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?"