Food Job: TV Star

Today, one hundred million households can tune into the Food Network. There are stations in New York, Atlanta, Los Angeles, San Francisco, Chicago, Detroit, and Knoxville. There are viewers in Canada, Australia, New Zealand, Korea, Thailand, Singapore, Philippines, Monaco, Polynesia, and Great Britain. More people watch the Food Network than CNN. It no longer aims to teach cooking techniques or kitchen skills. Instead, it has lurched into the production of cooking shows featuring the assembly of store-bought components, and of cooking-competition shows that choose winners and losers. It also has an unfathomable addiction to cup cakes.

What is turning this huge audience on to all of it’s culinary idols, as featured on the Food Network though my impression is that Guy Fieri takes up 23 of the 24 hours a day. (Maybe many people like him?) Vast swaths of people appear to have the time to watch others cook and eat, and exclaim how good it all smells—but to have no time to cook for themselves. Continue reading

CIA Grad Travels to Australia

Rebecca Morris blogRebecca Morris writes: “I’ve always loved to travel, but it wasn’t until my CIA (Culinary Institute of America) trip to Spain that I realized just how well food, wine, and the people that produce it can tell the story of a region.”

When my partner accepted a job in Australia, I barely hesitated to sell my car, leave my stable job as a recipe developer at America’s Test Kitchen in Boston, and head down under. Crazy? Not quite, just wanderlust.

I’ve been living in Sydney for two months now, and am happy to report that their advertising campaign is right: There really is nothing like Australia! In terms of the wide variety of food and wine, Australia goes way beyond the meat pie and the Vegemite. Take for instance the macadamia nuts that crunch and melt in your mouth, or the sensuous black truffles as big as your fist, or the rebel wine makers that are breaking all the stodgy ‘old world’ rules (and becoming wildly successful). There’s no way around it, Australia is primed to be the next destination on the bucket list of every food-loving traveler around the world.

At the moment, I’m in the running for an exciting food job in Australia that would allow me to stay for another six months. It is called, “One of the Best Jobs in the World” and is being promoted on by Tourism Australia.

When I heard of this opportunity, I had a gut feeling I should apply. I want to be a food writer and if I want to tell the story of a region through food, there is truly no better place to start than Australia because there is still so much to be discovered.

I put together a 30 second video highlighting my accomplishments and why I am qualified for the job of “Taste Master.” If hired, the job would involve going all over Western Australia (WA), eating, drinking, and foraging for the very best that their territory has to offer.

My goal at first was to just make it to the top 25, as there were over 45,000 applicants from all over the world applying for the same position as I was. Well, what do you know? I made the cut, and am now charging full speed ahead for the shot at being an ambassador to all things tasty in WA.

My next challenge will be to gain support on my social media sites until they narrow it down to the final three contestants on May 15th. You can keep up to date on my application, and read about what I’ve been up to in Sydney, on my travel blog, lucky country diaries.

A Personal Note: Rebecca, I am happy to be among the many voices who are singing your praises and hoping, hoping, hoping you win…Oh, I forgot…You are already a winner in my book!


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.


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!

Dinner is a Shoe In

Irish Clog

I just met an Irish clog dancer. She dances competitively and loves it — or did love it until she decided she had to earn a living and enrolled in professional culinary school.

There she has to hop, skip and jump her way through her courses. But, her dancing has fallen by the wayside.

Now, she is two weeks away from graduation — and confused. She needs a food job.

She “confesses” all she truly wants to do is have a lot of children — and dance!


Her new plan is to learn how to manage a bed & breakfast with a view to owning her own business.

The Woman Who Lived In a Shoe

Her soon-to-be-born children will live with her just like The Old Woman Who Lived in a Shoe.  She will establish herself in her community by offering dancing classes.

This will surely be a far, far better thing than working as a line-cook in a hot kitchen.

Bed & Breakfast business owners may also offer picnic baskets for their guests during the day, and in the early evening, cocktails with hors d’oeuvres or even pastries and a dessert wine at the end of the day.

A bed & breakfast need not be all about beds and breakfasts.

What Can I Do?

When culinary students (and professionals) people ask me, “What can I do?,” I try to listen to what they are saying. Perhaps, of greater importance is hearing what they are not saying.

