How to Be an Academic Food Writer

By Anna Nguyen

I am a failed food writer. For many, many years, I have tried to write publishable food narratives, but with no real success. And yet, oddly enough, I read quite obsessively. Though not all of my reading materials revolve around food or food culture, many of my favorite reads are food-focused: essays by George Orwell; Steven Shapin’s recent efforts on wine and food histories; Haruki Murakami’s pieces about his cooking practices and eating preferences. I am keen on reading any memoir by chefs or food personalities. The list goes on. People say reading is an indicator of good writing, but I am proof that this sentiment does not hold true. The only reason I write so uncharitably of my forays in food writing is because I lack the ability to write sensorially; that is, I have not yet trained myself to write sentimentally about food using any other senses than the visual.

How does one write about taste in a way that evokes anything but just visual inventory? How does one successfully translate a fleeting, visceral moment into words shared with others? These were — and still are — questions that I always ask myself as I attempt to write. I am perhaps thinking too much about the words in use. That is, I find it extraordinarily difficult to put into words what I’ve just tasted. I try and try and try, and I still find the end result unsatisfying. There are days that I’ve come to terms with my reductionist perspective. Some days, terse paragraphs are sufficient; other days, many other days, I’m like Thomas at the end of Michelangelo Antonioni’s Blowup. I leave many unfinished and untitled essays on food on Google Drive because I cannot muster any profound words to write what I intend to say.

Perhaps the most enjoyable aspect of my failed career aspirations is that I’ve found focused research interests in the Gastronomy program. As I am planning my thesis, I intend to address the problem of food writing and the limitations of the language of food. In particular, I intend to try to understand the meanings of words in use — what is the inarticulate trying to articulate, and how language and epistemologies are constructed and shared.

IMG_20151217_143056My interests were shaped during my first year as a graduate student. While attending classes, I found myself growing fond of discourse analysis, textual analysis, phenomenology, and social theory — all things that I had at one point during my undergraduate years hated and tried to avoid. But to know theory is to be able to use and criticize what is lacking. Merely suggesting that language and knowledge are social constructs are non-answers that do not address the problems that I’m interested in, problems like the vagueness of food policies and laws, and food literacy. Nor does the concept of “social construction” add anything meaningful to ongoing academic conversations. If I am thankful for anything about my time as a graduate student in the Gastronomy program, it’s for the reason that I am able to intelligibly articulate what I don’t like with more force.

I’m still writing, though my writing has shifted focus. I tend to write with a more academic tone, but it’s probably not as academic as one imagines. Allusions to my literary background and journalistic experience are still present, though I’ve tried to dismiss unnecessary imagery. Great scholars like Arjun Appadurai, Gary Alan Fine, and Steven Shapin have written about food and culture without adhering to a strict academic template, and that’s something I wish to emulate. Perhaps it’s something I’ll attempt in my proposed thesis.

As I prepare the initial stages of thesis writing, I’m reminded that food writing existed long before food studies was birthed. During my first meeting with Walter Hopp, my thesis advisor, he heralded the chowder description in Moby Dick as being great food writing. I’ve been so buried in theory and academic texts that I’ve forgotten about literature. Perhaps on some much-needed breaks from the exhausting writings of Peter Singer and Michael Pollan, I should look back at the food writings of George Orwell and Virginia Woolf. And maybe it’s finally time to read about that damn whale.

Summer Course Spotlight: The Science of Food and Cooking

molecular gastronomy photoFood science meets culinary arts in the MLA in Gastronomy program’s Science of Food and Cooking course. In this Summer I course, basic food science is explored in the context of traditional and modern cooking techniques. Students will discover the science behind cooking everyday foods, explore molecular gastronomy, and learn how to use sensory evaluation techniques to analyze food products.

Students will conduct in-class experiments and have the opportunity to work in BU’s professional kitchen for a comprehensive look at the basic science that makes recipes work and how altering ingredients results in differing sensory properties. Join us for a combination of academic discussion and hands-on exploration of the science of food. This course is designed for food studies and other non-natural science majors and does not require prerequisites.

