Career Advice on Food Writing and Culinary Tourism

by Carlos Olaechea

There’s no doubt that Gastronomy students have a passion for food, but sometimes it helps to have some professional insight into how we can turn that passion into a career.  With many of our peers taking advantage of Boston Globe dining editor Sheryl Julian’s food writing class, and increased interest in visiting places for their food and beverages as much as their sights, a career in food writing and culinary tourism is on the minds of many students.  On Thursday, February 6th, 2014, the BU Gastronomy Students Association hosted a discussion panel that addressed those career paths.  The event featured Catherine Smart and Peggy Hernandez, both reporters for the Boston Globe’s dining section, as well as Lauren Cicione, who organizes wine tours in Italy for connoisseurs.

Catherine Smart is a graduate of the BU Gastronomy Master’s program, and, when she is not submitting articles to the Globe, she is working hard as a personal chef.  As most writing gigs are freelance and don’t provide a steady source of income, Smart says it’s a good idea to have another job.  She is thrilled with her personal chef business, which she finds both enjoyable and lucrative, and recommends students take the Culinary Arts Laboratory if they wish to follow in her footsteps.

Smart also advises that persistence and networking are key in developing a career in food writing, with which Peggy Hernandez couldn’t agree more.  A longtime Globe veteran, Hernandez began her career as a news reporter covering “crime and grime” in the late 80s and early 90s before her husband’s job had them moving abroad.  Upon returning to the US, Hernandez began freelancing for the Globe’s dining section and is known for her in-depth coverage of food trends. Both Hernandez and Smart strongly advise writers to join networking sites such as Muck Rack and LinkedIn to help brand themselves as serious writers.

Lauren Cicione got her start in culinary tourism quite by accident.  Working in the New York City art world, she was no stranger to wining and dining.  Once the recession hit, the market for fine art dwindled, and Cicione decided that a sojourn in Italy would be ideal.  It was there that she befriended small wine producers in Piedmont and Tuscany, and, before long, had an exclusive business organizing Italian wine tours for the most discerning connoisseurs.

Like Smart and Hernandez, Cicione says that networking is key, as the majority of her clients are referred to her by word-of-mouth.  She also says that it is important to do your research when planning to start a business: look at your competitors to see what they’re doing and how much they’re charging, and don’t forget that your time and knowledge are valuable.  Beware of selling yourself short, while you want to be reasonable, you have to keep in mind that you are offering your talents and, especially to those in the Gastronomy program, your educational background.

The best news is, there are many people who are willing to help you along the way.  Professors are a great resource to help launch your career, and many people are more than happy to offer their assistance or advice.

For those who missed the panel discussion, a digital recording is available on request by emailing

Catherine Smart
Lauren Cicione

Carlos Olaechea was born in Peru and spent most of his life in Miami, FL before moving to Boston for the gastronomy program.  He was the dining columnist for his college newspaper and the Miami dining editor for

Spring Lecture Series Recap: The History of Gentleman Farming in Los Angeles County

Screen shot 2014-02-07 at 5.38.31 PM

By Ty Robinson

Last week, the Gastronomy Department hosted its first guest lecture of the season. Laura Barraclough presented a talk entitled “Cultivating Whiteness: Gentleman Farming as Settler Colonialism in Los Angeles.” Barraclough is an Assistant Professor of American Studies and Ethnicity, Race and Migration at Yale University.

Her engaging lecture started with a brief history of what “gentleman farming” is and how it became a part of the American lifestyle, especially in the Los Angeles, CA area. Gentleman farming is a practice in which landowners engage in agribusiness but do not depend on it for a living. It is typically practiced by upper-class, white families as a means of providing additional income to the household. Barraclough’s research compared two suburban regions of Los Angeles and found that, while gentleman farming was originally a driving force behind the purchase of larger home lots, it was never a realistic means of supplemental income as the businessmen who purchased the lots had no previous farming experience. The region of Shadow Hills became largely equestrian as farms were turned into stables thereby increasing property value.

Once Barraclough had discussed suburban gentleman farming, she shifted her talk to urban farming. She talked about the history of the South Central Farm in Los Angeles and its subsequent destruction in 2006. The South Central Farm, founded to help cultivate food for those in poverty, provided a modern day example of urban farming. Barraclough made the important distinction that, while historically, gentleman farming was dominated by white upper class men and women, the farmers who worked the South Central Farm were primarily lower class Hispanics.

