Friday, August 6, 2010

Career Search: Starting a job search

by Irena Chalmers

Editors' note: "Career Search," a column exploring of the vast range of culinary careers awaiting culinary graduates, appears in each quarterly issue of Chef Educator Today. For the Autumn 2010 issue, CET has split "Career Search" into two parts. Look for the remainder of this column later this month in CET's digital edition, at

For many of us, determining what to do next in our careers can be rife with uncertainty and doubt. Luckily, the food industry is full of jobs if you take the time to look around.

You could think about becoming a private chef for a movie star, a sports hero or a television anchor. A private chef is not the same thing as a personal chef. A chef can also earn $80,000 per year--tax free--working on a luxury yacht, cruising the Greek Islands. The perks here are: there is no rent to pay, no car payments to make and there are plenty of people to sleep with every night.

Recipe developers working for NASA come up with ideas for dinner for astronauts. They can also find employment with food companies and restaurant chains and supermarkets. Recipe testers check the accuracy of recipes for magazines, cookbook authors and food processors. Recipe developers are not the same thing as recipe testers.

A food lover with a vibrant palate and the ability to write well but with no formal culinary degree may find happiness as a restaurant critic or restaurant biographer.

Perhaps, you could consider a career as: a literary agent, a cheese shop owner, a food and travel writer, an artisanal bread baker, a wedding cake designer, a food photographer, a bed and breakfast owner, a food entrepreneur, investor or a teacher. There are more jobs opportunities to explore than you may have imagined.

As former Secretary of Defense, Donald Rumsfeld, famously observed: “There are known knowns: These are things we know we know. There are known unknowns: These are things we know we don't know. There are unknown unknowns: These are things we don't know we don’t know."

Whether you are interested in science or supermarkets, in engineering or accounting, human relations or writing, in traveling or staying at home, there is a job in the food field for you. Better yet, you can dream up something that had never been done before and make it happen. After all, the food world involves history and geography, science and technology, economics and finance, art and design, marketing and publicity and literally dozens of other disciplines. Your task is to decide which path to take.

I came across a lovely quote from Christopher Robin to Winnie the Pooh. He said, "Promise me you'll always remember you are braver than you believe and stronger than you seem, and smarter than you think."

And do you remember Dr. Benjamin Spock, who comforted generations of anxious mothers by saying, "You know more than you think you do."

You can start your journey to find a new career by imagining you are Santa Claus. Make a list of all your qualifications. What have you done so far? Where have you been. What have you learned? Who do you know? The last thing on this list may be the most important.

Fill several sacks with all this information and pile them on the sled. Rewrite your resume. Compose a cover letter. Have a new photograph taken. Put on your Santa's suit frame of mind. Climb into the driver's seat and take the reins of the reindeer. They will run neck and neck with one animal getting his nose ahead with a surge of hope, and the other falling a little behind as his stomach churns with fear. Whichever gains the ascendancy will determine the road you take.

As Suze Ormand tells us: "You own the power to control your own destiny."

Now I have one more piece of advice. "Illegitimi non carborundum," which freely translated means, "Don't let the bastards get you down."

Irena Chalmers is a columnist for Chef Magazine and a Culinary Institute of America faculty member. Her latest book is Food Jobs: 150 Great Jobs for Culinary Students, Career Changers and Food Lovers. Visit