Instructor Valerie Ryan is a food scientist and food studies scholar. She holds a Master of Liberal Arts in Gastronomy and is certified in Culinary Arts; her Bachelor of Science is in Food and Nutrition, with a concentration in Food Chemistry. As a food scientist, she has worked for both government and industry in the areas of research and development; ingredient applications; chemical, nutritional, and sensory analysis; and product innovation. Ryan has focused her food studies research on the impact of taste preference on human evolution.

Limited seats are still available in this class, which will meet on Monday and Wednesday evenings, beginning May 18 and runs through June 25. Please register online at by May 10 or contact for more information

After Graduation: Starting a Wine Business

by Kim Simone

Alumna Kim Simone (May ’14) shares her post-degree career path and founding her company, Vinitas Wineworks.

kim1One of the questions I heard frequently from people while I was attending the Gastronomy program was “What are you going to do with your degree?” It’s not exactly a traditional program with built-in job training (with the exception of the culinary program.) We do it because it’s a part of who we are and what we love. I bet that most of us use the degree to forge our own way in the world of food, creating a place for ourselves in one of the many industries that pertain to our chosen field of study, be it cooking, writing, education, hospitality, and so on. I chose wine.

At the same time that I started the Gastronomy program I also jumped into the wine world, working first in a large retail store and then for a medium-sized Massachusetts wine distributor. And although I was climbing up the industry ladder, I got an idea pretty early on that a job in sales wasn’t the place for me. My real love has always been educating the public and “geeking out” over the finer points of whatever is in my wineglass. Which is why, after years of thought and planning, I founded an independent wine education and consulting company after finishing my degree last May.

Wine-is-fun-single-1080x675I specialize in wine education classes and hosting wine events for the general public. These can be either private events (e.g. tastings in people’s homes, private parties, etc.) or something bigger like a fundraiser for a nonprofit. I also provide training for those in the hospitality trades that either need some guidance within their own store or restaurant, or who need someone to train their staff to be better servers or wine consultants. My education through the Gastronomy program and the Elizabeth Bishop Wine School has really prepared me for this new role. Both the hands-on tasting classes led by Sandy Block and Bill Nesto, as well as the History of Wine class, really opened up this fabulous world to me. The most important thing I feel that I can pass on to my clients is that wine doesn’t have to be scary. It is complex, yes, but there truly is something out there for every palate. Once you learn what you like the possibilities are endless. Through my events and blog I provide the place to ask those questions that you might think are a little bit dumb and get that knowledge flowing.

Kim Simone can be reached at or

The Inside Scoop on BU’s Culinary Lab

by Claudia Catalano

Student Claudia Catalano presents her daily experiences in the BU Gastronomy culinary lab on her new blog.

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Since I began pursuing my MLA in Gastronomy in 2012, I’ve always dreamed of taking the Culinary Lab. I’m a good home cook, but I’ve never been formally trained in proper French technique, food safety, how to perfect timing, or how to cook for big crowds. Yet for the past two and a half years, I would make excuses about how impractical it would be to enroll. It’s a big commitment, but I finally decided in December that I would be full of regret if I didn’t include the lab as part of my Gastronomy degree. So I took a leave of absence from my job (yikes!) and now spend 4 days a week, from 10:30 AM to 6:oo PM, at 808 Commonwealth Avenue, the home of the BU Gastronomy program.

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What a fulfilling way to be spending my time. Not only am I being introduced to professional cooking techniques, but I also have the privilege of learning from 21 well-respected chefs who will be teaching the program this semester. Michael Leviton of Lumiere, Mary Ann Esposito of PBS, Barry Maiden of Hungry Mother, and Jeremy Sewall of Island Creek Oyster Bar are just a few of the talented instructors with whom I will work during the 14-week class. And, of course, there is the much-anticipated 2-day segment taught by the program’s co-founder, Jacques Pépin. What a thrill!

As part of the course assignments, I am required to keep a daily journal of my class experiences. I have decided to treat mine as a blog, which you can view here: If you’re thinking about enrolling in the Culinary Lab, this is an inside view. Take a look and you may decide to make your dream a reality, too.

