We all have to make a living—why not do it while #livingLIVELY? Welcome to Career Corner, where we interview badass women blazing trails across all types of industries. Here, we chat about their daily hustle, how they found success, and why they love what they do. Come for the career advice; stay for the inspiration.
Today, we chat with Kristen Miglore, the creative director of the Genius brand at the swoon-worthy food and lifestyle company Food52.
Where do you work?
Food52, an online community that gives you everything you need for a happier kitchen and home in one place. (Examples: a brilliant recipe for 5-ingredient strawberry shortbread; our curious runaway best-seller, the fuzzy wool dryer ball; almost literally everything in between.)
What’s your job title?
Creative Director, Genius. (I recently shifted from Creative Director of the Food52 brand with a side hustle running our Genius brand to all Genius, all the time.)
Explain your job in 1 sentence.
I oversee the Genius brand at Food52—the Genius Recipes column, newsletter, cookbooks, videos, and whatever the heck else I come up with.
Now, tell us what you actually do.
I follow Genius leads from the Food52 community (primarily recipes these days, but more areas to come); test and research the bejeezus out of them; and write, edit, and give creative direction on photo and video shoots. I also do all the same stuff on a longer timeline for book projects (Genius Recipes in 2015, Genius Desserts coming in September 2018, and another surprise one in the works for Fall 2020). And I’m always exploring and experimenting for what will come next.
What does a normal day look like?
Interview an author about their recipe—which could be from a book that comes out next week or one that came out 20 years ago. Pop by the photo studio to say hi, see what they’ve shot for me, gush about how delicious it looks, offer semi-useful advice (Get closer—social likes that. Can we see that buttery lobster roll bun more? No? OK, as you were.). Review and fiddle with copy on the latest Genius video. Gather up the next recipes that I need to test. Write stuff. Edit stuff. Share it on social. Answer lots of questions from the community. (I know that week’s recipe will be a hit if people have already asked about a bunch of dairy-free/gluten-free/random other tweaks and substitutions before I even get to the office.)
What made you decide to go into the field?
I started out my career in economics—it was my major in college, and it was much easier to find a job than in writing or editing (my minor). I tried to break into editing at food magazines a few times but could never get a foot in the door. After three years of thinking about cooking with more and more urgency as I sat in my cubicle running analyses, I googled “Food Studies” one night and found a grad-school program at NYU that I thought could be the foot-goes-here door-opener I needed.
What was your path to getting to your position?
While I was in grad school, I cooked in restaurants and test kitchens and did internships in various types of traditional food media (a trade magazine, a TV show, a consumer magazine). In September 2009, while I was hunting for jobs in my last semester of grad school, Gourmet magazine folded and Food52 launched. It seemed like a good time to start getting skills in new media.
What sort of skills or experience do you need in order to succeed in your role? When and how did you get those skills?
The reason Amanda & Merrill hired me (first as an intern, then as their first official hire) was because they were looking for someone with cooking and editorial experience to be their right hand as they launched Food52—luckily, I’d been gathering up those skills while I was in grad school. When people ask me for career advice, I have to be candid and make sure they weigh the costs of graduate or culinary school with what they’ll be able to make in a food or media career—and that they know there are lots of ways to get that experience without going into debt (see my answer to the last question for some ideas).
How has your job changed over time?
It’s changed pretty continuously over eight years of fast growth at Food52, which has kept me from ever getting bored. We’ve gone from a team of 3 (wearing a lot of hats) to a team of 80+ (wearing slightly fewer hats), and I’m lucky to get to learn from every new hire, and every new challenge we take on.
How did your expectations for your career differ from reality?
Working in media is a grind, and working for a start-up company is a grind. If you’re dreaming of doing either for a living, ask around for informational interviews with people whose careers you admire and consider all of that. There could be another version of your life where you keep your day job and pursue your passions on the side, and there’s no shame in that.
What’s the best piece of advice you’ve ever received?
Some people are only happy when they’re unhappy, which I heard restaurateur Danny Meyer say on a podcast once. It’s a good reminder to just accept this when you write for the internet, and keep moving forward. You can’t let detractors stop you from doing what you know is good work.
What are some of the challenges you’ve faced, either in your current role or throughout your career? How did you work through them?
Confidence (see last question). Carving out my own definition of work-life balance, and allowing time to keep finding inspiration—always a challenge in creative jobs. Both are a work in progress, but the first step is honestly identifying what’s working and isn’t for you, and allowing yourself to fail as you figure it out.
Was there one defining moment you can point to that put you on the path you’re on?
Googling “Food Studies” in desperation one night.
What’s one piece of advice to give to people who are interested in pursuing a similar career?
Do your homework first. Talk to people in the industry. Read this article written by my boss, called “Advice for Future Food Writers” (just as timely now as when it was published in 2012). If you're still interested, pitch freelance stories, volunteer, go to events, make friends, start and trumpet your own projects, and pick up odd jobs to get a feel for what you actually love doing. You have to do interesting things, lots of them—especially ones that no one else is doing—to have something to write about, with a point of view people won't want to stop reading.