Great Food Jobs 2 A Winner

Gourmand AwardI just received the astonishing news that Great Food Jobs 2: Ideas & Inspirations for Your Job Hunt has received the 2013 Gourmand Special Award of the Jury, having competed with books from countries all over the world in the category of Careers and Vocational Guidance for Food Professionals. It is currently shortlisted in the Gourmand Best Book in the World for Food Professionals Award too!

Great Food Jobs 2 can best be described as an almanac of eminently useful career guidance mixed with tasty bites of utterly useless gastronomical nonsense, including weird sushi combinations and odd bakery names such as “Nice Buns.”

It is a companion to Food Jobs: Great Jobs for Culinary Students, Career Changers and Food Lovers. Both publications should be viewed as complementary but completely separate from each other. Great Food Jobs 2’s content is entirely new and original.

I wrote my first single subject cookbook in 1969. It contained only 48 pages. The retail price way back then was $1.50. Today, the Kindle version of Great Food Job 2 is $7.69 for 355 pages or $17.95 if you prefer to clasp the book in your hands.

It’s taken all this time for me to realize I’m still writing single subject books whether in the form of A-Z Almanacs or A-Z Ideas and Inspirations for Culinary Careers.

Great Food Jobs 2 was written to inform and entertain, to give as a gift to a food job seeker or job seeker in general.

I most sincerely hope you will pick it up, read it and review it. It is my life’s work.

Cordially,
Irena

Visions of Becoming a Food Entrepreneur

As the holidays approach, many will turn to the kitchen for their gift inspiration. They’ll check their favorite recipes, pull out ingredients for preparing and packaging tasty delicacies to give to loved ones and colleagues, even to the friendly mail carrier and newspaper delivery ladies. As they wait for the goodies to emerge from the oven, their minds may begin to wander, to consider what it would be like to quit the day job and have a dream food job as a food entrepreneur.

Getting Started Continue reading

Photo Finish

It is impossible to answer the question “Who is your favorite child?” It is far, far easier to respond to the question “Who is your favorite food photographer?”Elm Mushrooms

I have admired David Bishop’s work for a long time and though we have never met — or even spoken. I did ask him to answer the following questions. I’m sure you will admire his work with the same awed enthusiasm I feel for it. Check out his portfolio. It is sensitive, artistic and — well — simply awesome!

Q: How did you decide to become a food photographer?
A: I began my career shooting tabletop still life and hired food stylists to customize food props for the kitchen related shots.  I was soon impressed not only with their diverse cooking skills but also how they incorporated sculpting, painting, problem solving and model-making along with good communication skills.

I began testing with both the stylists and their assistants and found that shooting food offered me a unique opportunity to photograph a subject matter with an intrinsic sensuality and appetite appeal and one that speaks with a universal language. Eventually Food & Wine Magazine, Bon Appetit and many women’s magazines began hiring me. Continue reading

Behind Hudson River Ventures There’s A Unique Food Lover’s Job

Hudson River Ventures 1Just imagine: you are living in the scenic Hudson Valley and you have a small food or beverage company practically bursting with potential, ready to be discovered and jump to the next rung of success. What if the only thing stopping you was the small matter of investment (much!) larger than a tip jar’s worth?

You may ask, is there a person with a food job who could help, could there be a food venture capitalist? Yes. While big name venture capitalists elsewhere gingerly test the F&B (food and beverage) investment waters, Hudson River Ventures in the Hudson Valley has already jumped in with great success. May I introduce you to Mike Oates, CEO of Hudson River Ventures, who with President and venture founder, Sean Eldridge, represents one of savviest food and beverage investment funds west of the Hudson River?

Sean Eldridge, founder, Hudson River Ventures

Sean Eldridge, founder, Hudson River Ventures

Q: As a food venture capitalist, you have a rather unique food job. Why did you and Sean decide to start this investment fund?