The Culinary Lab is offered each semester and meets Monday through Thursday from 10:30 AM to 6:00 PM.  Besides counting as elective credits in the Gastronomy MLA program, students who successfully complete the lab receive a Certificate in Culinary Arts from Boston University.

Working at Momofuku Milk Bar

by Kendall Vanderslice

Student Kendall Vanderslice recounts her experience shadowing Pastry Chef Christina Tosi at Momofuku Milk Bar’s Williamsburg kitchen.

credit: Kendall Vanderslice

When I was in elementary school, every trip to my grandmother’s house included preparing a boxed cake mix. At home, my family maintained a diet free of sugar, dairy, meat, and anything flavorful, but at Gramma’s we indulged on all of the treats typically withheld. We ate Pop-Tarts for breakfast, ice cream after dinner, and we learned to bake with boxed mixes by Betty Crocker. Pastry Chef Christina Tosi, the creative force behind Momofuku Milk Bar, shares in this nostalgic love for cereals, candies, and cakes, using their flavors as inspiration for all of her bakery’s treats. Over winter break, I visited Milk Bar’s Brooklyn kitchen to spend two days working with the pastry team, gaining a behind-the-scenes look at the operation.

I was first introduced to the desserts of Christina Tosi last Christmas when my chef gave me a copy of her cookbook, Milk. That evening, I devoured the book like a novel, entranced by Tosi’s humor and her whimsical approach to pastry. A few months later, I visited Milk Bar’s Midtown Manhattan store, excited to find that her treats lived up to my expectations. This past October, Ms. Tosi spoke at one of Harvard University’s Science and Cooking seminars. After the lecture, I introduced myself and asked if I might be able to spend a few days in January shadowing her pastry team, to which she eagerly obliged.

My first day began at 8:30 am. When I arrived, the team of sous chefs had already prepared a list of tasks for me to accomplish. I began by assisting the head baker in preparing sheet trays to bake off cookies.

“Today is a light day,” she told me. “Only 22 sheets.”

credit: Kendall Vanderslice

After showing me the pan spray, parchment, and stacks of sheet trays, she left to fetch the cookies while I prepped the trays. I neatly sprayed, papered, and stacked 22 trays just in time for her return.

“22 sheets, right?” I asked for confirmation.

Giggling, she turned her rack of pre-portioned cookie dough for me to see. “22 sheets of portioned dough,” she responded. “That’s 220 sheet trays; about 3,000 cookies.”

Amused at my novice mistake, I returned to spraying sheet trays for another hour. When all of the trays were prepped, I assisted in laying the cookies onto the sheets and organizing the racks to go into the oven.

Once that task was complete, I moved on to some side projects. I processed peanut brittle into a powder, sorted birthday cake crumbs into containers of fine crumbs, medium-sized crumbs, and too-big-for-a-single-bite crumbs. I molded piecrusts, portioned cake batter, cooked family meal, and blowtorched marshmallows. As a guest in the kitchen, I was not allowed to operate the mixers or ovens; nonetheless there was no shortage of ways for my hands to stay busy in the kitchen.

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credit: Kendall Vanderslice

The volume of production at Milk Bar was magnificently greater than any kitchen I have worked in before. Milk Bar products are sold at seven different storefronts, as well as on the dessert menus at Momofuku’s fine dining restaurants, and all are made in the kitchen in Williamsburg. Originally a warehouse, the kitchen space houses five floor-to-ceiling ovens, three 140-quart mixers, two 80-quart mixers, and one or two work tables for each of the ten pastry cooks. In addition to bakers, the pastry department consists of an extensive management team. Most cooks who stay with Milk Bar beyond one year have the opportunity to work their way into a management position, receiving training not only on the production side of the operation but on the logistical side as well.

 The days at Milk Bar were long and tiring, but the team bonded as a family and aimed to keep the work fun. Music blasted all day long, warming the atmosphere of the warehouse space. Every cook commented on his love for his job or her respect for management. By the end of two days, I felt as if they’d already adopted me as a member of the team. Exhausted, I traveled home to Boston, already awaiting my next trip to Milk Bar to sample whatever creative treats a popular cereal or candy might yet inspire.

