Course Spotlight: Cultural Entrepreneurship

This post is the first in a series highlighting the ways students utilize Boston University’s many resources to cater the Gastronomy program to their own interests and needs.

by Carlos Olaechea

I’m sure many if not all Gastronomy students have run into a situation in which you are discussing your degree program with family, friends, or relatives and someone brings up this question: “What are you going to do with that degree?”  Sure, there are many opportunities to find careers with employers in both the public and private sectors, but a good number of us also have ideas to start our own businesses or projects.  Throughout our time as students, we receive a solid foundation in the theoretical aspects of food studies, and some of us supplement the core curriculum with courses in food writing, business, marketing, and culinary arts.  Nevertheless, sometimes we need some extra insight into how to take our post-graduation plans from a concept to a viable venture.  It was this need that led me to enroll in the Cultural Entrepreneurship class in the Arts Administration Department.

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Guest Post: The Food Loft Redefines Culinary Entrepreneurship

Throughout the year, the BU Gastronomy blog will feature occasional posts from special guest writers including current students, recent alumni, professors, and more. The following Guest Post and photographs are brought to you by Gastronomy student Claudia Catalano.


What is a food entrepreneur? Those in tune with the local food movement might imagine a food truck venture, a banker-turned-baker, or perhaps an artisan working out of a culinary incubator like Jamaica Plain’s Crop Circle Kitchen. But at the Food Loft, Boston’s latest co-working space for startups, food entrepreneurship has grown to encompass more than you think.

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Founded by the publishers at Harvard Common Press, the Food Loft is a shared working space aimed at attracting passionate entrepreneurs in the food and food/tech industries. Gastronomy students Samantha Shane and Claudia Catalano were guests at the official opening party held at the South End location last month. Assistant Professor Rachel Black and Barbara Rotger of the Gastronomy program were also in attendance.

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The eclectic Albany Street space hosts a growing number of food-centered businesses with technology and social media at their core. Current tenants include Culture Magazine, Nosh On It, and Bakepedia. Despite their robust online presence, each of the food innovators seemed at home amongst the Oriental rugs, walls of books, and antique sculpture collections that adorn the office. Unlike the standard culinary incubator model, the space is not a shared kitchen, but rather a collaborative working environment where industry innovators can network, share ideas and discuss what’s next for food, business, and technology.

Guests at the launch party came from all over the Northeast to nibble sophisticated hors d’oeuvres and mingle with fellow cookbook publishers, food artisans, social media gurus and bloggers. Amid the 75 attendees was Jane Kelly of Eat Your Books – a personalized cookbook search engine where users can create their own virtual bookshelf. Kelly’s business idea is an example of food entrepreneurship that moves beyond food production to develop technology services for people who love to cook.

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Other attendees included Boston-based food writer and speaker Jacqueline Church, Janet Morgenstern of Jute Marketing – a firm specializing in sustainable and natural brands, and Jill Danielle Fisher, social media editor at America’s Test Kitchen. Traditional culinary entrepreneurs such as Bonnie Shershow of Bonnie’s Jams also joined the food-tech startups at the event. Shershow began making small-batch jams at Formaggio Kitchen over ten years ago and now sells her products nationwide.

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It is clear from the variety of business ideas represented at the Food Loft that there is a new breed of culinary entrepreneurs joining the food renaissance. While small-batch artisans, innovative chefs, and food trucks continue to tempt our palate, technologically savvy innovators are dreaming up new ways to enrich our relationship to food while carving out viable niches for themselves in today’s food industry.


Are you a current student or a recent alum with a food-filled story to share? Pitch your idea to gastronomyatbu@gmail.com and get published on the BU Gastronomy blog!