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 foodcorps.org.

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.