The historically high cost of homes in the Los Angeles suburbs, that were originally designed for gentleman farming, are still dominated by white upper class families. Whereas, the families who are farming in urban Los Angeles areas today are primarily Hispanics living below the poverty line. Using these points, Barraclough concludes that the racial divide between suburban and urban Los Angeles stems from historically high property costs and the history of gentleman farming.

Questions after the talk were diverse and provoked a lively discussion amongst the audience. Topics ranged from why she chose her subject and how she did her research, to a discussion of urban farming in Boston and how things could have been done differently if the organizers of the South Central Farm had been white. She answered each question with a lighthearted attitude that was constant throughout the presentation.

To get a more in depth view of the South Central Farm, Barraclough suggested the movie “The Garden.”

Ty Robinson is in his second semester of the Gastronomy program. He works at The Wine Emporium in the South End (Columbus Ave. location) and his focus is on all things related to wine, beer, and spirits. 

Welcome to the Program, Shall We Start in the Kitchen?

Photo by Chris Maggiolo

By Sarah McKeen

Maybe it was the wine or the fact that Boston decided to bless us with a rare evening above freezing. Regardless, the warmth was felt all around on the evening of January 13. Orientation for all incoming Gastronomy students began at 5 pm with an introduction by Professor Rachel Black who promised to keep the “boring” information to a minimum. She spoke for about an hour on BU basics and housekeeping matters, as well as provided a brief overview of some of the offerings of the Gastronomy program, which included classes, outside lectures, social gatherings, and volunteer opportunities. Needless to say, no one was “bored” with the forthcoming excitement of being a part of this quest for food knowledge. We were, however, all eager to get into the kitchen to make a delicious meal.






Photos by Chris Maggiolo

Led by a team of current students, us newbies were divided into groups to prepare various components of the meal. The three groups consisted of a kale pesto and sausage pasta team; an arugula, blood orange, and avocado salad team; and a chocolate-dipped coconut macaroon team. We all donned our aprons, rolled up our sleeves, and dug our hands into fresh ingredients to prepare the feast. The various aromas coming from each corner of the kitchen mingled in the air above as the new students got to know each other. About one hour later, the salad was piled high atop a fanning bed of avocado, the pasta was steaming in a bowl fit for an army, and the macaroons were perfectly coated with shiny chocolate.

Photo by Chris Maggiolo
Photo by Chris Maggiolo

We all came together at a long table in the kitchen classroom, set with wine and sparkling water. Plates were filled with the scrumptious offerings as students continued to share their stories of how they came to join the Gastronomy program. Joined by not only Rachel Black, but also Netta Davis, Barbara Rotger, and many current students, the new students delighted in hearing about classes, research projects, and personal stories. As conversations shifted from hometown to current jobs, the wine slowly depleted and belts grew a little tighter. Professor Black led us in a toast to the successful meal and the excitement of our future successes in and outside of the classroom. The evening meandered to a close and the students parted ways with both their minds and stomachs excited for what the next two years have to offer.

Sarah McKeen is a Boston native who has studied Gastronomy at BU since 2014. Her focus is on entrepreneurship, technology, and culinary tourism.

Photo by Chris Maggiolo
Photo by Chris Maggiolo


December Events: Sugar Plum Fairies, Ferran Adrià, and a Hot Cocoa Crawl

The semester is coming to a close and the year is almost over, but there’s still plenty to do! Whether you’re heading home or sticking around town, be sure to schedule in a few of these festive events for the chilly month of December.

Please note that many of the following events require tickets or reservations.

Harvard Science and Cooking Lecture Series

When: Dates vary, but all talks begin at 7:00 PM unless otherwise noted.
Where: Harvard Science Center (One Oxford Street, Cambridge, MA, Hall C & overflow Hall E)
What: A lecture series combining the expertise of food specialists, world-renowned chefs, and Harvard researchers. Lectures vary from week to week and are open to the public.

Monday, Dec. 2
“Evolution culinary theory”
Ferran Adrià, elBulli Foundation
**Tickets will be available on Tuesday, November 26th at the Harvard Box Office, located in the Holyoke Center 1350 Massachusetts Avenue, Cambridge, MA**

Monday, Dec. 9
“The Accidental Chemist”
America’s Test Kitchen
Jack Bishop, Editorial Director at Cook’s Illustrated and an Editor on The Science of Good Cooking
Dan Souza, Senior Editor of Cook’s Illustrated
Science Center Hall C, 7 p.m.