Make sure to check out Kendall’s other endeavors and musings on the intersections of  food, faith, and culture by checking out her blog:

January 2015 Issue of GJFS Now Available

credit: Graduate Journal of Food Studies

The January 2015 issue of the Graduate Journal of Food Studies is now available. Students from Harvard University, the University of Gastronomic Sciences, and our own Boston University Gastronomy program collaborate on managing and editing the biyearly journal. This latest issue includes original research from alumni Chris Maggiolo (’14) and Gabriel Mitchel (’14). Maggiolo’s article addresses an anthropological perspective on home winemaking among Italian Americans in Boston, while Mitchell’s article focuses on the performative experience of cooking in the moment. In addition to articles representing different areas of food studies, the journal also contains reviews of books that students and seasoned food scholars alike would consider adding to their bookshelves.

The journal is available to view for free on the Graduate Association of Food Studies (GAFS) website.

The GAFS is also accepting submissions for its next issue. This is a great way for students to publish any papers they wrote for classes, as well as to bring attention to the great food studies research BU Gastronomy students are conducting. The deadline is March 31st, 2015.

Meet Spring 2015’s New Gastronomy Students, Part II

We are pleased to have another great cohort  joining the Boston University Gastronomy Program. These new students have been asked to submit a picture of themselves, a short bio, and what they love most about food.

kelsey mungerKelsey Munger grew up in a small town outside Boston and has been working at various bakeries and food related jobs since high school. Since a young age she has also learned to navigate the food world and create enjoyable food that accommodate her food allergies. Allow her food allergies provide limitations, it never discouraged her from following the path she’s always found most intriguing. She graduated with a B.A in Sociology and a minor in Human Development from Connecticut College. During this time she worked as the head baker of the on campus cafe blending local ingredients into bakery staples for stressed out college students. She was also a selected scholar for her school’s community action program.

This passion for community engagement and food eventually collided as she completed her senior independent study in the connection between food and identity specifically relating to the Eastern Pequot Tribe of Eastern Connecticut. This was just the start of her interest in exploring food and policy which eventually guided her to the gastronomy program at BU.

Kelsey currently works as a baker at a gourmet gluten free bakery in Belmont, Ma and eventually hopes to open up her own bakery that uses food to bring communities together

kierstenKiersten Vincent grew up in small agricultural community in Illinois where she developed an appreciation for farmers and local produce. She loves to travel and learn about new places, and understands that a great way to learn about new places is through experiencing the local cuisine and cultural dining customs. Her love of travel and maternal heritage prompted her to study German. She received her degree from the University of Illinois which included a one year study abroad in Vienna. Whether she’s donning a Dirndl and drinking liters of beer at Oktoberfest, eating a Wiener Schnitzel larger than her head in Vienna, or loving every bit of the Blues, Brews and BBQ fest in the hometown of her alma mater, she’s enjoying life through food and travel.

She sampled many different avenues through employment and scholastic courses in search of that perfect career. Though every path resulted in a dead end, her passion for food and travel consistently prevailed. She finally realized the prospect of a career that incorporates both food and travel by learning of the Gastronomy program and researching the career possibilities. She is excited to take advantage of the wealth of knowledge and experience she will gain through the program and is eager to start the process towards a career as a Food and Wine Consultant.

daniDani Willcutt hails from Michigan where one drinks “pop” instead of “soda” and one of the Great Lakes is always within close proximity. In her free time Dani travels as much as possible (always with a list of must-try local food). Her most recent focus has been on the South and, “trust me,” she says, “Cities like Charleston, South Carolina have a lot to offer.” Besides cooking and eating Dani also enjoys yoga, writing, and all things artistic. She is now learning the science of baking (which has thus far lead only to burnt toffee and granola). Since moving to Boston in 2012 Dani has served, bartended and managed her way through the city’s restaurant scene, evolving her love for the culinary world into a full blown passion. Dani is the bar director for a popular Cambridge restaurant where she focuses on classic techniques and ingredients while maintaining the restaurant’s local aesthetic. She also handles the restaurant’s social media presence and in-house marketing. This multi-level approach has played a big part in furthering her understanding of the restaurant and food industry. Dani can’t wait to begin classes at BU where she can meet and work with like-minded individuals who share her passion for the world of food.

