One question we're asked a lot at Good Food Jobs is, 'Where are your jobs located?', and many folks assume that the answer is just in New York, or New York and California. In fact, we're a global site, which means that anyone with a credit card and a need for passionate employees or partners can post on GFJ. But the most interesting part of this question has to do with the community of GFJ users. People like Roberta write to us regularly, from all over the world, to say that they found an immediate connection with GFJ, and they want more - more jobs in their location, more community around food, and more opportunities to connect through food. So wherever you happen to be reading this from, Roberta's story is for you, because we are all in it together.
When did you know that you wanted to work in food?
Cooking has been always an important part of my life. I remember my grandmother preparing bread in the countryside, lovely tomatoes in the sun. Memories and time. Food is my identity. Some people say that when they are tired, they avoid cooking, and I think the opposite. When I feel tired or sad, cooking, with its lovely colors and smells, is therapy for me.
How did you get your current good food job?
I decided to invest in my passion for food and creativity last year. It was February 2016. Friends always tell me that I am very good and special when I cook, so I simply followed their suggestion to try to publish a website and a facebook profile with some pictures of my small home restaurant and my dishes. During the same summer, I started to produce my first jams and pickles with a new brand, Merendella Chic. I have been dreaming about this project for ages. As an author, I wrote my first recipe book in 2014. I remember that a friend encouraged me to approach editors several times, and to insist if they refused or were indifferent. So I did, and I published my small recipe book dedicated to Calabria (South of Italy), the region I come from.
How did your previous work or life experience prepare you for a good food job?
I have been a manager for a while. I have been working in a different sector, but that job helped me to developed several skills, especially related to logistical and financial matters. To be able to plan, to save money, and reach a result are important goals to maintain, no matter the sector you are working in. I also believe in a sort of problem-solving ability and creativity - I think to have both is a magical mix.
What was the greatest obstacle you had to overcome in pursuing your Good Food Job dream?
When I feel down I normally call my friends, the ones who strongly believe in my motivation and talent. They support me and tell me to keep going. They remind me that I have a lot of passion, that others see a lot of beauty in my dishes, and that I am an artist. These are the things that make me feel better. Once a friend of mine told me something about mistakes which helped me a lot, as I am quite a perfectionist: he told me that mistakes are not 'mistakes', but simply events that help us to avoid other roads or choices. He taught me to read them as capital, as an investment rather than a failure.
One of the limits that I face every day is the fact that I do not not like marketing and I do not like to show off my work. I haven't actually solved this problem yet, but I'm working on it!
Name one positive thing that a former employer taught you that you continue to appreciate?
When I was working in a bistro, the President of the company visited me, drank a juice and ate a cake I had prepared. Before leaving, he told me that everything was simply perfect and that I also showed class, elegance and style during the service. Another time, while I was participating in a radio program talking about difficulties small producers face in Italy, a lady called to buy my products. She hadn't tasted them, knew nothing about them except that she said she understood the quality I put into them by the tone and the passion of my voice!
What can you identify as the greatest opportunities in food right now?
I live in Italy, Milan, and to be honest I think that too many people are investing in the food sector right now. Most of them, unfortunately, only need to invest capital. For me, the greatest opportunity in food is the possibility to express your creativity and to be surrounded by people ready to understand your style and values. I am looking for a sponsor for my organic jams and preserves, somebody who likes my style and understands the brand. Currently they are only available locally in Italy, but I would love to export. It is very difficult here - bureaucracy and taxation do not help small producers. Maybe, somebody will read this and reach out with an idea!
If you could be compensated for your work with something other than money, what would it be?
It would be sharing food with people I love and eating with them!