Harvard Square Hot Cocoa Crawl

When: Friday, Dec. 6 from 5:30 to 8:30 PM
Where: Harvard Square, 18 Brattle St, Cambridge, MA 02138
What: A winter crawl for only the most serious of chocoholics. Stops include L.A. Burdicks, Crema Cafe, Cardullo’s and more!

Eat Boutique Holiday Market

When: Saturday, Dec. 7 from 11:00 AM to 5:00 PM
Where: Cruiseport Boston’s Black Falcon Cruise Terminal, 1 Black Falcon Avenue, Boston, MA
What: This foodie gathering includes more than 50 makers, cookbook authors, culinary experts, beverage brewers, and more. Shop for specialty food items, sample treats from local food trucks and local Beer and Wine purveyors, and attend various events like cookbook signings, culinary workshops and special tastings. Tickets required, general admission costs $20.

Downeast Cider Launch Party

When: Saturday, Dec. 7 from 2:00 to 9:00 PM
Where: Downeast Cider House, 200 Terminal Street, Boston, MA
What: The local cider house is opening its doors to celebrate its grand opening with hard cider, music, games and more! Tickets required and cost $25.

South End Holiday Cookie Fest

When: Saturday, Dec. 7 with tours at 11:00 AM, 1:00 PM, and 3:00 PM
Where: South End, Boston, MA
What: A holiday tour of the South End’s best cookies from top Boston bakeries. Each stop comes with its own special occasion cookie in flavors like Ginger Molasses and Blueberry Pancookie! Tickets are $20 and must be purchased online in advance. A portion of each ticket will benefit the Boston Center for the Arts.

9th Annual Candy Land Tournament

When: Saturday, Dec. 14 from 10:00 AM to 12:00 PM
Where: Faneuil Hall Marketplace, 4 S Market Bldg, Boston, MA
What: An annual Candy Land board game tournament for kids and kids-at-heart benefiting Pitching in for Kids. Entry fee is $5 per person. Additional donations appreciated. Bring your own candy for game-time snacking.

“Pop It Like It’s Hot” Hot Chocolate Pop-Up

When: Friday, Dec. 6, Friday, Dec. 13, Friday, Dec. 20, and Friday, Dec. 27 from 3:00 to 6:00 PM
Where: Revere Hotel Boston Common, 200 Stuart St, Boston, MA 02116
What: A gourmet hot chocolate pop-up just in time for the holidays and that blustery Boston winter. Each Friday through the month of December, the Revere Hotel is hosting the holiday pop-up shop featuring unique hot chocolate recipes by local area chefs using hot cocoa mix from Taza Chocolate. Hot cocoa is free, but donations are encouraged and go towards The Home for Little Wanderers.

Boston Ballet Presents “The Nutcracker”

When: Various showings through Monday, Dec. 30
Where: Boston Opera House, Boston, MA
What: A Boston holiday tradition, this year’s version of the classical ballet features new sets, costumes, and choreography. Tickets start at $35 and first-time buyers receive a 10 percent discount.

Be sure to share any food events you find by commenting below or on the BU Gastronomy Facebook page. Show us your gastronomy finds this month by following us on Instagram and Twitter and using the hashtag #bugastronomy.

Celebrating the Holidays in the City

Whatever your reason (thesis writing, anthropology research, price of plane ticket, and/or the impending nor’easter) for staying in the city this holiday week, there’s no reason to miss out on the celebrations. From fine dining to festive shows, living in this bustling city has its perks and the holiday season is no exception. So skip that microwave dinner (do gastronomes even dare purchase such things?) and enjoy these seven tips for surviving, and enjoying, the holidays in the city.