emilyEmily Milliken Taylor has recently moved back to the northeast from Austin, Texas, where she spent three years figuring out that her bachelor’s degree in art history was fun, but ultimately not her passion. She worked in some restaurants and met some cool people and figured out she really just wants to talk about food all the time. Her hope is that furthering her education with the gastronomy program will allow her to pursue a career that nurtures her ability to spread her passion for food to others through education, philanthropy and entrepreneurship. And it would be really great if she could focus on updating her recipe blog more often.

She currently works for Columbus Hospitality Group in the reservations office and has a truly impressive customer service voice. It’s a full octave higher than her actual voice and people often confuse her with a 12 year old. She likes taking silly photos and generally prefers frivolity. She’s not sure about this whole cold thing but she’s originally from Maine and she used to really like to ski. She does really miss Mexican food and mezcal, so she might move back to Texas someday. In the meantime she’ll be practicing her dinner party skills and perfecting her chowder recipe.

khineKhine (“Stephanie”) Zin Win has been inspired to enter the hospitality industry through her wanderlust and culinary experiences she has had traveling around the world. Born and raised in the once isolated Burma (Myanmar), she was privileged to be able to study abroad as an international student in other countries. She received her Bachelor’s degree in Hospitality Management from University of Massachusetts Amherst, and studied abroad in Switzerland for a semester as well. At Boston University, she plans to complete the business focus area within the Gastronomy Program.

Khine has been exposed to both the traditional Burmese culture of hospitality and cuisine, as well as global professional hospitality through her work experience at a five star hotel in Burma and hospitality courses while pursuing her Bachelor’s degree. Her time in the kitchen is mostly spent with cake-flour powdered on her face and a spatula in her hand. As a foodie, her experiences have taken her beyond boundaries from experiencing barbeque snakes and spiders in Cambodia to escargot in Paris. During family trips, while her family relaxes in hotel rooms, she will be out searching for the “Must-Eat Food” of the destination she is visiting. Moreover, she is inspired by the story telling side of any food she is eating. To her, every dish comes with a story and she believes the stories enhance the flavor and experience of the dish. Coming from the other side of the world, Khine looks forward to sharing her Burmese culture with students in Gastronomy Program. Her passion to let others experience what she had experienced through her journey of Hospitality will allow her to bring out the best in everyone around her.

Spring 2015 Course Profile: Archaeology of Food

Dr. Karen Metheny, Lecturer in the MLA in Gastronomy Program, has planned several guest lectures and workshops in conjunction with her spring 2015 course, Archaeology of Food.

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Archaeological site in Mount Vernon (credit:

The first of these special programs, paired with the Pépin Lecture Series, is a Whiskey-Tasting Program with Luke Pecoraro, Senior Archaeologist at Mount Vernon. Drawing from the archaeological records of known whiskey production sites, Pecoraro will offer a brief introduction to distilled products made in colonial America, with specific reference to George Washington’s distillery. A five-still commercial operation on one of Washington’s farms from 1797 to circa 1802, the distillery burned to ground in 1814, and was lost until re-discovered by Mount Vernon archaeologists in 1997. Intensive excavations uncovered the entire structure, revealing information about the layout of the stills, drains, and living quarters, and sparking renewed interest in spirits distillation in America. The recently reconstructed distillery is one of the few places where whiskey is made just as it was in the early Republic. The recipe for Washington’s whiskey survives, and is faithfully reproduced in small batches, twice a year, at the distillery. Following the lecture students will have the opportunity to taste five whiskeys.

