An Internship Experience at the United Nations

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Outside the UN headquarters 

Gastronomy student Ritika Jagasia spent two months in New York City this summer as an intern at the United Nations. Here is her reflection on the experience.

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Ritika Jagasia

This summer, I had the opportunity to work as an Events and Knowledge Management Intern at the United Nations Office for South-South Cooperation. UNOSSC is a body under United Nations Development Programme established to promote, coordinate and support South-South and triangular cooperation globally and within the United Nations. Their work is mainly structured to support developing counties such as India, Brazil, South Africa, Nepal, Bangladesh, and Indonesia, in the political, economic, social, cultural, environmental and technical domains.

My role in UNOSSC was to work on an upcoming important event called the Global South-South Development Expo that is offered by United Nations solely focusing on Global South. It in a high-level annual event, hosted this year in Antalya, Turkey, designed to showcase successful development stories.  While my internships was only for two months, they truly treated interns as a staff and entrusted them with serious responsibilities.
E_2016_SDG_Poster_all_sizes_without_UN_emblem_Letter copyIn 2015, the UN established 17 goals as part of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development. As a knowledge management intern I studied solutions provided by various countries to achieve the sustainable goals. As a gastronomy student, I was particularly interested in the United Nation’s Sustainable Goal 2, which is to end hunger, achieve food security, improve nutrition and promote sustainable agriculture. I researched and collected data on the agricultural sector in African countries and my efforts will be produced in the upcoming UNOSSC Climate Change Publication. UN internships are, really, what you make of them.

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Global Town Hall Meeting with Secretary General Antonio Guterres

I also had the privilege of attending the town hall meeting in the presence of UN Secretary General, Antonio Guterres. I learned about the values and principles of the organization when the Secretary General mentioned that we come from different corners of the world. Our cultures, religions, traditions, widely vary and hence there are competing conflicts among us. This is why we need the UN. The Secretary General is very keen on getting various agencies under the UN umbrella to work together towards one goal of alleviating poverty and hunger and supporting partnerships.

Getting an internship at the UN is not difficult. It is about knowing what you want and being extremely motivated and organized. It was a fulfilling experience every single day when you walk inside the headquarters and knowing that somewhere you are creating a cause and making a difference. A job with an international organization certainly does not demand to discard one’s personal ideals, but one must match those personal views to the goals and policies of the organization.

Additional information on United Nations Internships can be found here.

 

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Butchering Lamb at Lightning Ridge

By Lindsey Barrett

After a sunny forty-five minute Sunday drive from Boston to Sherborn, Mass., my Sous Chef Josh Turka and I arrived at a image1small white poster paper sign with a thin black arrow pointing us to 38A Bullard Street. The narrow gravel path, surrounded by thick green brush, opened up to a single-story grey ranch home with three wood-paneled barns behind it. Lightning Ridge Farm is a modest, family-run business dedicated to raising purebred Corriedale sheep and lamb for auction and wholesale.

“It’s named lighting ridge because a few years ago, right down the street, 24 cows were all killed by one strike of lighting,” said owner Nancy Miniter. She and her husband John, along with bostonchefs.com, invited restaurant owners and staff to visit the farm, have lunch and watch a whole animal butchery demonstration. This offered a unique and educational experience, bringing chefs out of the kitchen and closer to the products and people they work with. Over twenty chefs, general managers and restaurant owners from Massachusetts and Rhode Island wearing sneakers, full arm tattoos and some even in socks and kitchen Crocs, gathered to learn about purchasing local lamb directly from the farmer.

Nancy and John started the farm with just two small sheep as 4H projects for their son and daughter in 1990. Today they have 45 ewes on 15 acres. “If you can get a lamb to produce three times in two years she is a keeper,” Nancy advised. Lamb and sheep have a gestation period of five months, and most animals will “lamb” twins.

image4Lightning Ridge does most of its retail selling at the Wayland Winter and Natick farmers markets, where the lamb is broken down into loin, rib and chop primal cuts for customers. Nancy sells every part of the animal. “I do pretty good selling testicles at the farmers market,” she said. “Testicles, hearts and tongues — I can’t keep them.”

The farm produces lamb year-round, which is uncommon for a small farm. The animals are butchered at 120-140 pounds and will hang sheered, skinned and head-on at 60-70 pounds. It takes roughly six to seventh months for the animals to reach this weight. Hay made on site by Nancy and John, both animal science graduates, is used for feeding along with a 16% protein enriched grain feed. “I don’t like seeing thin sheep,” Nancy admitted.

After the grounds tour, the chefs sat down in the shade to whole roast lamb, smoked over peach wood, and Jacks Abby. It was welcome refreshment from the blistering heat that beat down from a piercing blue sky littered with a few sharp white clouds. Sitting around six plastic tables under white peaked tents, chefs chatted in true competitive culinary form. Theyimage2 compared who had been working the most hours, what was on their current menu, how often it changed and who did what with lamb, each silently sizing up their fellow chef and quietly judging their practices and procedures.

The butchery demonstration was given by Savenour’s butcher shop manager Adam Lucia. Although the conditions were not ideal — it was warm, the meat was getting soft and the hand saw was not breaking bones as easily as it would had the meat and air temperature been cooler — Adam did his best to demonstrate how to break down a whole lamb. “It’s not magic, it’s just a lost art,” he said as he delicately taps his boning knife with a steel mallet between rib bone and muscle. He explained what he uses the whole animal for and how nothing should be wasted. “The lard inside the lamb, it’s a shame not to use,” he said. “It’s like white gold.” He went on to suggest we use it to sear proteins in pans.

