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A Splendid Global Table: AUP Alums Dish on Careers in the Food Industry


The conversation in the Library Atrium sizzled last month at the AUP Alumni in Food Roundtable. In a discussion moderated by Christy Shields, Associate Professor of Global Communications, four AUP alumni with thriving professions in the food industry shared perspectives on all things culinary–from first jobs washing mushrooms and innovation in coffee production, to watching The Bear on Netflix (they don’t) and offering advice on how to start the world’s greatest restaurant.

The panelists spoke from a wide range of career paths and industry sectors worldwide. Together, they portrayed a dynamic, intersectional field that yields constant routes to discovery.

“When you try to understand food systems, you're trying to understand the world,” said Coffee Quality Sensory Grader and specialty coffee roaster Lacy Audry ’13. Audry started businesses in the Philippines and France before creating a branding and communications agency for small food companies. “Coffee is a global product. You can't say that it comes from one place… originally maybe in Ethiopia. We're thinking about global food structures and about how food is moved across the world and onto our plates. It’s 90% logistics.”

Logistics are also essential to Samantha Gilliams ’18, a project manager at the Paris-based culinary production studio Balbosté. She consults with major luxury brands to create immersive dining experiences and oversees a comprehensive–and creative–set of operations: “Are we going to collaborate with an artist? Or use a set designer to build the table? How are we going to light the space?” She draws on her culinary training and anthropology studies at AUP to build relationships and teams with all the partners involved and amplify her clients’ vision.

Like most panelists, Gilliams also emphasizes the importance of French language skills in a trade where France looms large. “It’s essential to making connections with people in Paris that are not American or international.” After acquiring a business degree and superlative French skills at AUP, Charles Duque ’93, now Managing Director for the Americas of the French Dairy Interbranch Organization (CNIEL), returned to New York. “Companies were looking for people who had the education and the language ability to do business.” Duque–who answered without hesitation an audience member’s question about Canadian policy on French cheese—now promotes French dairy in four languages in regions around the world.

Of the four panelists, only one was currently working in the restaurant industry: culinary entrepreneur Daniel Rose ’00, who founded the lauded establishments La Bourse et La Vie in Paris and Le Coucou in New York, for which he was awarded his first Michelin star. A French-trained chef, Rose has spent a lot of time learning how to discern and develop quality. “Good cheese, good coffee, good things take a long time to understand,” he said. “You can't take a class on it. There’re different levels of understanding only experience will really give.”

So what are the prerequisites for a successful career in food? Curiosity and open-mindedness to new cultures and ideas. Another great asset: a liberal arts education. As Rose said, “liberal arts is the only thing that I know prepares you to ask essential questions and try to get essential answers. Whether it's in cheese, coffee, or space studies.” With such a strong basis to help students launch their careers in this industry, AUP is considering developing a minor in Food and Wine. As Gilliams said, “AUP is a great place to start to open your mind. And it's only the beginning.”