M. F. K. Fisher, The Other Culinary Goddess

I was proud to serve as president of Les Dames d’Escoffier. Every year, we honored a star from our dining and drinking galaxy. During this time, I stumbled across the writings of M. F. K. Fisher, and I applauded her designation as America’s so-called “epicure laureate.” I unhesitatingly chose  M. F. K. when it was my turn to choose the honoree for our annual dinner.

The New York Public Library’s private dining room was the destination for the event. A committee formed to plan the evening. Tables were set with beautiful floral cloths, upon which her books were placed as the centerpieces.

I stepped into the library elevator and pressed the button for the third floor. At that instant, a seemingly homeless woman shuffled through the closing doors. “Crumbs!,” I thought. What could I say? “Grrumph! Madam! This is a private dinner. Buzz off.”? No, I couldn’t possibly say that.

But what? How could I explain the situation politely? It took only a moment to arrive at our destination. The host of the hospitality committee stepped forward to greet us. “Welcome, welcome, Ms. Fisher!” she gushed addressing the old lady.

Crumbs, thought I.

Cookbook Folk Face the Future

The wise are forever issuing dire warnings about slippery slopes. Here is one that has become a very steep slide indeed: Traditional publishers are taking fewer risks on unknown authors and are producing fewer cookbooks. This means that there is less need to maintain high-priced publishing offices in high-rent districts. Costs are cut as publishers’ profits decline. The agonized staff is laid off or offered freelance or part-time employment without traditional benefits.

When the demand for physical, hard- or soft-cover books is reduced, there are fewer orders placed with printers. Fewer printed books result in empty warehouses, and this, in turn, means that there is a less inventory to insure. Fewer trucks are needed to carry books to and from bookstores. We are all painfully aware of the demise of small, independent, neighborhood bookstores, and even of the disappearance of large bookstore chains. Even so, don’t abandon hope.

Food for Thought
The following fact was provided by R. R. Bowker at The Roger Smith Cookbook Conference in New York City in 2012: Cookbooks account for four percent of all book purchases.
The speaker went on to ask the following questions:
? Who buys cookbooks, professionals or home cooks? Answer: both.
? Where do they buy cookbooks, from bookstores or online? Answer: both.
? How does a prospective buyer hear about a cookbook at a time when there are fewer newspaper and magazine reviews and virtually no extensive author or media tours? Answer: Radio interviews and bloggers spread the word. Amazon is the key to sales.
? Why does a buyer purchase a specific book? Answer: Most books are bought as gifts. There is a spike in cookbook sales during the Christmas season. (Diet books, however, are not given as gifts, but are purchased by the intended user.)
? What is the average price paid for a cookbook: Who buys a fifty-dollar cookbook? Answer: some people—a few.
Purchasing decisions are based on
? how many children there are in the recipient’s household;
? whether the buyer or recipient is married or single;
? whether he or she is high-school or college-educated;
? and whether or not the buyer has some income to spare.

Profile of a Cookbook Buyer
Women buy sixty-nine percent of all cookbooks. The largest purchasing group is between the ages of thirty and forty-four, though there has been growth in the eighteen- to twenty-nine-year-old group. This change is attributed to cable-TV cooking programs.

Conclusions: Fewer cookbooks are published every year. Thousands upon thousands of recipes are available online, for free, so a prospective author must ask: who truly needs, or wants, or will buy my book? This is a harsh reality, but it is vitally important to nail this information down.

It is therefore essential to have a clear profile of the prospective buyers of your book. Ask yourself, “To whom am I speaking?” Answer—honestly. Careful research is the foundation on which to build future success.


Food Job: Food Truck Owner

Chef movieKeep on trucking has acquired entirely a new meaning these days.

Rice pudding, exotic ice cream, cupcakes, flavored popcorn, french fries, and Korean tacos are just a few among the dozens of street foods on the menus of flourishing food trucks now offering ‘meals on wheels’.

Today, there are regional food truck festivals, food truck awards, even a Chef movie worthy of a truck stop.

A proprietor of a small operation in a busy location can make a fortune providing healthy, hearty, home-made, hand-held sandwiches, comfort food, crepes, lobster rolls, hot soup, or bowls of noodles with which to entice the lunch crowds.

Fido To Go food truck

Fido To Go food truck

An enterprising food trucker named his vehicle K9 while another called her’s Fido To Go. Both cater to dogs. While K9 is known for crushing dog biscuits into what is essentially a canine ice cream cone and topping it with a chili burger, Fido to Go offers premier gourmutt hand-crafted, gluten and allergen-free canine cookies and doggy ice creams/frozen yogurts. There’s no telling who loved the idea more, the dog or its owner. Read on…

Food Job: Consumer Advocate

bfrankWe are undergoing a massive change in how we think about our food and in the ways we buy, cook, and eat it.

Our opinions are influenced by activists protesting the pollution of the earth’s soil, air, and water, the inhumane treatment of animals, and the presence of hormones, additives, and preservatives. Some of these concerns are amply justified; others have little or no basis in reality.

Our judgments are also molded—far more than we may be prepared to admit—by skillful advertising and by journalists and consumer advocates with axes to grind. As a consumer advocate, you will need to know how to make your words persuade, charm, inform, and inspire action.

The Center for Science in the Public Interest (CSPI) is among the leading food consumer advocates. Its accomplishments include leading the efforts to win passage of laws that require ‘Nutrition Facts’ on packaged foods (and, later, to include trans fat on those labels), define the term “organic” for foods, and put warning notices on alcoholic beverages. The organization attracts considerable media attention. Check its website for job opportunities.

Do a Google search of ‘Consumer Food Advocates’ to find other sites such as Food & Water Watch. The information from this group tells us that it is: “A leading national consumer advocacy organization that runs dynamic, cutting edge campaigns challenging the corporate control and abuse of our food and water resources. Since 2005, we have won significant victories to protect our food and water. Our work has been featured in the New York Times, the Washington Post and other major media outlets. As a growing organization, we have a number of opportunities for talented organizers, advocates, researchers, and policy experts.” Intern opportunities are available.

Contact the sites that interest you and see what sort of qualifications are required. Check the salary range too.

By the way, did you know the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) is a free government site that lists average salaries for food jobs throughout the U.S? For example, you will obviously earn more working in a fine dining restaurant in midtown Manhattan than in rural Mississippi even if you are making pancakes and sausages for brunch in both places.

No one ever said life is fair.


How to Be a Personal Chef

personal-chef-in-kitchen-vertThe role of personal chef was virtually unknown a few years ago. Today more than 7,000 are registered as active members of the American Personal Chef Association. Industry leaders estimate this number will swell to more than 25,000 within the next 10 years. They will be serving nearly 300,000 clients and contributing nearly $1.2 billion to the U.S. economy.

A personal chef plans menus, shops for food, and cooks it in a client’s home. He may pack it in neatly labeled containers with heating directions, store it in the refrigerator or freezer and, then leave the kitchen in pristine condition. He or she customarily is employed by several clients. Read on…

Food Jobs 2 is #1 on Amazon Today!

Food Jobs 2 received #1 ranking in all categories today: Job Hunting, Cookbooks, Food & Wine, Essays, Career Development. All for less than the cost of sandwich!

Great Food Jobs 2


“Witty, inspiring and full of new ideas, this companion book to Food Jobs will give you exciting ways to think about jobs. Chalmers gives new meaning to “thinking out of the box,” and fills the book with clever stories and lessons. Buy it if you already own the previous Food Jobs, as there’s all new information here — Dianne Jacob, author, Will Write for Food

Irena Chalmers knows more about the subject of working in the food world than any of the dozens of other experts we know. Read on…