2013 KRISTIN COLE
IMPROVISATIONAL CULINARY ARTIST, FREELANCE EVENT PLANNER, CHEF COORDINATOR, WILDSOUL
Those of us who have experienced the struggle of not knowing what to do with our career, and when, will be envious of Kristin’s ability to navigate a freelance work life that defies (and exceeds) expectation. She wears multiple hats and thrives on variety. The moral of her story is that she knows herself well enough to understand that one regular, steady job would never satisfy her. For more on Kristin, visit her gorgeous website and check out a recent article on her work at wildsoul, featuring some of her very own recipes.
When did you know that you wanted to work in food?
From a young age, I showed curiosity in smells, tastes and appearances of exotic foods. Whenever we traveled, I was the one that insisted on trying new things and would drag my family on properly researched “detours” to markets and to specialty food vendors for authentic treats. As I grew older and my travels widened, I would seek out cooking classes, closed door restaurants, and any opportunity to talk to and learn from locals. In a sense, I was building my own community around the art of food shopping, cooking and eating. I have learned so much about myself and others through the simple act of gathering around a table and sharing – sharing traditions, stories, laughs and many hours of slow eating and drinking. I knew for certain that food would weave itself into my career and every day life but didn’t quite know the how.
How did you get your current good food job?
I created it! Because of my varied interests and passions, I couldn’t settle for just one job (have not had luck with that path in the past) but rather, would have to make a career out of multiple jobs and freelance projects. This allows me to keep all of my kitchen and knife skills current, maintain my communication style (in-person meetings are still essential regardless of what people tell you) and work in varying environments, especially outdoors. Serendipity, connections and positive energy all helped to pave the way. Now I get to do what I love everyday and when I work (whether it’s cooking, hosting an event or coordinating the chefs for a yoga farm-to-table experience), it feels like no effort at all except for the physical exhaustion that sometimes settles in after long bursts of being on my feet. My personal life feels so balanced – I haven’t set an alarm in years! Days are fun and varied, so among the freelance work at coffee shops and myriad events I manage and cook for on nights and weekends, I find time to work out, meet with friends and take care of myself. I’ve managed to build a large network in the bay area and make it a priority to connect to and collaborate with peers who are treading the same freelance path.
How did your previous work or life experience prepare you for a good food job?
Corporate events, culinary school, kitchens in Italy, catering on a farm — All of these prior experiences have allowed me to work with a diversity of people and environments and to respect everyone for their individual talents. It’s essential to recognize that each person brings a unique layer to the collaborative group spirit of an event. I love that I have participated in all angles of the food and events industries because it enables me to experience and understand the many working parts, and better help to orchestrate all of the players. My passion for nature has fostered a deep-seated respect for the land and those that grow my food. My yoga and meditation practices have kept me balanced, grounded and prepared to handle any situation off the mat with patience and a positive spirit.
What was the greatest obstacle you had to overcome in pursuing your Good Food Job dream?
Believing that I could actually sustain myself without a steady income stream, employer-provided benefits or vacation days. But through the support and word-of-mouth praise from those who trusted my skills, I knew it was time to just push forward and make it a reality. I’ve never been one to lay out a 5 or 10 year plan but rather, have always followed my gut instincts. It’s tough to be the black sheep but I’m incredibly happy with my lifestyle and fulfilled with this path I have chosen.
What can you identify as the greatest opportunities in food right now?
The ability to create magical experiences around food that highlight wellness and the health value of eating directly from the land. Connecting directly with the farmers or artisans who grew or produced your food, and the cooks who so lovingly nourished you. People are incredibly receptive to the mindful quality of the cooking process and to not being afraid to rely on the senses. We need to teach each other that the act of cooking is essential to sustain ourselves and our planet and that it need not be so intimidating and entirely recipe-based, hence my self-proclaimed title of “Improvisational Culinary Artist.”
If you could be compensated for your work with something other than money, what would it be?
Since I’m already gifted plenty of farm produce and event leftovers (half-open wine bottles, flower arrangements, the random heads of garlic and lemons), I’d love to be compensated with authentic travel experiences. Stays at agriturismos, personalized tours through local markets, and meals shared with old and new friends.