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Need Serious Advice....

Hi all....

Some may say I'm fresh out of college, although it doesn't feel that way - three years and three career changes can be exhausting. I grew up thinking that I needed to be a doctor, however, failing physics and being truly grossed out by biology classes forced me to rethink that path. I moved on to law - equally as prestigious - but, god, was it boring - not for me. On to film - the classes were fun and the people were cool so I decided to stick with it. I graduated with a degree in a subject that interested me but I felt no true passion for. This parlayed into me quickly changing careers once out of school - going from film production to working at a TV studio to working at a record label. Sure, these jobs sound fun, and they are (most of the time), but it's time for me to give my true passion the weight in my life that it deserves. Knowing that I didn't want to work in a restaurant and not having the opportunity to explore the subject further in school (i.e. no classes offered), it never occurred to me to pursue a career in food. As I'm beginning to realize that it's happiness that matters and not money or an impressive title, I'm doing more research on the food industry and realizing the plethora of avenues that await me out there. This is where I need help, however - I don't have experience in the food industry (aside from cooking like a mad woman at home for friends/family), I don't have contacts and I, therefore, don't have a support system to give me solid advice. Most of what exists already online is flimsy at best. I'm having a hard time finding exactly what awaits me in this vast culinary world. Ideas of food r&d/test kitchens and making cheeses/meats interest me - I also could get behind a grass roots approach to food, working in sustainable farming/farmers market type environments - but what else is there? And possibly, more immediately important - do I need a culinary degree to achieve these positions? If I know that I don't want to eventually work in a commercial kitchen, is bypassing culinary school and acquiring knowledge through experience in a restaurant sufficient? HELP!

Indebted,
yomamasan

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  1. I don't know anything about this organization but this looks like a terrific resource - a bunch of profs you can e-mail about food science:
    http://www.foodscience.com/student_he...

    1. thanks for asking that wuestion. I'm in the same boat.

      1. I would look into grassroots food organizations. There is a non-profit in my area that is designed to bring attention to locally produced foods. Kind of like an administrative office for the slow food movement. This enables the "producers" to focus on what they do best. Good Luck.

        1. Thanks Cinnamon! that looks really helpful - I'll check it out today.

          Stricken - what are you leaning towards? Culinary school or jumping head first into the food industry?

          Lenox - that's one of the things I'd be very interested in. Do you know what the organization is called so I can look it up? I guess my problem with that type of org is that I've been having a hard time knowing how to go about putting the vague idea in my mind into the correct words to research!

          1. You do NOT need a culinary degree to be successfully employed or create a food industry business. Cooking "like a mad woman at home" does not give you any "culinary chops", however when it comes to applying for jobs in test kitchens or anywhere else.

            If you hate the idea of working in restaurants, you might consider being a Personal Chef. I am a member of the United States Personal Chef Association, the oldest and largest professional body for PCs and in-home caterers. You don't have to spend the money to do the school as a home-study or aweek-long in-person class, but the benefits of doing so are huge - liability insurance as part of your membership fee to begin with; also a fantastic members only message board full of great information.

            If you want to start a food production company - making cheeses, sausages, sauces & salsa, spice belnds, etc. You do need to spend some serious time researching how to being those sorts of proudcts to market.

            One thing to remember in going into ANY food related business on your own is that 75% of the job is marketing, PR and related activities and only 25% actual cooking. If you're not comfortable standing up in front of large groups, or one-on-one with total strangers and talking about what you do, then you WILL fail.

            Spend a serious amount of time studying each of the areas you mentioned as potential home-based businesses. Research with your local state Agricultural department what it takes in terms of building your own or renting access to various levels of legal commercial kitchen. Got more questions, write me direct: thekiltedcoo(at)mindspring.com