Paula prepares Plymouth Succotash for a program in 2013 (credit:

Later in the semester, students will participate in a day-long, hands-on workshop on Succotash, a Native American dish that has become inextricably linked to colonial New England foodways and to regional traditions associated with Forefathers’ Day, a celebration of the founding of Plymouth Colony. The workshop will be led by Paula Marcoux, a food historian and archaeologist, author of Cooking with Fire, editor of Edible South Shore and South Coast, and a craft artisan/instructor for the Plymouth Center for Restoration Arts and Forgotten Trades. Paula is a frequent lecturer on the topic of vernacular foodways. Her research on succotash draws upon manuscript receipt books and print cookbooks in the archives of the Plymouth Antiquarian Society. Students will have the opportunity to hear about her research as they prepare the ingredients for succotash using the recipe of Frona Spooner (1831- 1917), a resident of North Street in Plymouth.

Archaeology of Food (MET ML 611 A1) introduces students to the archaeological study of food in prehistoric and historic-period cultures, with a specific focus on how food was obtained, processed, consumed, and preserved in past times, and the impact of diet upon past human populations in terms of disease and mortality. Students will learn how archaeologists use a wide range of artifacts, plant remains, human skeletal evidence, animal remains, and other data to recover information about food use and food technology over time. This introduction will be followed by a survey of the archaeological evidence of food procurement, processing, and consumption from the earliest modern humans to early farmers to more recent historical periods. Key topics will include the domestication of plants and animals, feasting, the role of households in food production, and the archaeological evidence for gender and status in cooking, preparation areas, serving vessels, and consumption.

Enrollment in this class is open to qualified non-degree students, who are encouraged to contact to inquire about registration. Classes will be held on Monday evenings, beginning January 26.



Meet Spring 2015’s New Gastronomy Students

With a new year comes a new semester of food studies at Boston University, as well as a new batch of food-lovers embarking on their journey as future food scholars. We are pleased to have another great cohort  joining the Boston University Gastronomy Program. These new students have been asked to submit a picture of themselves, a short bio, and what they love most about food.

ClaribelClaribel Alvarado was born in the Dominican Republic, but has lived in New York City more than half her life. She has a Bachelor’s Degree in Hospitality Management from New York City College of Technology (City Tech) with a concentration in the culinary arts. While a student at City Tech, she was awarded an opportunity to study abroad at CFC Mederic Ecole Hoteliere de Paris Jean Drouant. Upon completion of her study abroad program, she was awarded a Certificate in French Culinary History and Techniques. The economic uncertainties of the last few years persuaded her not to leave the secure benefits guaranteed by public service. She currently works for the New York City Police Department (NYPD) which is the furthest thing from the culinary world.

Claribel writes “I love my job, but I have a passion for food and cooking. I subscribe to several culinary publications. I love trying new recipes and putting my own spins to it, experimenting with flavor, ingredients, how to balance aroma and taste. I love eating out, and living in NYC provides an amazing array of the best cuisines representative of the world. I’m looking forward to completing the Certificate in Food Studies and make myself eligible to enroll for the Master’s in Gastronomy. I would like to teach culinary arts to underprivileged and at risk teens and also own a small café or restaurant.”

JamesJames Martin Moran is a Massachusetts native, amateur photographer, avid traveler, and typical foodie. The evolution of his interest in all things food started when he was fresh out of Boston College: he simply wanted to learn how to cook for himself. Since then, he has filled a floor-to-ceiling bookcase with timeless cookbooks ranging from Julia Child and Craig Claiborne to Alice Waters and America’s Test Kitchen.

In 1992, James moved to Los Angeles, officially as a Ph.D. student in Cinema-TV at USC, but in his spare time, he enrolled in a Professional Chef certificate program at the Epicurean School. Although the credential paved the way to work in a kitchen, his career goals leaned more toward working with both food non-profits and the food industry as an advisor mediating between big food profits and slow food culture. In 2008, he moved back to Boston and started volunteering at Community Servings, Cooking Matters, No Kid Hungry, and Mass Farmers Markets. Working in marketing at the time, he decided to earn a Certificate in Nutrition for Communications Professionals from Tufts. Now, as a consultant with the Foodscape Group, a nutrition strategy advisory firm, he is excited to continue my food education in the Gastronomy Program.

