New Jobs in Food


Regina Schrambling’s latest L.A. Times article about the “boom in jobs you’ve never heard of” is curiously on point.  Before food became, in her words, “not just sustenance but entertainment, politics, culture, artisanal opportunity and national obsession,” the room in the American job market for Michelin inspectors, beer sommeliers, mixologists, foragers, boutique farmers or culinary activists (people who work for the Chez Panisse Foundation, Slow Food, etc.) took up less space than a bouquet of individually picked, biodynamic micro-greens.

 

There’s a new world order, and it’s being created…by people with a master’s in gastronomy?  For many years the only new jobs in food were industrial: calls for chemists, flavor developers, engineers.  Now, the culinary industry is bursting at the seams.  People are making a viable living consulting on culinary history, cooking in Williams-Sonoma shop demo kitchens, and turning wheels of cheddar so they develop mold in all the right places (just so you know, that pays less).

The cool thing is that many of these jobs have a sustainability component to them.  Foragers and farmers most obviously, but a lot of the new-generation teachers (of cooking, of writing, of management) think green and act on it.

The sustainability industry in general is expanding rapidly, but you don’t need me to tell you so (read the Sustainable Industries Journal for more).  But because of food’s ties to, well, everything, it ends up being inevitably inextricably linked to…well, everything.  Google’s one-third solar-powered headquarters in Mountain View, California, for example, are a brilliant example of green architecture, but their purview extends to food as well.  The Googleplex’s Café 150, headed by chef Nate Keller, buys almost exclusively from farms within 150 miles, keeping at least several local farmers in business.  

Because the jobs Schrambling mentions are almost entirely non-industrial, dealing in artisanal foods, independent restaurants, small-scale farms or whatever, it makes sense that they err on the sustainable side.  It’s pretty neat, in fact, to see such an upsurge in support for independent businesses, and concomitantly hard to imagine Budweiser hiring a beer sommelier, or Kraft an affineur.  That said, I’m unwise speak so black-and-whitely.  Over the next few weeks we’ll see some posts about happy (mostly) marriages between corporate giants and small-but-powerful forces for green good.  Not only do they do exist, they may be some of the most potent, practical ways of moving forwards. 

Nathalie Jordi's appetites keep her bouncing between between County Cork, New York, London and the French Alps.  When not slinging curd or interviewing farmers, she writes for Travel&Leisure, Conde Nast Traveler, Gastronomica, and her blog at www.autobiogeography.com.  Her dreams of a life spent baking, drinking margaritas, and sitting in the sun are gathering steam during her current stint as a waitress in New York City.

 

 

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