The Girl Who Ate Everything

Blogging about food and whatever since 2004.

The NYU Food Studies Program


Since I've received a few emails lately asking me about my experience in NYU's Food Studies program, I figured it'd be easier to post an entry about it that the whole Internet-surfing world could refer to instead of write the same email repeatedly. If you have more questions beyond what I touch upon here, feel free to leave a comment.

So...what's it like?

No one actually asked me that. I'd say the program is pretty cool. Yeah.

Undergraduate vs. Graduate Program

If you're serious about studying food, I'd suggest doing it as a graduate, not an undergrad. Then again, I'm not planning to go to grad school, so I'm glad I did it as an undergrad (my brain died as soon as I graduated college). My period of higher learning is over.

I can't give a whole lot of insight on the grad program, but as many classes were a mix of grad and undergrad, I can give a little peek.

How are the professors?

Jennifer Berg and Fabio Parasecoli are two of the most awesome professors I've ever had, luckily for multiple classes. They're those kinds of down-to-earth professors who don't act like they know everything in the world, except it's apparent after 10 minutes of sitting in one of their classes that they do. Scary smart, insanely nice, willing to help you whenever you need it...hell, they scare the crap out of me. But they're so nice, you can't actually be scared of them. You know what I mean? Okay.

Overall, I thought the faculty was great. I'm noting Jennifer and Fabio because to me, they're the top echelon of awesomeness, but other professors I liked are Amy Bentley, Damian Mosley, and Amy Topel (not sure if they're all teaching classes in the upcoming semesters). (I never got to take any classes with Marion Nestle since she only teaches grad level classes.) I don't think I ever had a food professor who wasn't passionate about whatever they were teaching, even if it was really boring. I mean, how exciting can talking about the standard sizes of ladles or the effects of E. coli possibly be? Admittedly, enthusiasm doesn't necessarily translate to a great learning experience—I felt that many introductory classes were too easy, except for food microbiology, which I did terribly in (STUPID E. COLI, DIE DIE DIE.)

What classes do you take?

You can view full course curriculums on the Department of Nutrition, Food Studies, and Public Health website. Sorry, too lazy to check myself and my memory is fuzzy. Basically I learned a little bit of all the major things related to the food industry. Aside from actually working in it. Oops.

How do the studies pertain to real-life employment?

I'm probably a really bad person to ask this since the job I have, while food related, has more to do with having a blog and knowledge of Internet what-not than being a food studies major. If I didn't work at Serious Eats, I have no freakin' clue what I'd be doing.

Er. Anyway. Food studies gives you a general overview of what's available in the food world (cooking, management, writing, anthropology, technology, wine and beverages, science, etc) from which you could figure out whether you love or loathe any particular concentration. I'm drawn towards the anthropological part (my favorite classes were related to food and culture, anything that you might read about in Gastronomica), but some people may want to go into food service. I think I'd want to cry every day if I did that. I already want to cry every day due to unrelated matters...but anyway, don't need to get into that.

Does anything suck?

A sentiment that some of my classmates and I shared about the undergrad program was that it didn't seem to build enough upon ...stuff. (Sorry; it's 1 AM and my brain is melting.) Or rather, a higher level class wouldn't build too much upon a prerequisite (although maybe that's just the way food studies is; it's not like math or science). As a senior, I wasn't required to do anything thesis-esque. Not to say I didn't have huge-ass essays to write, but there wasn't any kind of requirement to do a special project that I think I could've benefited from....or gone insane from...or both. During my last semester one of my professors told me that the department was going to change way the courses are structured.

I don't know much about the graduate program aside from that it's a gazillion times more challenging and, unsurprisingly, comprised of serious students who actually know stuff. The undergrad program feels like an introduction to everything, while the graduate program picks apart important stuff in detail. ...Know what I mean? Nah, I don't know what I'm talking about.

I'm sure I'll update this entry later and wonder, "What the hell did I write?"


Jenneke / April 9, 2008 3:58 AM

That sounds like sooooo much cool stuff to learn! Wish we had something like that in The Netherlands, but no.. I'm stuck studying Sociology. Nice, but learning about food and foodish stuff is way more interesting, I think.

olivia / April 9, 2008 7:56 AM

wait, so you don't remember which classes you took, and your only critique is that they didn't build on "stuff"? Robyn! for shaaaaame

roboppy / April 9, 2008 8:19 AM

Jenneke: It's pretty fun, besides that I got a lot of free food from cooking class...maybe that was the best part, HA HA.