JerrelleJerrelle Guy was born to a creative family in sunny South FL. After spending much of her adolescence writing poems, painting, making short films, and pausing in between to devour food to fuel more artistic creations, she soon identified herself as an artist fostered by the magic of food. With her finger, literally, in one too many pies, she moved to New England to get her BFA from the Rhode Island School of Design.

For Jerrelle, food has become inseparable from art.  She turned nearly every RISD assignment into a commentary on food.  She studied in Rome under the guise of learning ancient Italian architecture, but technically spent more time at the local pizzeria. She started a food blog, Chocolate for Basil, where she began showcasing her food illustrations alongside recipes. And after graduating, she moved to Dallas, Texas and used her design degree to work with Commercial Photographers and Stylists specializing in Food Advertising.

Her passionate spirit, impulsive behavior, and voracious appetite have landed her in front of so many delicious plates, and eventually, of course, in front of the application site for BU’s Gastronomy Program. Her plan now, is to discover more avenues where food and design intersect, and possibly even help carve some new pathways herself.

JamieJamie Schwarcz was born on Long Island, NY where she spent her childhood frequently visiting New York City with her father. During their visits, her love of all things food, wine, and cooking began to develop. She loved talking with her father about the ingredients and history behind each dish they were enjoying. When she was not learning from her father, she was spending time in the kitchen with her Hungarian grandmother making sure that every family recipe was accounted for.

Jamie obtained her undergraduate degree from Boston University and currently spends her days supporting the Boston University SAP Payroll System. She enjoys traveling to foreign places and learning about the local culture (especially experiencing the local cuisine), trying new restaurants, and spending time with family and friends. She is looking forward to exploring her passion of all things culinary and meeting the BU Gastronomy community.

girlRachel Sholtes is on a mission to sniff, chew, slurp, touch, and talk about every possible type of cuisine. While her academic history lies in English literature and creative writing, what really motivates her to get up in the morning is the prospect of breakfast, lunch, dinner, and everything in between. So far she has managed to eat in 29 US states and 10 different countries, and hopes that the list continues to grow. Prior to relocating to Boston in November of 2014, Rachel worked for years with Counter Culture Coffee as a barista at a locally owned bakery in Baltimore. Since heading up North she has shifted her focus towards a different end of the beverage spectrum, joining a small Boston-area wine shop as a sales associate. Immensely interested in region-specific food histories, she has loved learning about the world of wine so far and looks forward to continuing her food education through every possible outlet.

Rachel is thrilled to be a part the Gastronomy program and hopes that it will facilitate her passion for eating, cooking, and storytelling, as well as help further her understanding of food sciences and the history of agricultural practices. She hopes to one day combine these myriad interests into a career that involves writing, recipe development, and advocating sustainable lifestyles for urban environments.

rachelRachel Beebe has lived on Boston’s South Shore for just nearly two and a half decades. She discovered her culinary prowess in the backyard when, at the young age of two, she decided to bread earthworms in sand and serve them with a side salad from the compost bin. Her dishes have grown to include actual edible items since then and her ambition and adventurous spirit with all things food have endured.

Like many who graduate from college with a liberal arts degree (UMass Boston, Anthropology), Rachel has spent a great deal of time figuring out what she wants to be when she grows up. She discovered BU’s Gastronomy program while still an undergrad and, after a brief hiatus following graduation, she decided it was the next step in the whole figuring-out-life process. During her days Rachel works at a cookbook publisher where she definitely lingers too long perusing the inventory for inspiration and enjoys evenings spent unwinding at the cutting board with a glass of wine close by. She loves produce shopping, mincing garlic and watching reruns of The French Chef. She is most excited to meet new people who share her obsession with food and to see what path her studies might lead her.

