Ever wonder what being a Gastronomy student is like? Unfortunately there is no easy answer, we all approach it a little differently. Some of us are full time students, but most are part time; some work as interns, while others maintain full time careers; many students are from far away, but some are Massachusetts natives – simply, our backgrounds are as diverse as the foods we study. In an on going mini-series, we will hopefully give you an idea of who some of our students are and just how unique this program is to bring us all together.
Lucy Valena is the lucky first Gastronomy Student Spotlight. Most know her as the owner of Voltage Coffee & Art in Kendall Square, but this first semester Gastronomy student is much more than simply a coffee connoisseur with a penchant for great art.
Lucy grew up on an old farm in Durham, NH with her folk artist father, museum curator mother, and little sister. The natural progression from this upbringing was a life of art, which she pursued through a BA in Studio Art from Hampshire College in Western Massachusetts. After graduation and a brief stint in Seattle, Lucy made the trek back to Boston with a renewed appreciation for high-quality coffee. With a lot of hard work, plenty of caffeine, talented friends, and some self-admitted luck, Lucy opened Voltage Coffee in 2008. It first started out as an espresso catering service in Jamaica Plain, which eventually evolved into a full-blown cafe, Voltage Coffee & Art, by 2010. As the owner, barista, and dishwasher, Lucy has created a haven for the caffeine-deprived artist in all of us. One can find her between Monday and Saturday behind the bar, in the vibrantly-painted kitchen, or holed away in her closet-sized office.
This past January, Lucy decided to up her culinary prowess by joining the Gastronomy Master’s program at BU where she is focusing on history and culture. Finding time to devote herself to academics while owning and operating a cafe is sometimes challenging, but Lucy maintains that the part-time, night classes of the program make it manageable.
While every day is different, a typical day in the life of the student, cafe owner, and Jamaica Plain resident is as follows:
7am to 3pm:
Work behind the counter at Voltage (make coffee, wash dishes, take orders, and have silly conversations with the staff).
3 to 5pm:
Either in her tiny office doing bookkeeping stuff or at a meeting.
6 to 8pm:
Homework time! If her brain is too overloaded from the day, she tries to work on some art instead.
Boyfriend, John, and Lucy start shaking cocktails and cooking dinner. While cooking, they typically blast the B52’s and play with their kitten, Tiny Henry. They either eat by candlelight (how romantic!) or watch something on their projector. This winter they have been especially into the X-Files, but they also have an ongoing goal to watch the entire AFI 100 list… Someday!
As the first Student Spotlight, Lucy shows that with a bit of caffeine and a lot of passion, one can find a balance between a career and graduate school. Next time you find yourself in Kendall Square, make sure to check out Voltage Coffee & Art and say hello to the owner/student behind the bar.
Sarah McKeen is a Boston native who has studied Gastronomy at BU since 2014. Her focus is on entrepreneurship, technology, and culinary tourism.