"Foodies" with a Taste for Nutrition
When Kyle Shadix's high school home economics teacher in his hometown of Bremen, Ga., saw his talent for food and cooking, she encouraged him to consider culinary schools or university programs in food science or in nutrition. Intrigued but unable to decide among those options, Shadix chose all three.
I arrived at the University of Georgia with a weighty goal: to become "the James Beard of healthy cooking." A major in consumer foods and nutrition with a minor in French and food science may at first seem like an odd combination. But during my junior year, I spent 11 months at the Universite d' Orléans in France, learning about language and culture — not to mention bistros, brasseries, patisseries and boulangeries — and by the time I returned to Georgia I was hooked. Ten years, two countries and three schools later, I was a certified chef de cuisine and a registered dietitian.
Being a chef and RD has opened many doors for me. I have worked as a menu consultant, recipe developer and private chef, as well as in many restaurant and company management roles. I have found great satisfaction in sharing my knowledge through teaching collegiate food and nutrition courses.
Expertise in nutrition, food science and the culinary arts has also proven to be quite marketable to the news media: I write columns for three magazines, have appeared on numerous television shows and I'm a published author.
Now, not all of this landed in my lap just because I had the RD credential and chef certification. But there are many professional opportunities for "foodie" RDs — from research and development to cooking class instruction and everything in between.
Whether you are interested in becoming a certified chef or simply developing your cooking skills, there are programs all over the country. In addition to well-known chef academies, many community colleges offer excellent culinary training, and the cost is very affordable. Plus, tuition and equipment can be tax-deductible for continuing education and there are many scholarships you can apply for.
For RDs not looking to turn their culinary interest into full-time education, there are local classes and short courses. For example, the Culinary Institute of America in Hyde Park, N.Y., and Napa Valley, Calif., and Johnson & Wales University in Providence, R.I., which has satellite campuses all over the country, offer "culinary boot camps" and certificate programs tailored for enthusiasts.
The American Culinary Federation offers various levels of culinary certification as well. For example, some RDs may already qualify to become certified culinarians. The first step in chef's certification requires knowledge of preparing a certain set of food items, food safety and sanitation, culinary nutrition and supervisory management.
And let's not forget all the resources offered by the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics, such as dietetic practice groups (DPGs). I gained much of my networking and promoting skills through my membership in the Nutrition Entrepreneurs and Food & Culinary Professionals DPGs.
Coupling culinary arts with dietetics practice has created many opportunities for me and I'm not at all surprised it's becoming such a popular discipline. When I reflect on my career and the places it's taken me, I thank my stars I listened to the advice of my high school home economics teacher all those years back.
Resources for Culinary Scholarships
- International Association of Culinary Professionals Foundation
- National Restaurant Association Educational Foundation Scholarships and Mentoring Initiative
- Hospitality Sales and Marketing Association International
- The American Institute of Wine & Food
- StarChefs.com Rising Star Scholarships
- James Beard Foundation