice manager with Covenant House Toronto. We provide 24-7 crisis care and have the widest range of services under one roof, including education, counseling, health care and employment assistance. Covenant House Toronto serves the needs of approximately 4,000 youth annually.

Part of our commitment toward vocational training provided at Covenant House Toronto is the new culinary skills training program Cooking for Life launched in June 2011. Homeless kids are provided the skills they need to work in the hospitality industry through our new culinary arts program. Working in teams, participants learn the professional conduct required to work in fast-paced restaurant environment. Graduates can earn a safe food-handling certificate and receive support to help find a foodservice job. Furthermore, they will be better equipped to cook for themselves when they move out on their own.

What inspires you?
Throughout my career I have worked with disadvantaged groups in the community and felt strongly in the opportunity to work with Covenant House Toronto whose efforts help thousands of young people move from a life on the streets to a life with a future.

From a historical perspective, chefs have always being involved with community, as nurturers and innovators in finding solutions to feeding the hungry and those at risk, such as France’s 19th century Chef Alex Soyer, one of my inspirations.

What is the most satisfying thing about your job?
The opportunity to work with our youth in teaching skills and training in the culinary arts field is most gratifying. From a personal perspective it is life affirming to see a youth’s interest catch fire for the culinary arts and watch them progress with self-confidence and pride.

Our six week culinary training program incorporates the “soil to plate” concept in everything from growing and caring for the vegetables, herbs and fruits grown on our innovative rooftop garden, to learning how to best prepare them into tasty nutritious meals we serve to the youth living at Covenant House.

We estimate that about 120 young people will benefit from our training annually. The youth come into our program with little or no knowledge of the culinary arts, or even being part of a collective team relying on one another’s help. It is more than learning about cooking, it is also about building self-esteem and a shared community. Upon completion we will have helped instill a passion for cooking, provided a stepping-stone in their career path, and contributed in building their independence by learning how to take better care of themselves.

What is your advice for anyone looking for a similar career?
My advice is to get involved with your local community at a grassroots level, offering your culinary skills, experience in food production and leadership abilities in working with people, especially those at greatest risk, such as our homeless youth.

 

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 culinary career paths. DICED shares some of them with you in a reoccurring feature: “Unique Culinary Careers.”

In recent years, the food world has started paying close attention to sustainable, local, artisanal products as well as the impact of their food choices on the world around them. Aviv Fried certainly tackles these issues at his bread business, Sidewalk Citizen Bakery. In November 2008, he would bake ten loaves of bread every Monday, sell them to his friends, deliver the bread by bike on Tuesdays and donate the profit to CODE, a group that donates books and teaching supplies to the developing world. Since then, the project has grown into a full-time business called Sidewalk Citizen Bakery. Now, in addition to the weekly bread delivery, he also operates a store on Fridays and Saturdays and sells breads and pastries in various locations around Calgary, Alberta. The menu has expanded well beyond bread to include scones, croissants, danishes and other special treats. Plus, he uses all local, organic flours with no additives. And he still donates part of the Monday profit to CODE or other charities. We asked him what it’s like to run a business, what inspires him and what plans he has for the future.

How would you describe your job?
I am the baker and owner of Sidewalk Citizen Bakery, an artisan, French-style bakery, in Calgary. My specialty is sourdough. I bake all the bread myself from the initial mixing of the dough to getting it out of the oven. Apart from bread, we also bake pastries and I do that together with a pastry chef and an apprentice baker. I am also the owner so I do a lot of the other stuff, like orders, payroll and planning and testing new products. More…

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 culinary career paths. DICED shares some of them with you in a reoccurring feature: “Unique Culinary Careers.”

Pierre Lamielle not only completed culinary school in New York City, but he is also a graduate of the Capilano College Graphic Design and Illustration program in Vancouver, B.C. Now, he has set out on a food media career that allows him to use both his skills in food and design. He is author and illustrator of Kitchen Scraps: A Humourous Illustrated Cookbook, which won the prestigious World Gourmand Best Illustrated Cookbook Award in 2009. Currently, he is working on an illustrated Alice in Wonderland cookbook with co-author Julie van Rosendaal. In addition to writing recipes and illustrating them in his own unique style, he can be seen around his hometown of Calgary, Alberta where he teaches classes at the Cookbook Co. and writes for Swerve magazine with the Calgary Herald. With such an interesting mix of both the culinary and visual arts, we wanted to ask him about how he ended up with such a unique career.

How would you describe your job?
A hodgepodge. I write and illustrate a food column for Swerve, publish a blog kitchenscraps.ca, am the author/illustrator of Kitchen Scraps and teach cooking classes.

How did you get this job? What has your career path been like?
Accidental. I worked in newspapers as an illustrator and was asked to do an illustrated recipe that became a regular column, which turned into going to the culinary school and a career in the food media landscape. More…

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 culinary career paths. DICED shares some of them with you in a reoccurring feature: “Unique Culinary Careers.”

Ramin Ganeshram was once a journalist, but after graduating from ICE she became a food writer and cookbook author. She recently released Stir It Up!, a novel for teens about a young girl, Anjali Krishnan, who is passionate about food and becoming a chef. In fact, the character even attends kids cooking classes at ICE! To learn more about the book, watch this video. Ganeshram also wrote Sweet Hands: Island Cooking from Trinidad & Tobago and has contributed to Saveur, Bon Appetit and Newsday, among other publications. We were curious to hear more about her decision to change careers and how ICE has helped her build a successful career as a food writer.

What has your career path been like?
To me, my career path seems very linear, but when I look back on it, it’s more like a meandering path! I was a news reporter who always loved food and writing about it — back when it wasn’t the cool thing to do. Eventually I turned the hobby side of my writing into a full time gig. Part of making that successful was getting more cred — by becoming a trained chef. That’s where ICE has come in of course. More…


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 culinary career paths. DICED shares some of them with you in a reoccurring feature: “Unique Culinary Careers.”

Hot Bread Kitchen is a unique organization. The non-profit social enterprise focuses on creating better lives for low-income women by paying them while they learn the skills necessary to launch food business and work in food. To fund their mission, they sell delicious, multi-ethnic breads that are inspired by the bakers and the countries that they come from using local and organic ingredients. Robin Burger is Hot Bread Kitchen’s Business Development Manager. The organization is incredibly supportive and recently began HBK Incubates, a program to give new businesses access to a kitchen incubator so they can grow without the expense of building and equipping their own commercial kitchens. We asked her about life in such a unique food organization and how she got started in food activism.

How would you describe your job?
My current position with Hot Bread Kitchen is Business Development Manager. In addition to overseeing the day-to-day operations of Hot Bread Kitchen’s wholesale and retail bread sales, my goal is to grow the organization’s revenue stream and develop a business strategy that enables us to eliminate our dependence on philanthropic funding and sustain the organization by bread sales alone.

What has your career path been like?
I started working with Hot Bread Kitchen a little over two years ago as an AmeriCorps VISTA volunteer, a position I happened upon through the food justice and activism world. Previously I worked as an educator for an urban agriculture-based youth development program in Poughkeepsie, NY. It was this experience that really sparked my interest in the power of food combined with hands-on leadership and job training to empower individuals and connect diverse groups of people. I also have a degree in economics, so the fact that the organization had a revenue-generating component really compelled me, too. More…