Three days prior, sweat slowly creeped down the small of my back and my thick black chef pants stuck to my thighs. It was a Thursday night and it felt like the entire dining room at The Salty Pig had all sat down at once. At 6 p.m. in the middle of picking up and plating three pork tastings, two buccatini and clam pastas and a small agnolotti, I heard my chef yell my name. “Lindsey, talk to Josh at the pass,” my head chef barked as he finished garnishing a plate with toasted sunflower seeds and five vibrant sunflower pedals.

image5Josh leaned over the shiny black counter and asked what I was doing Sunday. Really? I thought. You want to know my Sunday plans when I’m frantically trying to plate six entrees on a space no bigger than a standard kitchen sized cutting board? “Um nothing chef, what’s up?” I respectfully answered. Over the clanking of plates and beeping of timers, thoughts continued going on in my head: Was my loin resting? Was the garlic burning in the pan or did I have enough time to turn around, bloom in the Aleppo and deglaze with white wine?

He told me he wanted to tour a lamb farm and talk about purchasing a whole lamb. “Sure chef, sounds fun, text me later about details,” I spat out as I whirled back around to the six burner range. With a towel in hand, I grabbed sauté pans and heated up the black garlic purée. I then stole the crispy charred wax beans off the grill, aggressively chopped parsley to finish the pasta and tossed the finished plates to the pass.

Back at Lightning Ridge, as the butchering demonstration continued, Josh and I chugged down our third beer each. A welcome breeze blew in and the faint smell of dried hay and barnyard animal wafted through the tented tables. The shade, icy beer and farm scents were soothing, giving way to a moment to sit back and enjoy the simplistic Sunday setting. “Well,” Josh whispered over the tiny tapping of mallet to knife, a small grin forming out of the image6corner of his mouth, “now I want to get a lamb.”

If you go: Nancy encourages anyone to visit the farm, take a tour and see what they do daily. “We like when people visit,” she says. “We always tell people from the farmers market to visit the farm. They never do but we like it.” For more information, email jnene@aol.com or call 508-653-3212. Lightning Ridge Farm, 38 A Bullard Street, Sherborn Massachusetts

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 kim@vinitaswineworks.com or www.VinitasWineWorks.com.

Get Hired or Die Baking

by Leigh Shaplen

Student Leigh Shaplen shares her path to finding a food career, as well as some handy tips. She is currently residing in California while finishing her MLA in Gastronomy.

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at the summer culinary lab

Ten hours after packing up my life in Boston and moving back home to San Francisco I am in route to Napa for a job interview. I am amazed by the drastic change in my surroundings. This is farm country and a far cry from yesterday’s home at the foot of Fenway Park.

I was unsure how exactly my degree in Gastronomy would help me get the restaurant marketing dream job I’ve been seeking my entire life. I entered the job market with a plan. I developed a 15 second pitch about my graduate work (I wasn’t sure anyone would give me 30 seconds, so I kept it short). I gave my speech to anyone who would listen: “I’ve been learning from some of the world’s top sommeliers, cheese mongers, food anthropologists, and journalists. I’ve been cooking alongside some of Boston’s most prominent chefs.” As it turns out a lot of people wanted to listen.

I conducted the majority of my job search through LinkedIn. I kept an excel document with every position I applied to. There are 62 jobs on the list. I tried to submit applications for 3 opportunities every day. I researched the companies and its employees. I sent a personalized note following up on each application, and this tactic worked for my interview in Napa. When sitting down with the Director of human resources she thanked me for reaching out directly.

I spread the word about my job search. I decided to embrace it rather than hide from it. I emailed 30 friends and family members letting them know about my goals and thanking them for keeping me in mind. More often than not, I got replies with very fruitful leads. I took interviews for jobs I didn’t want and when asked about my dream job, I was honest. The conversation shifted to how they could help me get that job instead. I said yes to anyone (and that means anyone) who offered to help. I traveled for interviews on my own dime, which included buying cross-country plane tickets. I read the San Francisco Chronicle Food Section and cut out the pictures for inspiration. I found Gastronomy graduates in San Francisco and had a lot of coffee dates (I don’t even like coffee). I started sending thank you notes sealed with a fork and spoon stamp to develop some personal branding.

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The fork and spoon stamp

My network has grown exponentially, and I’m joining a food marketing networking group with new friends. I’ve had the opportunity to meet with two “celebrity” chefs, a bunch of industry leaders, and have had lunch at Twitter. The tech company’s complimentary made-to-order, breakfast, lunch, and dinner food mecca spans two floors and is a gastronomic heaven.

When I wasn’t interviewing I baked. When all else fails I turn to food. Sound familiar? I made a lot of oatmeal chocolate chip cookies with too much butter and froze the dough. Whenever someone went out of their way for me, I baked a stack of cookies and delivered them in a green plastic strawberry basket wrapped in cellophane, a trick food writing instructor Sheryl Julian taught me. Needless to say, people went wild for the thin, crispy cookies with soft centers. I’m calling them the “get hired or die baking” cookie and am willing to share the recipe.

A month and a half and five interview rounds later, I received a job offer in Napa. The offer letter cites my graduate education in Gastronomy as part of a unique combination of skills. I think I’ll accept and eat the rest of my get hired cookies. I’ve earned them.

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 gastronomyatbu@gmail.com.

Catherine Smart
smartentertaining.com
Lauren Cicione
tuscanauteur.com

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 Joonbug.com