Old jobs, new jobs: Rewriting a future in food

Introducing Rewrites, our new series about people who have redefined their future—and believe that a life in food is still possible.

Job loss and the pandemic go sadly hand in hand: 2.5 million restaurant workers out of work, a ripple effect on businesses that relied on them, farmers with crops they couldn’t sell. We’ve heard more than we ever wanted about people whose lives have been turned upside down.

And yet food people, whatever sector they’re in, don’t give up easily, in part because they are driven as much by passion as practicality. Maybe more so; these are not careers that scream certainty or attract the buttoned-down. People have decided, or been forced to decide, that it’s time to rewrite the future, whether that means an adjustment—a new job, a reconfigured business—or something more dramatic. Leaving the field is not an option for most of them, it seems. And for every one who did step away, there are newcomers who’ve been drawn in. 

Rewrites is our second set of reader stories, following Eating In, a series about our altered relationship to what and how we eat, during many months of lockdowns and shortages. This time we’re listening to people who have defined a new future for themselves—a legendary 85-year-old chef who found new urgency as an activist for the unemployed; a high-profile food journalist who jumped from a toxic workplace without a net; a corporate lawyer who started making wildly popular vegan cooking videos; a cattle rancher who was forced to fundamentally upend the way she did business. 

The footing’s still unstable, in the new food community, but we’ve all learned how to be a bit more nimble than we used to be. The one thing these stories have in common is absolute faith that a life in food is still possible, and still gratifying—no matter how unexpected it is. 

Art by Erick Ramos. If you are interested in being featured in our Rewrites series, email [email protected]

Karen Stabiner is The Counter's West Coast editor and the author of Generation Chef, about a young chef who opens his first restaurant. Karen teaches at the Columbia University graduate school of journalism; to learn more about her books and articles, visit karenstabiner.com.