1. Start the holiday off by going to the giant Menorah lighting in the Boston Commons.

photo by the Boston Globe

2. Take a walk in the relatively tourist-free Boston Commons and then go for a skate on the now frozen Frog Pond! Bring your own skates and admission only costs $5 or you can rent a pair for an additional $9.

photo by Joyce Kingman

3. Wake up early on Thanksgiving morning and tune into the annual Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade. No TV necessary, you can watch it online!

photo by ABC News

4. Scrambling for dinner plans? Plenty of restaurants are open for the holiday and a few, like the Beehive and Legal Sea Foods, are serving up traditional Thanksgiving Dinners with all the fixings for relatively student-friendly prices. Find more traditional turkey dinners here.

photo by The Beehive

5. Go visit the pilgrims at Plimoth Plantation and get a second helping of traditional and possibly puritanical New England Thanksgiving fare (the menu includes things like ciderkin, a pottage of cabbage, native corn pudding, and stewed Pompion. Yum!).

photo by Bon Appetit

6. Get your holiday light show and cute zoo animal fix in one! Starting Thursday, November 28th, New England Stone Zoo’s opens its doors for its annual ZooLights event complete with festive holiday decor, reindeer, and arctic foxes!

photo by Zoo New England

7. No matter what you celebrate, end the weekend with a full stomach by attending the “Everybody Loves Latkes Party!” Head on over to Brattle Plaza in Harvard Square, Sunday, December 1st from 2:30 PM to 3:30 PM to sample a diverse array of traditional and Thanksgiving-themed potato pancakes. Apple sauce and sour cream provided.

photo by Nosh On It

Have a safe and happy holiday and be sure to share your delicious celebrations on the BU Gastronomy Twitter and Instagram accounts using the hashtag #bugastronomy!

BU Guest Chef: Chef Roy Choi of Kogi BBQ

Throughout the year, the BU Gastronomy blog will feature occasional posts from special guest writers including current students, recent alumni, professors, and more. The following Guest Post and photographs are brought to you by Gastronomy student Amy Allen.

photo by Amy Allen
photo by Amy Allen

Roy Choi, who ignited the food truck revolution when he brought his Kogi Korean taco truck to Los Angeles hipsters, came to Boston University on November 8, 2013, to talk about his new book, “L.A. Son: My Life, My City, My Food.”

Choi trained at the Culinary Institute of America and worked at Le Bernardin and other restaurants before he launched the Los Angeles food truck that draws crowds of customers who wait in line for hours for a $2.29 Korean taco, with the most popular being homemade corn tortillas filled with caramelized Korean barbecue, salsa roja, cilantro-onion-lime relish, and a Napa romaine slaw tossed in a chili-soy vinaigrette.

Choi was engaging and honest when he talked about the overwhelming situation he found himself in five years ago when his life took a “strong detour” and he became a celebrity of sorts for his taco truck food. He wasn’t ready for the attention, he said, acknowledging the backstage role he held as a chef. “It’s hard for chefs to celebrate things and be out here and have a great time. We don’t have great times. Our job is to make sure YOU have a great time.”

When he was initially approached to write a book, “all I wanted was to get back to the truck and cook tacos,” he said, Daily, people would stop him, he said, “not to ask for an autograph, not to hang out with me, and not to sleep with me, but to ask, ‘How did you come up with this flavor?’ and then they would start crying or hug me.”

photo by Amy Allen
photo by Amy Allen

Choi admitted that he didn’t know how to deal with all the attention. “I did a lot to destroy it,” he said. “But sometimes when you step on a garden, it grows tenfold.” Finally, two and a half years ago, he says he woke up and was in the right state of mind to write the book. But, he didn’t want to write “the Kogi book” of taco truck recipes.

He describes the book as very personal and says it “is not about the food I do as a chef.” The recipes show the inspiration for Choi’s cooking and illustrate his history. With dishes such as kimchi and pork belly stuffed pupusas, ketchup fried rice, and spam banh mi, the recipes also reflect Los Angeles’s diverse cuisines. Choi says conceptually, the book is like Pink Floyd’s “Dark Side of the Moon” in its continuous flow; each chapter of the autobiographical book concludes with recipes that embody the life story you just read.

photo by Amy Allen
short ribs – photo by Amy Allen

Choi said he grew up in Los Angeles in an immigrant Korean family that cooked food that “looked nothing like a peanut butter and jelly sandwich or a pizza.” His mother was “an underground queen” in the Korean community for her kimchi, which she would sell out of cardboard boxes out of the trunk of their car. In a nod to his mother, Choi demonstrated the technique for making her braised short rib recipe. “Everyone says their mom’s galbi jim is the best,” he said. Choi said that even though the recipe has three components, that it is simple and anyone can make it. One of the keys, he said, is to soak the short ribs in water overnight to remove the impurities.

