$19.95 – The surprisingly low price of good advice

Despite the fact that I’m a bit of a misanthrope, my cranky disposition doesn’t prevent me from being  contacted frequently by people who want to ask me about how to get involved in the food business. Most of these people have little interest in becoming a chef or working in a restaurant and wonder how one can become a food stylist, a cookbook author or a restaurant reviewer.

My own academic advisers woefully let me down in this department. In high school when I told my guidance counselor that I wanted to go to chef school he simply told me I was too smart to go to college (in those days colleges in Ontario were geared for people who couldn’t cope in the academic stream of University). He didn’t mention that I could channel my interest in food into a career as a Home Economist or a dietitian or that there were excellent university level chef programs offered in the United States. As far as he was concerned, I just needed to change my focus to something more appropriate. So, I did.

After getting a B.A.H in English Lit, I eventually did follow my dreams and go to chef school; however, the program was so narrowly focused that I graduated not knowing what a food stylist was. Once again I’d been given only partial insight into my career options.

Needless to say, as I met people with exciting and diverse jobs in the food industry, I realized how poorly informed my advisers had been and made a vow to try to help other people make more informed career choices if I could.

After repeating my career story and the lessons it holds to many people over the last decade and a half, I was thrilled to see Irena Chalmer’s new book, Food Jobs, arrive in the post the other day. While certainly not exhaustive, this book does showcase 150 jobs that people interested in culinary arts careers can consider. Likewise, Irena does a good job of providing info for next steps so that if you find one of the jobs she describes intriguing you can learn about how to get the appropriate training.

I have a copy of Food Jobs on my desk and will recommend it to people who come to me for career advice. I considered sending a copy to my old guidance counselor but I have a feeling he’s likely (and hopefully!) retired.


10 Responses to $19.95 – The surprisingly low price of good advice

  1. Rosa says:

    Bad counseling can have disastrous consequences… At least, not in your case, thankfully!

    I’d love to have a food job too…



  2. Candace says:

    I totally know where you’re coming from. I wish the counselor (or anyone, for that matter) would have told me that my culinary education would cost quite a bit more than I could expect to make in a year. My first job after graduation… at the Four Seasons Hotel… paid me a whopping $8.10 an hour… sadly this was less than 10 years ago. Wish I had this book before going to culinary school!

    I now find it my duty to tell people who want to go to culinary school to WORK in the industry first, which I did not do. I’m definitely going to buy this book, as I’d love to work with food without working in a restaurant!

  3. Cheryl says:

    I had no idea I wanted to go into food until I was 33, and I think it’s a good thing. I love looking back on all my prior diverse experiences, which really run the gamut (working for the U.S. government, living in Africa, training through Europe…) If I’d known what I really wanted to do when I was 20, I would have missed out on quite a lot of adventure.

  4. Adam says:

    Thanks for the update on the Food Book stuff 🙂 It’s good to know that the food industry is going strong and proud, and that there’s resources for everything… even eating

  5. Like Cheryl, I came to food late in my career and don’t regret the adventures I had along the way.
    Until a couple of years ago I didn’t know recipe development was a career option for someone like me, believing I needed chef papers to write about food or create new recipes.

    A lot of today’s food jobs didn’t exist a 20 years ago. I’m always looking for new and different spins on food and this book sounds like it might give me a few ideas. Thanks for posting about it.

  6. Okay, I just went to the website and checked her list. Garbage Anthropologist gets my vote 🙂

  7. Thank you so much for your positive comments about my Food Jobs book. Even if not a single one of the 150 jobs is just the right one for you, I very hope it will spark an idea that will get you started on a new path I’m convinced there is a job for everyone and if you can combine your unique knowledge and skills with your love of food, you will find a new life! Do please go to my web site and send me a question about your career and I’ll do my best to help.
    Irena Chalmers

  8. danamccauley says:

    Thanks for dropping by Irena. I’m fortunate in that I’ve found my ideal food career by accident but I’ll direct others to you when they come to me!

  9. Now THIS totally looks like a book I think I’m going to need to pick up…


  10. […] By Dana McCauley, October 21, 2008 I have a copy of Food Jobs on my desk and will recommend it to people who come to me for career advice. I considered sending a copy to my old guidance counselor but I have a feeling he’s likely (and hopefully!) retired. $19.95 – The surprisingly low price of good advice. […]

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