A: Sean started Hudson River Ventures, LLC in 2011 with the goal of helping small businesses specifically in the Hudson Valley get access to capital to grow their businesses. We’re determined to empower entrepreneurs and build thriving businesses in our region. F&B and how it intersects with tourism, agriculture, and hospitality sectors was a logical place to start.

We’re a double-bottom line business.  We’re for-profit, but we are also motivated by a desire to grow our local economy and create jobs in our region.  Our fund makes investments ranging from $50,000 to $500,000 in either debt or equity positions. This is generally the range of capital many F&B companies are seeking.

We think we have the best job in the world. We get to eat and drink our way throughout the Hudson Valley!

Q: How did you get started in this area? Were you a foodie or an investor first? Did your last name have anything to do with it?

A: I do consider myself a foodie, though admittedly the last name came first. Before joining Hudson River Ventures, I had experience managing economic development organizations in New York State but I also had a marketing background in the distilled spirits world, namely with Bacardi and Anheuser-Busch. This has helped us evaluate our investments with a special understanding of the industry.

Q: How do you stay clear-eyed when choosing to invest in a local food or beverage company?

A: Any good investment will come down to answering three vital questions. First, does the company have a solid management and workforce team? Second, does the company have a sound business plan and do they have the tools to execute that plan? Finally, does the company have a high quality product? In the deals we’ve closed, the answers have been ‘yes’ to all these questions.

Q: Does Hudson River Ventures stay involved with these companies after investing in them?

A: Yes. This is a critical component Hudson River Ventures brings to the table. Not only do we provide capital, we also provide business-mentoring support. The capital is extremely important to advance a project, yet we believe our mentoring support can be equally valuable. We provide a variety of services and advice including: marketing, sales, distribution, logistics, HR, and real estate to name a few.

Q: Is investing in a food or beverage company different from say, investing in real estate?

A: Yes. Real estate can be cut and dry. F&B companies provide the human story you can’t beat. We get to invest in creative people who have a passion for what they do. What can be better than that? Our projects create jobs while helping to grow and diversify the region’s economy.

Q: Can you name a few of the F&B companies Hudson River Ventures has invested in?

A: I’m always eager to talk about the companies we’ve partnered. Each has a unique story or quality. If I could highlight four, they’d be: Hudson Chocolates; Bread Alone; Continental Organics and Poppy’s Burgers and Fries. In each case, we provided the capital to help the company expand and purchase equipment critical to its success. In return, the Hudson Valley has become much more than a region of great tastes. It has added jobs and diversity.Hudson Chocolates

Hudson Chocolates produces the finest artisanal chocolates in the market today, created under the expert eye and palate of master chocolatier and Culinary Institute of America pastry and baking instructor Francisco J. Migoya. In 2013, Migoya was named one of the “Top 10 Pastry Chefs” by Huffington Post.

Hudson River Ventures and Bread Alone celebrate expansion

Hudson River Ventures and Bread Alone celebrate expansion

Bread Alone now has been able to expand into a state-of-the-art new manufacturing facility in Ulster County, after a thirty-year track record of success. Bread Alone Bakery co-owner and baker, Daniel Leader also is a graduate of The Culinary Institute of America who graduated at the top of his class.

Continental Organics used the capital it received to expand its large-scale aquaponics production facility in Orange County. The company is a service-disabled Veteran Owned Small Business, committed to producing fresh, organic, locally grown food and hiring 120 full-time employees – with at least 51% of whom will be veterans or disabled veterans.

Poppy’s Burgers & Fries was able to remodel and expand the restaurant founded in 2009 in Beacon, NY.  Poppy’s opened with a mission to “stay local”: provide affordable, farm fresh food in a casual environment. Poppy’s uses local purveyors to support the local economy while providing the consumer with quality food packaged in 100% recyclable materials.

Q: How is Hudson River Ventures promoting the farm-to-table movement, agritourism and economic growth in the Hudson Valley region?