Olivia: I said my brain was melting. :( Not enough of an excuse, I guess. As I was writing my classes, I was too tired to list all of em and didn't see the point of trying at that time. I'll try and remember my classes now that it's 8 AM and I probably won't get the chance to do this until much later (not that my brain works much better now)...

food management
beverages (wine tasting class, pretty much)
cooking classes (three levels, intro to food science, advanced foods, international foods)
food in the arts (two classes, film and performance)
nutrition in a global society
food and society
another class about issues of food in society, the real name escapes me
food of asia (not the real name, but the real title didn't say much about the class)
food in history
food and communication (editorial class)
[yawn]...I think I'm blanking out again
food microbiology
computers in food, or something like that (kinda pointless)
some other class about food service
food technology
food-related internship
POSSIBLY MORE but I'm going to stop here because I have to change out of my pajamas and go to work, hooray.

Overall I would say that that you probably shouldn't even do food studies as an undergrad since the grad program is better (not sure if I have to explain everything behind that?), but I didn't say it in those words and most people seem to be asking me about the MA program anyway. I'd say I'm glad I took it since I wasn't planning on going to grad school anyway; I don't think I'd be a serious enough student. I figured it would go without say that the grad students are way more dedicated and serious about their learning than the undergrad, not to say all my undergrad-only classes were bad, but sometimes the ones with a mix of students were made a lot better by the grad students.

Manda / April 9, 2008 2:21 PM

The Food Studies program sounds really cool!

I took an introductory Food Science & Technology class during my last year in college (UC Davis) and it was absolutely fantastic! Our textbook was Harold McGee's "On Food and Cooking" :D I even comtemplated changing my major from biochemistry to FOOD biochemistry after that class. I mean, it applied all the microbio and biochem that I had learned into something I deal with everyday - foodz.

The other fun class I took my senior year - Intro to Winemaking. Seeing the crazy cellars we had under our campus was sooooo neat!

Vincci / April 9, 2008 9:47 PM

Funny, I was looking at the Food Studies MA program a while back and then I decided I didn't want to go through the trouble of writing my GREs and that I should just go ahead and be a dietitian already.

In some way, it still sounds right up my alley though... maybe if I ever decide that nutrition is boring I'll do the big ol' switchover.

Jesse / April 9, 2008 10:02 PM

This is the only guide I've come across that uses the word "stuff" to describe... err, stuff. AWESOME! I love you Robyn!

roboppy / April 9, 2008 10:09 PM

Ruibo: No problem, I hope it helps! It was unfortunately all written in a sleepy manner...uh...yeah I don't even want to read over what I wrote, it scares me so.

Doug: That's funny, I KEEP SENDING THEM TO YOU.

Manda: Food biochem sounds much cooler than regular biochem. Cos...I feel like you'd have more opportunities to eat. ;D

Winemaking sounds awesome! Or more awesome than just swooshing wine around your mouth and spitting it out. I spat, at least. Can't say the same about all my classmates...[cough]

Vincci: I used to want to study nutrition, but then I don't think I could practice what I preach. -_- "EAT MORE! MORE PORK! YEAH!" I don't suppose dietitians get to say that much.

Jesse: Stuff. Stuff? Stuff n stuff. Yeah. Stuff with stuff.

NYCFoodie / April 10, 2008 12:19 AM

I'm starting a grad program at Columbia University in the fall. I want you to be my food pal. I'd love to tag along and help review a new restaurant!

Julie / April 10, 2008 1:27 PM

A lot of those classes sound like awesome fun! Food in the arts? Rad. I like the cultural aspect of food, too, but I also like the science of it that helps me actually cook. Like you, I don't necessarily want to be a cook, though. For both our sakes, I hope the food-writing industry prospers and stays strong! ;)

Christine / April 10, 2008 10:29 PM

So funny that you wrote this yesterday and we had a (very mini) reunion today! haha It was great to see you again and catch up. NYU Food Studies seems like ages ago (sigh). Remember the time Jennifer Berg made homemade hot chocolate for all of us? Damn, that was good... hope to see you again soon!

roboppy / April 11, 2008 1:49 AM

NYCFoodie: Get back to me in the fall and EATING SHALL OCCUR.

Julie: Food in the Arts is totally rad; it meant I WATCHED A GAZILLION MOVIES. Actually, it made me feel ill to sit in front of the TV for so long...but I caught up on a lot of good movies, so I guess it was a good thing. Minus the nausea.

Yeah, I'm not going to win any points in food science. I hope my writing skills don't deteriorate too much. -__-

Mila / April 13, 2008 7:38 AM

A childhood friend of mine took her phd in anthropology with a focus on food anthro (this was in the mid 90s when studying food was in its early stages). She switched from med to food and never looked back :)

Caitlin LaRussa / June 24, 2008 1:52 PM

Hi Robyn,
I'm so glad you posted about this.. I'm looking at the food studies masters program, but i have to say, my main concern is that I won't really be qualified for too many jobs when I graduate. Do you know anyone who has done the MA and now has a job in the food world? I'm pretty much looking to pick people's brains about this before applying to the program.


