There is a book called “150 Good Food Jobs” and I’ve had 43 of them. This means I’m either really old, I can’t keep a job or I get distracted and curious by shiny objects. But basically, these have been encapsulated within two long-term careers, one in Napa Valley as a winery culinary director and the other at Cornell University and in Ithaca.
Two-and-a half years ago, I “retired” from my 20-plus years at the Hotel School. After some years teaching about wines and later restaurant management and co-owning an Ithaca restaurant, I served as an academic and career advisor to “hotelies” – some of the most entrepreneurial, engaging, smart young adults around. After a serious cancer scare I retired at age 55 and went rogue, looking for a new career combining my love of travel, food, culture and service.
A SEMESTER AT SEA
I found my calling in fall 2011, as the adult lifelong-learning coordinator for the University of Virginia’s Semester at Sea program. With my husband Dave, 500 undergraduates, 60 adult learners, the faculty and the crew, I sailed from Montreal to Casablanca, Morocco; Accra, Ghana; Cape Town, South Africa; Port Louis, Mauritius; Chennai, India; Penang, Malaysia; Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam; Hong Kong and Shanghai, China; Kobe, Japan; Hilo, Hawaii; Puntarenas, Costa Rica; and Coxen Hole, Honduras before docking in Fort Lauderdale at the end of 120 days. students getting a semester’s credit while circling the globe, making 14 stops in 120 days.
My job was to keep the adults (“the Salty Dogs”) happy and occupied. A perk of the job was the opportunity to chaperone field food programs, which I often did, including a Tropical Spice Garden in Penang Pang, Malaysia; a cooking class in Capetown, South Africa; and a coffee plantation tour in Mercedes, Costa Rica. This freedom in ports allowed my husband Dave and me to explore each host country independently for three to six days at a time. I spent that time focused on food; food in the markets, restaurants, and the street (which caused a bit of food poisoning and worse, two days in ship’s quarantine). Continue reading