This is part 2 in a two-part series about my dietitian career path. See part 1 here!
Year 4-5: Hy-Vee/Retail Culinary Dietitian
I wasn’t resentful about moving to Nebraska – at least, not for a while. Ryan’s opportunity to fulfill his dream of becoming a collegiate sports dietitian had been a long time in the making; I was excited things were falling into place for him. It’s fun to see your spouse succeed, and if had not had been for his unwavering support during my time in culinary school and building my business, things may have looked very different for me during those first years in my career. I was happy to have a turn to be the cheerleader.
At the same time, I had doubts that I’d find a job I loved as much in Lincoln, NE. It had taken me three years to build up a pool of contacts/potential clients in Dallas – and it was a thriving metropolis for the personal chef types. Lincoln did not hold the same promise, but I made an attempt to find clients anyway.
My first attempt involved taking some business cards to a grocery store I had never heard of that I had learned employed a dietitian. I figured it wouldn’t hurt to go and introduce myself and let her know that if she knew of any customers who needed a personal chef, I would jump at the opportunity to meet that need. That’s all that I intended to come from my meeting with her. However, two weeks later, I became her co-worker. This was the first of several jobs I’ve had that didn’t require an interview and where my experience in culinary school paid off in ways I wouldn’t have anticipated.
The managers at this particular Hy-Vee saw the opportunity to have a dietitian with culinary training on staff to be very desirable and offered me a job the day of that first visit. I was surprised, grateful, and took them up on the offer, seeing that I was very unfamiliar with my new mid-Western surroundings and not sure that I’d have many other opportunities.
My job at Hy-Vee involved doing cooking demonstrations, cooking classes, giving wellness presentations to local business, one-on-one nutrition counseling, and conducting grocery store tours. I had a lot on my plate, and every day looked different than the one before.
The thing I loved most about my job at Hy-Vee was that it made me really comfortable with teaching classes to groups and giving presentations. I had not had the opportunity to do much of this up to this point, and it proved to be a great creative outlet.
Although my job at Hy-Vee was creative enough, I began to miss the freedom that came with entrepreneurship and decided to create something of my own. I wanted a space to share what was of value to me, in hopes that others would find value and be inspired. That’s when starting a cooking blog went from idea to reality, and I poured hours upon hours into getting it going. While Ryan was busy working 10+ hour days and weekends at UNL, I was working on Sweet Cayenne. Not only was the blog a great way to pass the time, it also proved to be an open door to new unexpected opportunities.
Year 5-7 A Little Bit of This and A Little Bit of That
Towards the end of our first year in NE, I was asked to join a culinary tour for dietitians that was sponsored by the NE, KS, and MO Beef councils. The tour consisted of RDs who had a strong social media presence and worked in the realm of culinary nutrition. I had a feeling that my blog + position in retail nutrition had something to do with how/why I was invited. Since I had never been on a press trip before, it seemed like a good opportunity to network and get to know some RDs in the Midwest region.
Right before I went on the tour, Ryan accepted a position as a director of sports nutrition in Missouri. We had barely been in NE a year and here we were, getting ready to pack up again! I had no idea what I was going to do for work once we moved, but at least I had my blog!
The culinary tour could not have come at a better time – it was this experience that connected me with the Missouri Beef Council who, at the time, were in search of a local dietitian to do contract work with. I did my first event with them within 2 weeks of relocating to Columbia and the timing could not have been better!
Since we have moved to Columbia, I have continued my partnership with the Missouri Beef Council for two years and counting. It’s been such a fun experience for me, as most of my work has involved teaching cooking classes all over the state. I’ve presented on the radio, at marathon races, in grocery stores, to nutrition students, and at the annual Pasture to Plate farm tour. Seriously, this has been such a fun job that it often does not even feel like work. And that’s the ultimate goal, right?
My time in Columbia has also involved a few side gigs that have proved to be great career enhancements and helped me to get connected in the community. I’ve worked PRN at the local hospital, done some freelance writing, and now have moved on to a more full-time position with the University. My new job involves precepting dietetic interns and serving as a nutrition research consultant. Again, this is a position that kind of just fell in my lap. I wasn’t looking for it and didn’t interview for it – it just came to be as I tried to be as proactive as possible with letting others know about my skill set and passion for entrepreneurship and culinary nutrition.
Between my role at the University, contract work with the Missouri Beef Council, and working on Sweet Cayenne, I have more than enough work to fill up full-time job requirements. But I still have the freedom that comes with being self-employed, and there is a lot of variety in what I do. This is how I like it to be, and I’m thankful to finally be getting settled again like I was in Dallas before we moved.
My dietitian career has been unexpected up to this point and has lots of twists and turns. However, each phase has proven to offer invaluable lessons to be learned new experiences to be had. I’m grateful for each step along the journey and have faith that the future will be just as exciting!
If you missed part 1 of my dietitian career journey, see it here!