JulietJuliet Tierney is a native Bostonian who decided to pack up and head out west to get her undergraduate degree in History and Sociology at the University of Colorado – Boulder. Between hiking the flatirons with her Portuguese Water Dog, Lucy, and attending CU-Buffs football games, Juliet was bartending at local bars and country clubs where she gained a passion for wine and craft beer. Hailing from a large Italian and Irish family, Juliet grew up watching Julia Child every Sunday morning on PBS and lovingly gained the nickname from her siblings, “Juliet Child.” Her prized possession at the age of 6 was a recipe autographed by the cooking guru herself. When she’s not posted up at America’s Test Kitchen in the customer service department, Juliet can be found going to wine tastings, walking around Brookline with Lucy, and perfecting her grandmother’s eggplant parmesan recipe (which she has decided will never happen).

Course Profile: Cultural Tourism

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Anyone in the BU Gastronomy program is aware of just how popular food has become within the past decade. The advent of the “foodie” has meant that more and more people are paying closer attention to what they eat and food has become more than just a means for sustenance but a form leisure activity. Needless to say, with more people interested in food comes a demand for more places to eat, and this has given rise to the popularity of culinary tourism, one of the fastest growing and most lucrative industries today.

Culinary tourism is something that is discussed in some of the program’s core courses, such as theory and methodology, as well as anthropology of food. The topic is approached more from a social science perspective as students examine the cultural and social implications on local populations, as well as tourists’ motivations for traveling to experience new foods. The readings and discussion can lead one to examine their own motivations for trying new cuisines, but it can also lead students to consider culinary tourism as a possible career path.

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Fortunately, students have an opportunity to explore the broader industry into which culinary tourism falls: cultural tourism. Metropolitan College’s Administrative Studies department offers a course in the fall semester on cultural tourism that is open to BU Gastronomy students as an elective credit. Professor Samuel Mendlinger has been teaching the course for nearly a decade and is the founder and director of the Economic Development & Tourism Management concentration in the Administrative Studies department. Dr. Mendlinger has spent the majority of his career specializing in economic development in the developing world. In doing so, he became aware of the positive impact that tourism had in developing local economies. Since founding the concentration at Boston University, he has worked or been a consultant on tourism development in the United States, Dominican Republic, China, United Arab Emirates, Liberia and Tanzania

Dr. Mendlinger is quick to point out that “tourism is not hospitality. [the] goal is not to provide the best service possible to [the] client/tourist.” He continues explaining that “true tourism development has three clients who all must be satisfied: (1) the tourist who we wish to provide with the best memories and experiences possible; (2) the local population who we wish to aid in wealth and good job creation; and (3) the future, so we wish not to destroy or seriously damage the environment or the local culture.”

The course provides a look at tourism from more of a business perspective, and students explore the theories and principles of cultural tourism development and management, a nice compliment to the social science approach offered in the Gastronomy core curriculum. Students who take the course learn that cultural tourism has only been considered a distinct branch of the industry since the 1990s and is defined by tourists’ desire to participate in cultural activities as the primary or secondary motivation for travel. These cultural activities include art, music, history, and, of course, gastronomy, which receives its own segment during the course. Students learn how to identify cultural assets of a tourist destination, including gastronomy, and how to market these assets and develop them as tourism products in the most sustainable and responsible ways so that they cater to the three clients Dr. Mendlinger describes.

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Student Carlos C. Olaechea’s final project

Utilizing the principles and theories learned in readings and lectures, students then critique two cultural tourism products to assess how successfully they have been developed and if they do, indeed, serve the needs of tourists, the local population, and the future. Additionally, students become equipped with the knowledge to offer their own recommendations for how these tourist attractions can be improved. The course concludes with students offering and presenting their own plans for the development of a cultural asset into a cultural tourism product. Student projects have included formulating statewide beer trails in Vermont, developing a local market in Lyon as a tourist attraction, and creating a tropical agriculture and gastronomy food tour in Miami.

Students who complete Dr. Samuel Mendlinger’s course on cultural tourism are then invited to take his course on economic development via tourism in the developing world in the spring semester, which meets in Tanzania.

Paired with other food business and food marketing related courses, the course on cultural tourism can greatly aid students in pursuing a career in culinary tourism or perhaps starting their own company catering to tourists in search of new gastronomic experiences.

Cultural Tourism (ML 692) is offered in the fall semesters and is cross listed with AD 603. The course is attended by a diverse group of students from all across the world and across various disciplines.