Celebrity chefs and cookbook authors get the media spotlight so often that it’s easy to think that they represent the breadth of the culinary professions. But, as I was reminded when I attended the International Association of Culinary Professionals annual conference last week, there are hundreds of ways to make a living in the food business. This week, I’m going to introduce you to four people who have used an interest in food to create interesting jobs for themselves. Here’s what’s on the roster:
• Monday: Culinary Cartographer Siobhan Donoghue
• Tuesday: Salt Inspired Photographer Clint McLean
• Wednesday: Precocious Sommelier Jonathon Gonsenhauser
• Thursday: Home Economist Amy Snider
Now, without further delay, on to Siobhan Donoghue, a London-based culinary cartographer I met randomly at a friend’s birthday party in New York City. If you have no idea what a culinary cartographer is, don’t feel badly. It’s a small niche, and one I may have just officially named. Basically, Siobhan creates artistically accented maps that highlight the best places to buy and eat food in any given geographical area. Needless to say, her work takes her all over the world. I caught up with Siobhan earlier this spring while she was traveling and recording the gourmet landmarks of Barcelona.
Here’s what she had to say not only about food in Barcelona but her career in general:
DM: What food trends did you note in Barcelona that you don’t see in London?
SD: Spaniards are only now starting the embrace the concept of recognizing and celebrating the origins of their food. In fact, there is a small, flourishing restaurant chain that only serves what is in season within their province. In Barcelona everyone visits the food markets daily and they always have. While London’s farmer’s markets are fantastic, they’re very much an elite experience.
Barcelona is just now discovering the wonders of Japanese food and I noticed that the Ferran Adria approach to combining chemistry and cooking is waning in popularity.
DM: What’s the most exciting or memorable food experience you had in Barcelona?
SD: The calcots. They are a combination of a spring leek and onion that are only available for a few weeks in the spring. They’re barbecued until burnt. One then removes the outer charred layer and dips the inner part of the calcot in a Romanesco-style sauce. It’s almost impossible to eat a calcot without getting it all over yourself. In fact, the restaurants provide bibs since it can be so messy. Fantastic, smoky flavour and a silky leek-like texture and sweetness.
DM: How the heck does someone get a job like yours?
SD: While working as a regional director with the travel company Butterfield & Robinson I saw a need in the travel industry, so following graduate school in New York for Interior Architecture, I started to dabble with painting old style maps illustrating the location of the food venues in New York I thought my friends would enjoy. Then I started to research European cities.
I’ve always loved old world maps that are icon driven with lots of little illustrations. My cartography is now developing into wedding maps featuring food and events along with historical and travel suggestions for their guests. I’m currently working on a map of a person’s life for their 40th birthday. I simply believe that maps can be both functional and beautiful.
DM: Tell me about your favorite map-making destination thus far.
SD: It would have to be Bologna. I was there two weeks ago updating my maps of that city only to find that it’s radically changed. The city has one of the oldest universities in Europe. The town oozes with history yet has a thriving, curious university crowd that keeps it moving forward. They’re totally food obsessed in Bologna given that the region is the food basket of the country. Homey comfort food made with the freshest ingredients is the hallmark of the region. Ingredients are everything to the Bolognese. They’ve given the world tortellini, Parma ham, salami, Parmesan cheese, mortadella, balsamic vinegar, piadina… the list goes on and on.
Hungry for more? Check out some of Siobhan’s work here:
Retail Food Map of NYC’s Lower East Side
Cured Meat Glossary
Christmas Cookies Featured here last December