If you’re at all familiar with the great mysteries and challenges that come along with this little thing we call ‘communication’, then you’ll know it’s no small thing that Ben is one of the best listeners we’ve ever had the privilege of speaking with. That’s why we felt his story belonged here among the gastrognomes, even though his work as a life coach doesn’t directly intersect with food. In the quest for a meaningful career path, having a voice and being heard are equally necessary for success. 

When did you know that you wanted to work in food? 

Although I do not currently work in food, my first two jobs out of college were food jobs that I found through GFJ. As a life coach, my job is to partner with people on creating the life of their dreams. This is confrontational work that involves a trusting relationship and the boldness to be direct. Outside of my work as a life coach, a lot of my time is spent with food; cooking it, reading about it, talking about where to eat with my fiance, and food shopping. I am an advocate of local, small farms with sound farming practices. My fiance and I love going to the farmer’s market or new restaurants that we read about in our local food magazines. Food is powerful. It is the sustainer, the connector, the bridge of all divides. I love bringing people together over food, and will continue to show my love for people in this way for the rest of my life.

How did you get your current good food job?

I struggled to make meaning of my life when I graduated from the University of Wisconsin-Madison in 2012. I remember coming home during my last winter break and breaking down in sobs because of the pressure of figuring out a post-college job and being clueless about what to do. I came home to NYC to live with my parents that August and then traveled for two months in Europe. I began my first post-college job search when I returned in November. In the past four years, I have worked with food startups, as an elementary school teacher in Brooklyn, and with my Dad, who is an entrepreneur. It is only in the past year that I have found and committed to a career path that I love. I started my coach and leader training program with Accomplishment Coaching in February 2016, and created my first business as a life coach in April 2016. Every day since the start of my program has been a growth opportunity. I am officially an entrepreneur, my friendships are solid across state and country lines, my family has shown me an outrageous amount of support, and I recently proposed to my partner. This is all possible because of the work I have done in my program and with my coach.

How did your previous work or life experience prepare you for a good food job?

I love connecting with people deeply, one on one. My jobs through GFJ were to deliver local, ready-to-cook meals to customers and set up milk tastings at stores throughout NYC that sold Five Acre Farms milk. What I loved about the work was that I was the face of these companies for the customers. Their interaction with me could make or break their experience with the company.

What I have learned about myself since college, however, is that I do best when I am working as my own boss. To be on someone else’s schedule is quite frustrating for me, especially when it is not suited for me. As a life coach, it is on me to create a daily and weekly schedule where I can thrive and enjoy life. I have a network of coaches who have my back in creating the life I desire most, and who will re-presence me to the life I want when I am living in fear or self-defense.

All of my experiences working with people have shown me the essential value that I provide. I am a great listener, I am compassionate, joyful, curious, and playful. People seek me out for being myself, and I am also able to see more clearly who is a good fit for me.

What was the greatest obstacle you had to overcome in pursuing your Good Food Job dream?

The greatest obstacle I overcame was fully committing to the process of becoming a life coach and accepting what was so. I created my first client in April, 2016, and my comfort zone was stretched as I brought on more clients and charged more for my services. My year-long training with Accomplishment Coaching was a confrontational process, one where I questioned my ‘enoughness’ as a person and coach many times. The support from the coaches in the program and the folks in my cohort, however, was sufficient for me to persevere to the point where now I am going back to the program as mentor coach!

Name one positive thing that a former employer taught you that you continue to appreciate?

Gift giving is not one of my love languages. I like to spend time with people and pay for experiences, not things. I do like receiving gifts, however. My first boss out of college wrote me a card a month into my job, saying how happy she was to have me on the team. It took my by surprise that she felt that way, because I could not tell she felt that way on the surface. The card showed me that I was appreciated and that what I saw in her, on the surface, was the stress of being an entrepreneur starting a new business. What I have taken from this experience is to acknowledge people for who they are first, and then how they have helped me grow. There is severe lack of acknowledgement in the world, and to acknowledge another for who they are is a gift.

What can you identify as the greatest opportunities in food right now? 

The DIY movement has been normalized for many people in my life. I think that this creates a wonderful opportunity for people to experiment with growing their own food, trying new recipes, building all different types of kitchen tools, from wooden spoons to tables, etc. I also see an opportunity for people to validate working with food. Food workers sustain us, from farmers, to chefs, to bussers. These people are tasked with feeding all of us, and must be compensated well for it to be worth their time. Food, alcohol, and coffee are being seen by more and more people as respectable crafts, with many different avenues for exploration, which will ultimately make these professions desirable for more people. We will always need (I think!) people to cook and grow our food, source our coffee beans, and brew our beers.

If you could be compensated for your work with something other than money, what would it be? 

If there was a universal basic income and money was not needed, I would be compensated with meals at whatever restaurants I wanted or trips to places I have never been.