A year ago, if you said you were heading down to Red Hook, Brooklyn to get a buzz on, we'd look for you at the Sixpoint Brewery. But these days, you're more likely to be frequenting the Stumptown Coffee Roastery. Behind the garage door of an unassuming warehouse you'll find Ed and his cohorts carefully crafting the buzz that you crave. Don't be fooled - it's no easy feat. Though Stumptown does house a large roasting machine, the quality of the final product results from the timing and intuition of the roasters themselves, who use their heightened senses throughout the process to evaluate the colors, aromas, sounds, and shapes of the beans. Who knew that your morning cup was a work of art? Now meet the artist.
What attracted you to a good food job?
I have been a coffee drinker for most of my life. My parents owned a restaurant during my childhood and I began drinking coffee there. I loved the flavor and the feeling of enjoying a nice cup of what was actually not very good coffee. Years later, I lived in Portland, OR and was introduced to specialty coffee by Stumptown. I loved the smell and flavor and the feeling but there was something else (besides the insanely delicious flavors I had never experienced before in a cup of coffee!), a story behind the beans. I became friends with baristas through discussion of the stories. Upon moving to New York, I decided to follow specialty coffee. I enjoyed the relationships and the people that were drawn to such a delicious profession. As most of us in specialty industries are, I found myself on a quest to get closer to the source. After a few years of slinging espresso in various cafes in NYC, I decided to take a step closer to the source and begin roasting coffee. Timing was perfect because Stumptown was looking for someone to roast for them in Brooklyn. I took the job!
How did your previous work or life experience prepare you for a good food job?
My work in the food industry awakened and trained my palate. I worked many years in kitchens which gave me organizational skills as well as the ability to work under pressure. I spent some time in sales which gave me the ability to work with people and help to fill their needs. I was a bartender for a few years at a craft brewpub which helped me describe differences in flavors and brewing techniques of different beers. Coffee is a very positive industry. I am a people-person which became a useful tool on many levels including peer to peer, server to customer, roaster to producer relationships. Growing up in Montana, we didn't feel very connected to the rest of the world. Working in my industry has allowed me to establish relationships all over the world.
What advice do you have for others in search of a good food job?
Stay in "sponge-form" by absorbing as much as you can from your coworkers and people around you. Stay enthusiastic, positive, humble and passionate. Don't forget to taste what you make and follow the path of most delicious!
If you could be compensated for your work with something other than money, what would it be?
Of course, I would need good coffee but that's too easy. I would like to be compensated with travel. A plane ticket to Africa, Indonesia or Latin America every month would be great!