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The Graduate

United States - 17 Feb 12

Allow me to introduce myself. I’m Taylor, graduate of the University of Gastronomic Sciences (UNISG) Masters program and co-founder of Good Food Jobs and the gastro.gnome blog in the U.S. What is a gastro.gnome, you ask? Well, here are a few definitions to clarify: gastronomy the practice or art of choosing, cooking, and eating good food. gnome (in folklore) one of a species of miniature beings that inhabit the interior of the earth and act as guardians of its treasure. gastro.gnome a jovial individual whose main purpose on earth is to connect people who derive pleasure from good food. After forging my own career path within the world of food, I realized that my efforts were best spent guiding other qualified, capable individuals on their path to food (and life) enlightenment. Let me explain. Growing up in the suburban New Jersey, America, I often accompanied my mom on her frequent trips to the local Foodtown (yes, that was the name of our grocery store). It wasn’t until high school that I realized I loved grocery shopping. What others thought was truly torturous, I thought was an adventure, a sport, a social experience, a treasure hunt. I began to explore more: I’d find recipes with interesting ingredients, hop around from store to store looking for new and interesting items, and from time to time would accompany friends to NYC (while they were looking to shop at the boutiques of SoHo, I’d hit up Dean and Deluca and Gourmet Garage). When it was time for university I scoured for a program that addressed food in the way I wanted to learn it. Everyone would ask, “Well you want to go to culinary school, right?” No, not exactly. “Well you want to own a restaurant then, right?” Well, no, not that either. “What could you possibly want to do then?” I want to make people feel as happy as I do when I eat really good food … to enjoy the fresh air when they pick apples every October, to anxiously await corn so sweet I eat it raw off the cob, or to stop and taste something delectable every once in a while. The way I see it, if you’re going to have to eat every day for the rest of your life, it might as well be as enjoyable an experience as possible. I ended up in Montreal, a European city of sorts, just over the border. The gastronomic scene simply fueled my fire and after two years I packed up and headed to the slightly warmer climate in Ithaca, NY, where I studied hospitality management. I finally found a program that was closer to the way I wanted to learn about food. It wasn’t perfect (while my classmates were working on restaurant projects, I geared my toward specialty food shops, and while others frequented the bars and restaurants, I would spend my off-hours at the farmers market). But with graduation came the forthcoming fear that I’d finally have to decide what I actually wanted to do with my life (well, I knew what I wanted to do, I just wasn’t so sure that I could find someone to pay me to do it). Through a bit of crafty research, I found a new English speaking Master in Food Culture program at the recently founded University of Gastronomic Sciences in Italy. Naturally, I applied. I spent the next 12 months eating my way around Europe, learning about the traditional food products (think olive oil, cured meat, pasta, wine and cheese) and how they differed from the imposters you now find in the grocery store. It changed my life. We listened, we learned, we tasted, we ate, we laughed, we saw, we smelled, we felt, we lived. We experienced good food. While many of my cohorts opted to stay in Italy, I hightailed it back to the states, where we, as a culture, needed the most work. I came back. And I struggled. I had all of these great experiences, yet I wasn’t 100% sure how to apply them. Do I work for a non-profit promoting sustainable agriculture? Do I find a farmers market? Do I dare work for a restaurant? In just a few short weeks I found my dream job: running the education department at Murray’s Cheese. I couldn’t have asked for more. It allowed me to educate people about good food at an establishment that sold it. It wasn’t cooking. It was just finely crafted foods that people could take home and “prepare” with little more than removing it from its packaging. Ancient fast food, as I call it. After three years I decided to depart from Murray’s in a grander mission. I could comfortably continue to educate in the confines of the classroom forever, but during my tenure I met hundreds of fellow food lovers looking to make meaning of their love of food. They want to turn their passion into a profession. I decided it was time for the next phase of food education. In Summer 2010 I launched Good Food Jobs together with Dorothy Neagle - a gastronomy-centric job search website, designed to lure others into the world of food. It includes everything from work with farmers and food artisans, policy makers and purveyors, retailers and restaurateurs and economics and ecology. We also write the connected Gastronomes blog, where we profile the most interesting, engaging, and unlikely food professions and professionals that we come across. There's not a day that goes by that I don't refer back to something that I learned or someone that I met during my year at UNISG - both personally and professionally. For food is undoubtedly linked to various aspects of culture. Food is what connects us. Please feel free feel free to contact me with any queries about UNISG and/or food related employment and to browse our website and blog for U.S. job seeking or inspiration… Taylor Cocalis Article originally published on



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