Tonya / September 21, 2008 2:39 PM

I too have been looking into the masters program. I have some concerns as I first obtained a degree in nutrition (DTR program at a community college) with the thoughts I would be 1 step closer to my goals, however, I ended up in Food service management and while the career has been somewhat finacially rewarding, I wasn't doing what i wanted in the food world. Not interested in being an RD i went back to study business as i was lost for what i wanted to do. I keep coming back to food and the NYU program seems to really offer what i've always wanted, I want to work in test kitchens and write, eventually i want to write a cook book and that type of thing, does this degree get one any closer to that goal?????

Thank you for any assistance you can offer.

Sara / December 30, 2008 3:19 PM

So I go to NYU, I'm in the Studio Arts undergrad program... but I'm partially a food at heart (not that I don't love art).
What kind of class would you recommmend for someone who wants to learn more about actual cooking and beverages?

roboppy / December 30, 2008 3:29 PM

I've been emailing responses to most people; if you have a question I will get back to you. Here's my response to Sara:

That's great that you're interested in taking food classes! "Intro to Food Science" is open to everyone, I's a cooking lecture + lab, aka cooking class. Basic stuff though, so if you already know how to cook it might be boring. There are some more advanced classes but they might not be open to non-majors, I'm not sure. "Beverages" is the class (well, the only class) to take to learn about ..beverages, mostly wine with some beer and cocktails mixed in. Hope that helps!

Hui Wen / March 20, 2009 12:21 AM

I just wanted to say thank you for posting this. I really didn't know what I was going to do after my undergrad degree. I read this post, applied and amazingly (I'm only 20 and have little work experience) got accepted! Thank you so so much. Like NYC foodie I'd love to have you as a food buddy (if that isn't too weird a request coming from a stranger). I start in the fall this year.

By the way, if Vincci is reading this, GREs aren't a prerequisite.

Kitt / February 20, 2010 10:32 PM

I've just been admitted to BU's MLA in Gastronomy program, and am waiting to hear back from NYU--does anyone out there have any feedback about the quality of BU's program as compared to NYU? I can't seem to find reliable coverage of the program, and am curious as to whether or not it's "legit." Sounds like NYU's program is pretty legit, but I'm still confused about BU.

Katie / May 23, 2010 7:22 PM

Robyn, thanks so much for all of this info. There really doesn't seem to be much info out there about current masters in food studies programs, and even so, a firsthand account is great to hear.

Kitt, if you ever did find out more about BU vs. NYU, please let me know. I'm looking into both programs as well, although I haven't applied yet.

If anyone knows anything about the selectivity of these programs or any average applicant info, that would be extremely helpful as well.


Hannah / August 16, 2010 11:36 AM

I'm going to be a senior in high school this year and I'm trying to figure out where I'm going to college. I looked at the undergraduate program at NYU and thought it looked impressive. But not that I have much of a choice. Before I thought I wanted to go into Culinary Arts, but now I'm more geared toward gastronomy/food studies. Sadly, there are only a few schools that offer this major as an undergraduate program. I could study it later and get my masters, but I don't know what I would study for my undergrad besides culinary arts. It's quite a confusing situation.

Maggie / August 23, 2010 8:58 AM

This is so helpful! I didn't even know this field of study existed outside of culinary school. I majored in Communications in undergrad and am doing graphic design but I recently heard about Permaculture and its lead me to look for a program that combines growing food with making food. I'm looking at a Masters program at Chatham University in Pittsburgh, PA that combines food arts and sustainable agriculture. I think it's one of the few out there. If anyone knows of any other Masters programs like this please share!

Lynne / January 13, 2011 2:48 PM

Hello, I just signed up for the Food in the Arts course - I am a graduate student who needs to take another class to continue on as a part time student for the semester.
(I am an MA in Art - summers abroad student taking classes during the year as electives)

Could you tell me a little bit about the kind of work you were required to do in this course. I am sort of nervous to take this as it is actually out of my department.
Thanks for any information you might be able to provide.
Lynne Brown

Matt D / January 18, 2011 3:17 AM


I'm a current food studies student. I took the class last semester and it wasn't too difficult. You basically learn about the history of a time period, what they ate, then look at paintings of food from that time period. Decent amount of reading but nothing too crazy.In my opinion, an art major would probably have an easier time in the class than a food studies major (I still wouldn't be able to find the vanishing point in a painting, or explain to you what cubism is). It also included fun a weekly food presentation, which requires a group of students to bring in a small bite of food from a time period for the class. Good Luck!


roboppy / February 6, 2011 8:07 PM

Lynne: Sorry I forgot to respond to this sooner. It'd be hard to answer though because each Food in the Arts class is quite different depending on the focus--I took two classes for film and performing arts, taught by different professors. I guess the work was mostly writing though, and not that difficult. I don't remember much by this point. I suppose you already started your class?

Matt: Thanks for your response!

Emilio / June 19, 2012 3:01 PM

I would like to know, what kind of job can you apply after these masters?

Something random from the archives