Cooks' Books: Hot Career Advice for Those Who Want to Get Cookin'

by Lisa Messinger - Cooks' Books


"Culinary Careers: How to Get Your Dream Job in Food with Advice from Top Culinary Professionals" by Rick Smilow and Anne E. McBride (Clarkson Potter, $16.99)

I got one of my first dream jobs in food when a longtime newspaper food editor — who could cook better than write — retired. Managing editors decided that the young health and nutrition editor — who could at that time write better than cook and had been trained on their specialized computer systems — should take over.

Within a few weeks, the photo and story cover montages I was simply selecting from a service they used were attracting 30 percent more readership, managers said, and a new career was launched. It was one in which I soon initiated the first original lead food stories the award-winning daily newspaper ever had, a slew of homegrown columnists — including myself. And I was recruited away to a national news service.

My friend, Beverly Coffey, who is writing the book "No Experience Necessary: How My Stumbling into 4 Successful Careers Will Help Change Your 1 Life Forever," says that an eye for opportunity followed by a can-do attitude is all that's needed for any field even — or especially — in these tough economic times. She proved it in floral design at locales like the famed Beverly Hills Hotel, real estate, in which she quickly entered the "million dollar club," interior design, landing on the pages of magazines like Better Homes and Gardens, and script writing, attracting the attention of top television producers.

I, too, have found that barely any experience is often enough to glean jobs and start you on your way.

Rick Smilow, president and CEO of the Institute of Culinary Education, takes you on a delicious journey from point A (person who enjoys eating food) to point B (seasoned working culinary professional) in "Culinary Careers: How to Get Your Dream Job in Food with Advice from Top Culinary Professionals." "Write about food" makes the top seven choices on the book's cover, right under "be a chef."

Not only will you be given specific action plans, tips and advice by Smilow, but you will also get plenty of laugh-out-loud stories of serendipity from chefs, restaurateurs, food writers and others who simply stumbled into their careers like Coffey did and then expertly guided them to "dream" levels.

"You have to be aware of all the little things you might have done differently. It's hard to make farmstead products consistent," notes Helen Feete, an award-winning cheese maker. "We learned a lot on the fly, by doing things wrong."

Smilow leaves no refrigerator unopened in this guide that's excellent for everyone from new grads to those contemplating a major career shift. Would you like to be a food truck owner, a nutritionist, a kitchen designer, a restaurant publicist, a cookbook author, a TV producer or a wine importer? Just pick your poison.

His listings have professionals answering a slew of questions, like "How Many Hours a Week Do You Work," "What Do You Most Like About What You Do," "What Do You Look for in a New Hire," "Salary" and "Any Suggestions to Improve Work-Life Balance?"

Additional information is as varied as providing business plan outlines for starting a restaurant or related business, listings of both culinary/hospitality formal programs and continuing education and certification programs (like the Craft Beer Institute Cicerone Certification Program in Chicago or the American Barista Coffee School in Portland, Ore.), and boxes highlighting who prevailed without formal training, like top chefs Thomas Keller, Charlie Trotter and Rick Bayless.

Sometimes, though, no amount of experience or logic is enough and a fat guidebook may be useless, notes Bayless, a top Southwest cuisine chef/restaurateur and best-selling cookbook author:

"I grew up in the restaurant business and tried to get away from it, but it was just in my blood. I was finding myself thinking about cooking more than anything else I was doing. For the most part, being a chef is very much like being an artist: You don't choose it; it chooses you."



Find your ideal job in the cooking world with advice and stories from food industry professionals in "Culinary Careers: How to Get Your Dream Job in Food with Advice from Top Culinary Professionals" by Rick Smilow and Anne E. McBride. 





Lisa Messinger is a first-place winner in food writing from the Association of Food Journalists and the author of seven food books, including "Mrs. Cubbison's Best Stuffing Cookbook" and "The Sourdough Bread Bowl Cookbook." She also writes the Creators News Service "After-Work Gourmet" column. To find out more about Lisa Messinger and read features by other Creators Syndicate writers and cartoonists, visit the Creators Syndicate website at