Often, there are little clues that momentarily hover in the air. It is a joy to make connections between a person’s true love, (something they love to do), with their unique personality — and their culinary experience.

There is nothing more satisfying than charting your own journey and sailing to your personal port in the storm. Having a sense of direction is infinitely less scary than being lost at sea. There are so many destinations from which to choose.

You could be a private chef and travel with an international super star or a diplomat or with an athlete who is competing on the world stage.

Have you considered cooking on a small luxury yacht? You’d be responsible for preparing three meals a day but you won’t need to worry about car payments or the rent for an apartment. Nor will you have to pay taxes on your income when you are three miles off shore.

Many major restaurant and fast food chains and catering companies including Aramark and Sodexo have branches in several countries, as do hotels and food processing companies. Check into employment as a hotel chef at Kimpton or W hotels and other worldwide boutique and resort hotels as well as the familiar names of hospitality companies. Would you like to work at a spa?

Employment in the U.S. can lead to many travel opportunities abroad. Supermarkets and food processing companies engage experts, who travel throughout the world to buy coffee, tea, cheese, chocolate, olive oil, pasta, cookies, and other prepared foods and raw ingredients.

Would you like to design vegan wedding cakes, (for such clients as Chelsea Clinton), or create butter sculptures or ice sculptures? Locate your hero and beg for an intern opportunity from which, with any luck, you may ascend to a permanent position.

Would you prefer to be a caterer or an event planner, a food scientist, or own a bed & breakfast or become a TV star or a food cartoonist or sign up to become a literary agent or a restaurant designer, a recipe tester or flavor maker or become the curator of a food exhibit or study to be a culinary librarian? Or develop a food game show?

Are you interested in humanitarian causes? Have you thought about developing policy for a hunger relief program or helping to develop agricultural or sustainable fishing policy? Perhaps you would consider working for a foundation or food-related charitable cause. Or, you may want to work for a local soup kitchen or a national organization like Share our Strength or Meals on Wheels that provides food for the frail elderly. Go to Google to investigate

It’s admirable to volunteer but there are many surprisingly well-paid positions to be found developing programs to counter cooking illiteracy, and new initiatives are constantly being designed to develop wellness programs for school children.

Clearly these are vastly different career paths but if you are able to narrow your options, it becomes considerably easier to focus your research.

If you are interested in science and technology, you may be able cross off art and design from consideration.

If you want to cook, explore the dozens of opportunities that are open to you in restaurants and foodservice. Similarly, (or oppositely), if you yearn to become a writer, you may need to seek sustenance employment wherever a salary check can be found.


Ask Irena

I’m back!

I’ve been devoting every minute to writing MORE FOOD JOBS: A Compendium of Careers and Commentaries. This completely new book will be published by Beaufort next spring.

And I’ve been thinking and thinking about WHAT’S NEXT?

I love being a mentor.

What is a mentor?

The role of mentor involves a serious commitment to listening… and hearing… and understanding the words that are spoken are not necessarily a reflection of what a seeker is seeking.

A mentor draws on past experience and up to date information to make connections between present practical realities and future ambitions and goals.

The mentor can smooth a path by making suggestions about a career path that may not have been previously considered or even known to exist.

The dean for medical education at The University of Chicago explains, “Memes”, (mentors) are the cultural analogues to genes, serving as a basis for explaining the spread of idea, values, and beliefs from one generation to the next. In serving as a mentor, one has the privilege of sharing knowledge, expertise, insight and experience in a similar fashion, which can ultimately affect generations far beyond the most immediate recipient.”


A mentor is someone who sees more talent and ability within you, than you see in yourself, and helps bring it out of you.”

Bob Proctor
Author, Speaker and Success Coach

Lots of people limit their possibilities by giving up easily. Never tell yourself this is too much for me. It’s no use. I can’t go on. If you do you’re licked, and by your own thinking too. Keep believing and keep on keeping on.”

Norman Vincent Peale
1898-1993, Pastor, Speaker and Author

The greatest good you can do for another is not just to share your riches
but to reveal to him his own.

Benjamin Disraeli

Ask me a question about your culinary career.