Nicole's media company, NAT Media, focuses on unheard food narratives. Her southern heritage provides a unique perspective, but her ability to see the value in those stories, and work hard to raise the volume on them, is what inspires us most.
When did you know that you wanted to work in food?
I started a gourmet candy business in college but my 'aha' moment happened when I moved to the northeast. The artisanal/DIY food community helped shape my new media career. So many folks who were along side me during the rise of the Brooklyn food scene have gone out of business or switched careers. Finishing The UpSouth Cookbook: Chasing Dixie in a Brooklyn Kitchen solidified years of home cooking and being my family/friends go-to culinary person.
How did you get your current good food job?
I think hosting Hot Grease Podcast on Heritage Radio Network laid the groundwork for becoming an author. I didn't set out to write about food. My goal was to fill a small void in the storytelling space. Most people refer to me as a blogger but I say not really - I'm a media maker and influencer. Since 2008, my social media handles remain the place where I'm myself. That means I make a point to retweet and share things others aren't talking about, and snap photos of restaurants not showing up on popular instagram feeds. I credit twitter for opening up the floodgates to super cool experiences and paid gigs.
How did your previous work or life experience prepare you for a good food job?
I've pretty much always worked for large nonprofits or grassroots organizations centered around wellness. Most often, I managed projects in "start-up mode". I found myself brainstorming grant ideas, then implementing. That series of positions taught me self-motivation, how to ignite passion and when to move on.
What was the greatest obstacle you had to overcome in pursuing your Good Food Job dream?
The biggest hurdle is charting my own path. Yes, I've studied the careers of successful food writers/cookbook authors like Melissa Clark and Jessica B. Harris. Today's food media game is wildly different than 15 years ago. The two things I try to remember when chasing my dreams are "business over emotions" and "always work hard". I've considered throwing in the towel on being an independent media maker. I'm almost certain it had something to do with zero funds coming in the door. What helped was a solid day wandering around New York City with no agenda and reminding myself that only a handful of African-Americans are telling unheard culinary stories.
Name one positive thing that a former employer taught you that you continue to appreciate?
Since I was 15 years old, I've had a job. I can't recall where I learned to keep a journal of work tasks and a written daily summary. This ledger functions as a barometer of success. On more than a few occasions, I've decided not to hire interns and assistants based on the fact that they didn't write things down. My stacks of red moleskine notebooks were the center of many jokes with my assistant while recipe testing The UpSouth Cookbook. She understood that google docs are only one part of my daily grind.
What can you identify as the greatest opportunities in food right now?
With traditional food blogs on life support, I see opportunities for creative content. Single subject cookbooks, podcasts and zines are the place to be - low entry points. If you can bootstrap one project, it will lead to bigger things.
If you could be compensated for your work with something other than money, what would it be?