Student Spotlight: Morgan Mannino

“Cook’s Illustrated, I’ve got a tasting of apple crostata in the main kitchen,” a test cook’s voice mumbles over the telephone speaker.

Morgan dressed up as one of the most popular Cook’s Illustrated recipes of 2017, the Olive Oil Cake.

I look up from my work, it’s 11AM, having some dessert pre-lunch won’t hurt me, plus it’s got apples in it (it’s practically health food) and I’d love to see where Steve is in his recipe development. I grab my phone and head to the kitchen with the hope of stringing together some engaging shots for our Instagram Story. The editors and I stand around a metal table and munch on 3 different samples of crostata, looking for variations in texture and flavor and comment on them. The Cook’s Illustrated team could spend hours analyzing and debating different ways to improve the texture of an apple slice in a crostata. These debates will help inform and color my social posts about the recipe, almost a year in the future. The recipe development happens so far ahead since it involves an extensive, rigorous process of making and making and making again, surveying home cooks who volunteer to make the recipe at home, final tweaking, shooting, and finally publishing. This, of course, is a strange balance with the immediacy in which I am Instagramming what’s currently going on, right now, in the kitchen. Such is the nature of working in social media for a 25 year old magazine.

Three apple crostatas line up in the test kitchen for a tasting analyzing different techniques for apple arrangement and crust recipes.

These tastings punctuate my day as I work towards the overarching goal of marketing Cook’s Illustrated and developing the brand on social media. As a Senior Social Media Coordinator at America’s Test Kitchen, I curate, write, and schedule all the content that goes out on the Cook’s Illustrated Instagram and Facebook accounts (with a little Pinterest here and there). I also work very closely with the magazine editors, video team, photo team, and design team to strategize, visualize, and communicate our brand on the platforms. The craziest time of year is right now, Thanksgiving and the holidays, where I’ll spend 100s of manhours (having started in July) planning and strategizing a cohesive campaign that not only is engaging but also meets our marketing business goals.

Behind the scenes during an animation photoshoot for a guacamole recipe.

I began the Gastronomy program in January of 2016. At the time I had been working at America’s Test Kitchen for almost 3 years, but on the Sponsorship Sales team doing client service work. I had the vision of becoming a member of the social media team, but I needed to pave the path to get there in order to be ready once the opportunity presented itself. The program was a help in that journey, inspiring confidence, inspiration, and helping me craft my writing. It also gave me the knowledge of culture and history of food that I have been able to take into my social media role from writing post copy to adding my opinion in a tasting.

Everyday I am incredibly thankful for my job and for the gastronomy program for not only reminding me why I love food and culture so much, but for giving me the tools to make turn that energy into a tangible reality. Some days I’m capturing our tastings and testings team saw coolers in half with a reciprocating saw for Instagram Stories, others I may be joining them for a tasting of 10 samples of burrata or hot sauce, on very special days there might be chocolate pie or some other treat in our “take home fridge” (where all the extra food goes from recipe development each day)  or gushing over the fact that I get to host a food celebrity in house, most days there are dogs wandering about. Needless to say, I often find myself filled with gratitude for my job, especially when a “bad day” is caused by an empty take home fridge or the stress of planning and executing a Facebook Live about prime rib. It’s hard to know where to go from here (I still can’t believe I am working for the magazine that I used to cuddle up and read when I was growing up), and I am so grateful to be here, but know when it’s time I’ll follow where my nose (and taste buds) lead me.

Left: 8 samples of chicken wings in 7 different hot sauces line up for a tasting. Right: Morgan sawing a lunch tray in the name of science (our tastings and testings team was learning how to use the saw to cut into coolers and other kitchen equipment to learn more about how they work).
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Alumni Spotlight: Priya Shah

There are some duos that just go together. Milk and cookies, Batman and Robin, or peanut butter and jelly are a few that instantly come to mind. But what about those that are less common? For BU Gastronomy alum Priya Shah, there isn’t a better combination than food and storytelling.

After graduating from the program in 2011, Priya aspired to make her favorite fusion a reality. Unfortunately, it wasn’t as easy as she thought. Instead of diving straight into the culinary communications industry, Priya returned home to work for her family’s hotel business in Iowa. After a little less than two years, she was yearning to trade her conversations about RevPAR and third-party reservation systems for wine characteristics and restaurant openings. Priya decided it was time to start researching communications firms that solely focused on lifestyle brands. Eventually, this search led her to Atlanta. There, she gained valuable experience working for boutique and corporate firms managing a range of food-related clients. From James Beard Award nominated chefs to Cracker Barrel Old Country Store, her breadth was quite diverse.

Learning best practices from her agency experiences, Priya realized that her Master’s in Gastronomy equipped her with a rare set of skills. Unlike her colleagues, she could speak the language of her clients and was often chatting with them about industry trends. It didn’t take her long to decide to open up her own shop. In June, she launched ShahSquared Consulting, a communications and marketing firm dedicated to food and beverage, hospitality and travel clients. To set herself apart, Priya focused on three core elements: 1.) expertise; 2.) authenticity; and 3.) approach. She would provide her customers with the utmost hospitality while cutting through the fluff. Her greatest joy comes from sharing her clients’ stories and watching them succeed and prosper. But, don’t be mistaken — Priya doesn’t take herself too seriously. Between promoting her dog to Chief Morale Pawficer and her blatant obsession with pineapples, Priya’s not afraid to let her personality shine in her business.

Many of Priya’s passions and achievements she attributes to her time at BU. Her exposure to different industries and educational experiences through her peers made every class discussion worthwhile. Whether she always agreed with her classmates’ opinions was another story. Outside of the university, Priya has enjoyed using the alumni network to connect with other gastronomy grads. It was through the network that she met Shaun Chavis (BU Gastronomy ’07). Now a friend and confidant, Shaun was influential in Priya’s entrepreneurial pursuit. Together, the two have used their talents to collaborate on client projects and support each other in their respective businesses.

As for the future, Priya looks forward to expanding her businesses and attaining more clients. The world is her oyster and she prefers hers with homemade Mignonette and a little fresh grated horseradish.

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.

 

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.