If you were told that an English major, an Italian major, a legal studies major, a biology major and an athletic training major all shared something in common in terms of their career, would you find it hard to believe? This was the case for the five women on the panel at the Career Services event, “A Taste for Success: Careers in Food” held Thursday, Sept. 15 in Bent Hall.
“It doesn’t matter what major you are, you can still get involved in a food career,” said Stephanie Solomon, a lawyer-turned-entrepreneur. Solomon opened two Chocolate Works stores, a franchise that specializes in making customized sweets, as well as hosting workshops and parties.
After taking a leap of faith, Solomon said she has found more happiness out of her current career than being a lawyer could offer.
Two of the women on the panel were St. John’s graduates, Victoria Gander (class of 2012) and Rossella Rago (class of 2009). As an undergrad, Gander studied biology and was an Ozanam scholar.
After St. John’s, Gander went on to earn her Master’s degree in public health and now works for the NYC Department of Health and Mental Hygiene at the Brooklyn District Public Health Office. She coordinates programs that help to incorporate healthy eating and lifestyle into underprivileged Brooklyn communities.
“I don’t expect anyone to know what they want to do with their life going into college as an 18-year-old freshman,” she said.
Rago is the star of “Cooking with Nonna,” an online cooking show and food webisode series that recently won Food Network’s “24-Hour Restaurant Battle.” Like the other panelists, Rago didn’t intend on having a job involving food. As a student at St. John’s, Rago aspired to be an Italian teacher.
“Just because you went to school for something doesn’t mean you will actually land a job in that field,” she said.
On “Cooking with Nonna,” a different Italian grandmother is featured on each episode alongside Rago as they cook old-school Italian recipes.
With over 330,000 fans on Facebook, Rago gives partial credit to social media for the show’s success.
“If you can focus on one platform and build it up, it can be extremely valuable,” Rago said.
As an English major, Andrea Lynn knew that she wanted to be a writer but didn’t know what she wanted to write about.
After holding several unfulfilling positions at newspapers, she decided to go to culinary school and take up food writing.
Lynn has become a freelance food writer and has written her own cookbooks as well as recipes for different food media platforms including Better Homes & Gardens, Serious Eats and Rachael Ray.
Amy Connell, ATC, RD, CCSD is the campus dietitian/sports nutritionist here at St. John’s, where she primarily works with the student-athletes. She also provides all students with nutritional information and distributes weekly healthy food samples throughout the St. John’s campuses.
Her initial interest in athletic training and helping athletes with injuries turned into a passion for nutrition when she realized the important role that food has for an athlete’s body and performance.
At the end of the event, the panel opened for discussion. It’s amazing to see how five different people have changed their career paths so much. It is also a relief to college students because it shows that it’s okay to be confused and uncertain about what you want to do.