Adventures in the Specialty Food Trade: A Unique Culinary Career

by Sonja Albrecht
CulinaryEd Columnist
May 19, 2011

In an era of mass production, it's good to know there's still a place for Imperial Reserve caviar from the Caspian sturgeon Acipensur persicus. If you can distinguish Sel Gris de I'lle de Re sea salt from Morton's, you might have a taste for a specialty food career.

Prospects for Adventurous Foodies

According to the National Association for the Specialty Food Trade, the demand for 'haute' grocery has soared since 2002. "Specialty foods are a vibrant and growing industry," says Ron Tanner of the NASFT. "People are interested in buying quality food with a certification and with a personality."

This trend may expand in the next decade, as 2011's young people gain purchasing power. Specialty Food Magazine notes that this web-savvy generation "possesses a sense of adventure and interest in other cultures." They gravitate toward exotic cuisines and "innovative, high quality, healthful" products.

An Example in Action: Trader Joe's Travels

Joe Coulombe, AKA Trader Joe, built his food career around the theme of culinary adventure. Hoping to "turn a mundane shopping trip into a treasure hunt," he stocked his store's shelves with obscure brands and exotic foods. On the principle that people are more apt to try new things while traveling, he outfitted his staff with Hawaiian shirts and his stores with nautical decor and cedar plank walls.

Education for the Road: A Culinary MBA

Wondering what kind of culinary school education to pursue for a specialty food career? Many culinary schools offer a business culinary master's program, essentially an MBA for culinary professionals. Keep an eye out for a business culinary master's program that caters specifically to the food retail industry; many school programs slant toward hospitality careers. A specialty food business student should make an effort to learn about business and entrepreneurship, and perhaps to network with industry professionals. If you want to turn culinary school training and food wanderlust into a career, a business culinary master's program can help you get there.


  1. Dean & Deluca
  2. Specialtyfood.com
  3. Gourmet Retailer
  4. Gourmet News
  5. National Association for the Specialty Food Trade (NASFT)
  6. Trader Joe's

About the Author

Sonja Albrecht works as a writer and editor for an online media company. She has also taught college writing and completed a Ph.D. in English.
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