A: One of the Hudson Valley’s great strengths is the growing farm-to-table movement. We see our investments in companies like Gigi’s Hudson Valley, RiverMarket Kitchen and Bar, Poppy’s Burgers & Fries, and Continental Organics as both embracing and enabling this movement. We have outstanding, locally produced food that is better tasting and better for you. By promoting these and other companies like them, we think we can help drive the farm-to-table movement in this region to the next level. We also want to show other investors how well our model works and invite them to invest here in the Hudson Valley.

Q: Lastly, what advice would you give others who wanted to follow in your footsteps and invest in F&B companies in their communities?

A: I say, check out the Hudson Valley. We have great entrepreneurs who have terrific products and innovative companies. There are 68 million people living within a six-hour drive of the area, so there’s a tremendous market for any products produced in the Hudson Valley.

We like to say:

Come invest in the Hudson Valley – Come for the food, Stay for the investments!

 

A Culinary Degree? Is it for You?

now-what-graduateI am often asked by my students and a number of career changers: “Should I go to culinary school? Do advanced degrees, like a BPS (Bachelor in Professional Studies) degree in culinary or pastry, really make a difference in my job prospects in the food industry?”

HERE ARE FIVE Reasons NOT to Enroll in a BPS Program

  • It’s a waste of time: I already know everything.
  • I already have a degree (though not in a hospitality-related field).
  • It costs too much to get a BPS degree.
  • I’ve been offered exactly the kind of job I would hope to get without having a BPS degree.
  • A BPS from a culinary school is not as prestigious as a BA or BS from a “real” college or university.

AND FIVE (or More) Reasons to Continue My Education

Let me begin by saying that only one person knows everything and that person is your mother.

New York Times columnist Thomas Friedman recently wrote:

“Today there is no such thing as a high-wage, middle-skill job.

Now, high-wages are paid only to those with high-skills and higher education.

Every middle-class job today is being rendered obsolete or replaced faster than ever. That is, it either requires greater technological skill or can be done by more people around the world or is being made obsolete faster than ever. Technology has replaced many jobs that will never come back.”

Have you ever seen how fast a robot can chop an onion or make sushi?

So, let me offer my observations to your continuing your education concerns:

  • Yes you have gained experience but on a balance sheet, a tangible degree counts for more than experience even if you have worked for one of the Masters of the Culinary Universe.
  • You say you already have a degree from another school. Great. Only 30% of the population has one degree: having two degrees makes you more marketable. The more skills, knowledge and experience you bring to the table, the more attractive you will be to a prospective employer.
  •  You say a BPS degree costs too much. How much is too much? If you invest in the stock market, there may be a crash. If you invest in real estate, a hurricane can destroy your investment. If you invest in yourself, you keep the power in your own hands.
  • A BPS degree will almost certainly guarantee you a higher entry-level salary. Over your working life, you will earn, on average, between four and five times more money as an employee without a graduate degree. However: It’s not just what you have learned but what you can do with your knowledge.
  • IF you agree with the idea that knowledge is power, you may agree that the more knowledge you have, the greater will be your opportunities for success.

If you were your own best friend, (which I hope you are), would you advise you to make the decision to shut the door to your future?

 

Cover Letter Winner

farm-to-table restaurantA culinary student recently asked me to look at a cover letter he was about to send for an extern job he wanted more than anything in the world.

Before he showed me the letter, he spoke of his grandfather’s small farm. He described the excitement of getting outside after the long winter and planting new seeds. He described how he felt the earth between his fingers. His face glowed as he spoke of the first green shoots peeking through the soil, the flowering of the fruit trees, the gathering of vegetables, cooking dinner using the foods he had grown and picked.

He beamed.

He asked me to look at the cover letter he had written to the owner of a famous farm-to-table restaurant.

He had addressed the letter: “To Whom It May Concern”. (This is a term usually reserved for the lost luggage department of an airline.)

The letter was beautifully composed.

Textbook perfect.

Boring!

I despaired and hesitated…a little longer.

And hesitated more.

“May I suggest?” I finally suggested to him…”that you tear this up and write a new letter using exactly the same words you have just spoken.”

He had the courage to try this approach.

Less than a week later, he got the job! I don’t know whether he or I was the happier!