While preparing “ghetto Pillsbury fried doughnuts”— biscuit dough removed from the paper tube, fried in Crisco, and rolled in cinnamon, toasted sesame seeds, and sugar–Choi told the story of the recipe’s inspiration: He had decided to travel cross country to surprise the girl of his dreams. But his feelings were not reciprocated, and soon after, Choi had a lost week crack smoking bender in New York City. These doughnuts are what he would have wanted to eat at that time, he said.

photo by Amy Allen
ghetto Pillsbury fried doughnuts – photo by Amy Allen

When asked about how attending culinary school affected his food sensibilities, Choi said it gave him discipline and a way to deal with anger, and it developed his palate. “It changed everything about me,” he said. “I was a street kid from L.A.” Most significantly, he said, it gave him a deep love and appreciation for French food and French culinary technique.

While Choi has expanded his reach beyond the food truck and opened a series of restaurants in Los Angeles, he has bigger ambitions of bringing “chef-driven restaurants into the hood.” Choi referred to his talk at MAD3 in when he outlined the problem of hunger and neighborhoods with little access to healthy and fresh food. His vision is to involve chefs in the solution by starting restaurants in neighborhoods that have few good food options. In the meantime, Choi and his coauthors Tien Nguyen and Natasha Phan are on tour promoting their book through the end of this year. You can hear Roy on NPR and get the short rib recipe here.

Are you a current student or a recent alum with a food-filled story to share? Pitch your idea to and get published on the BU Gastronomy blog!

Fall Lecture Series Recap: What’s Not to Like About Modern Processed Food? – A Historical Perspective

Throughout the year, the BU Gastronomy blog will feature occasional posts from special guest writers including current students, recent alumni, professors, and more. The following Guest Post is brought to you by Gastronomy student Nate Orsi.


Close your eyes…after you read the next sentence.

Visualize the history and prehistory of processed food.

Now, open them…What?!  you say…

Is it difficult to do?

Well then you missed Dr. Rachel Laudan’s engaging presentation on the evolution of processed food! Have no fear, Dr. Laudan has a website, a new book, and a long list of publications and interesting academic work to use in your own research or for pure academic enjoyment. And who doesn’t want a little bit of enlightenment now and again, especially when it is food focused.

photo by Austin Chronicle

In her recent lecture, Dr. Laudan covered everything from the cultivation of wild crops to animal husbandry, and laid the foreground for the present state of packaged foods. While several people in the audience were interested in the implications of agricultural drawbacks to large scale production, ethical concerns over food production, and food safety issues, Dr. Laudan fielded questions in a poised and balanced manner. It was enlightening to see her take information from the questions she received and incorporate those tidbits into the scope of her research. This is something I have struggled with in my own work (and I am sure I am not the only one). Scope is such a fickle beast, and looking at any historical topic within a global context is bound to be a daunting task.

photo by Retro Renovation

Refrigeration and packaging played extremely important roles in the development of processed food. It’s a little strange to think about how ice used to be something reserved for the elite classes — royalty and the landed gentry — so something to think about next time you ask for ice in a nonchalant run-of-the mill manner. No pun intended with the mill reference, even though there was a pretty in depth discussion about the development of milling and flour production. Bread is such an integral part of so many cultures, and Laudan made this abundantly clear with a distinctive portion of the lecture dedicated to talking about the Fertile Crescent.

photo by IGG

There are so many modern food related examples I can think of with regard to the development of food processing, but if you look at something as simple as lemonade, you can see the processed nature of the mix, the artificially created ice, even the sweetener. These three components sort of encapsulate some of the thematic qualities of Laudan’s discussion.

photo by Food for Thought

She noted how people tend to romanticize certain aspects of the past when considering modern food processes, and of course she explained how it is not a perfect system. I really enjoyed having a historical perspective intertwined with large scale production of processed foods, since it is important to look at the broader picture of food in its current state. It is difficult to effectively compartmentalize food systems, because there is so much interplay between all parties of an increasingly complex foodways.

photo by University of California Press

For more information on processed food and more of Dr. Laudan’s work, check out her website or pick up a copy of her new book, Cuisine and Empire, out this November 2013.

Are you a current student or a recent alum with a food-filled story to share? Pitch your idea to and get published on the BU Gastronomy blog!