Interview with a Gastronomist, Part 1

Today I have a special treat for my readers. I have had the privilege of being able to interview my professor of gastronomy at the Culinary Institute of America, Beth Forrest, who has taken time out of her incredibly busy schedule to answer a few of my questions. Besides being a doctoral candidate in the field of gastronomy at Boston University, she has been a professor of Gastronomy and Food and Wine at Boston University. This marks part 1 of 3 in our interview.

What made you want to go into your field of work?
Teaching gastronomy is the trifecta of things I love: food, history, and teaching. My original plans were to finish my undergraduate degree and then going back for my teaching certificate and teach high school history. After I finished with my BA, I spent a year backpacking around Europe and realized that I had so much more to learn about history so returned to school an earned a M.A. in medieval European history. When that was done, I thought I STILL had more to learn, so I returned for a PhD in early modern European history. When I was applying for my PhD program, I realized that I wanted to study food, but it was seen as a topic for non-serious students (these days, it is okay to come out and declare that you study food!). I use food as a lens to discover the social and cultural history of people — the history of mentalite,which simply means the thought processes, values and beliefs of people. Because food is so loaded with meaning (and everyone eats) it can be looked at in any culture at any time.

Have you always enjoyed gastronomy, and its surrounding fields?
Absolutely! When I look back on my life, I see that I’ve always participated in it, even if I didn’t know about it. Academically, I wrote undergraduate papers on the political uses of the banquet in medieval society. I began studying history when it was popular to be multi-disciplinary and draw on scholarship and methodology outside of history — anthropology in particular. In fact, it is still debated whether gastronomy is a field in-and-of itself or if it is interdisciplinary much like an American Studies and one needs to study food through an established discipline. Food food, I think that if one is to understand “complete history” one must think about the structures/institutions (sociology), how the geography might influence a culture (geography), how the culture at one particular place and time might have meaning (anthropology), etc. etc. in order to understand a historic episode. It makes it both daunting and exciting. I also grew up in a family that spent a lot of time in the kitchen and surrounded by food-related activities. We always had a large garden and herb garden and my father kept bees. We would spend a lot of time “putting food up” for the winter (canning), and my mother baked bread, made yogurt, and my father grew grapes and made wine (it was terrible stuff). When we traveled, my mother also always brought us to a local
grocery store as she thought it was a great way to learn about a culture.

Where have you traveled? Do you have a favorite culture?
I’ve always placed a high value on travel, to the expense of other things, such as nice clothes, cars, apartments! Austria, Belgium, Bolivia, Canada, Czech Republic, England, France, Germany, Greece, Iceland, Italy, India, Ireland, Luxembourg, Morocco, Netherlands, Portugal, Peru, Poland, Turkey, Scotland, Spain, Switzerland, Wales. I’ve made wonderful people everywhere I’ve gone. Each culture is fascinating on its own and has amazing historical &
gustatory offerings.

If you enjoyed the first part of this interview from my culinary school professor, then you will enjoy next weeks posting where we discuss the future of gastronomy, her defining moments, what she does to keep lessons fresh and intuitive, and much more.

Browse Culinary Arts Schools & Colleges

Refine School Matches
Hide filters
  • SUBJECT

    See More

  • DEGREE

    See More

  • PROGRAM TYPE

  • START TIME

    LOCATION
    Please enter valid US or Canada Zip.
            Results open in new window

            Searching Searching ...

            Matching School Ads
            5 Program(s) Found
            • Alumni have appeared in reality competition shows such as Top Chef and Project Runway.
            • Has a team of about 4,000 faculty members focused on helping students tap opportunities in a marketplace driven by ideas.
            • Offers programs in design, media arts, fashion, and culinary.
            • Provides program coordinators who work with students to ensure they have the learning materials, assignments, facilities, and faculty to get the most out of the program.
            • Over 50 campus locations nationwide.
            Good for Working Adults
            • Flexible Scheduling
            • Financial Aid
            • Transferable Credits
            5 Program(s) Found
            • Received the 2015 and 2013 “Cooking School of the Year” Award of Excellence from the International Association of Culinary Professionals (IACP).
            • Accredited by the Accrediting Commission of Career Schools and Colleges (ACCSC).
            • Externship opportunities are available at numerous famous New York City restaurants.
            • Campus is located near downtown Manhattan, within walking distance of many popular attractions such as the Radio City Music Hall.
            Show more [+]
            Good for Working Adults
            • Flexible Scheduling
            • Financial Aid
            1 Program(s) Found

            Baker College is the largest independent college in Michigan with the most focused approach to education and training available. Our mission is to prepare you for meaningful employment.

            5 Program(s) Found

            Sullivan University is a private institution of higher learning dedicated to providing educational enrichment opportunities for the intellectual, social and professional development of its students. The institution offers career-focused curricula with increasing rigor from the certificate through diploma, associate, bachelor’s, master’s and doctoral degree levels. Throughout those curricula, the university seeks to promote the development of critical thinking, effective verbal and written communication, computer literacy, and teamwork as well as an appreciation for life-long learning, cultural diversity and the expression of professionalism in all activities. At the graduate level, the university also seeks to promote a culture of research.

            4 Program(s) Found
            • Hands-on culinary education with focused attention on each student
            • An ACCSC School of Excellence with multiple “Best Vocational Cooking School” awards*
            • 15,000 graduates, including celebrities like Bobby Flay, David Chang, and Christina Tosi*
            • Programs in Culinary Entrepreneurship, Professional Culinary Arts, Professional Pastry Arts, and much more
            • Campuses in New York and Silicon Valley with nearby housing available
            Show more [+]
            4 Program(s) Found
            • Gives students the opportunity to earn their associate’s degree in the culinary arts field in less than 15 months or bachelor’s degree in the food service management field in 2.5 years through their year-round schedule.
            • Located in Norfolk and Newport News, Virginia.
            • Offers externship experiences to students for experience in the field.
            • Hosts regular career fairs for employer recruitment.
            • Has student housing available.
            • Accredited by the Commission on Colleges of the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools (SACSCOC).
            Show more [+]
            3 Program(s) Found
            L'Ecole Culinaire , Kansas City
            • Offers educational opportunities for the aspiring, career-minded chef.
            • Students are trained by professional chefs and spend the majority of their final term working in the campus restaurant to learn all phases of the culinary industry.
            • St. Louis campus offers new Food Truck Entrepreneurship courses.
            • Has a student-run food truck that tours around St. Louis.
            • All campuses have a public restaurant where food is prepared and served by students.
            Show more [+]
            Good for Working Adults
            • Flexible Scheduling
            • Financial Aid
            • Transferable Credits