Good Food Jobs: How Two Young Women are Revolutionizing Finding Work in the Food Industry
The idea for Good Food Jobs was hatched on a road trip, as so many ideas are. A journey from New York City upstate to Ithaca in 2009 led old friends and ice cream enthusiasts Taylor Cocalis and Dorothy Neagle back to the 25-cent cones at Dryden Dairy Day that cemented their friendship five years earlier while attending Cornell University.
The trip also led them to start a business. Good Food Jobs, a “gastronomy-centric job search website designed to lure others into the world of food,” was born. Cocalis and Neagle could not have imagined then that, eight years later, they’d be exchanging Big Apple grime for fresh air in Columbia and Westchester counties, respectively, as owners of a thriving online community of nearly 100,000 members daily forging careers in food and agriculture.
In 2009, however, Cocalis and Neagle were still very much urbanites. Neagle, an interior designer, and Cocalis, an educator at Murray’s Cheese Shop in New York City, found themselves yearning for work that felt meaningful and valuable, where they could put into practice their passions for food and sustainable agriculture while simultaneously connecting like-minded individuals.
After that fateful road trip, the friends set about turning their dream into reality. Utilizing Neagle’s eye for design and Cocalis’s skills at educating and connecting foodies, they set about building an online space that would make users feel as at ease on the Good Food Jobs website as they might perched at the counter of their local cheese shop, or sharing bowls of ice cream around a friend’s kitchen table; a site full of enticing images, inspirational quotes and a deliberate absence of advertisements.
“All those job sites out there, they’re not nice to look at or fun,” says Neagle. “If we were going to do this, it had to be a pleasant space to be in.”
In 2010, thinking about an online space as if it were a real brick-and-mortar was a novel idea, and the concept caught on quickly. Today, Good Food Jobs contains an education page (a comprehensive, searchable listing of dozens of gastronomic-related courses); a blog called The Gastrognomes with Q&As from those who have made successful careers in food and/or agriculture; and, of course, job listings for everything from pastry chefs to farmers’ market managers, from tour guides to cheesemongers. Their weekly newsletter—an important part of their business—reaches 54,000 foodies.
Cocalis and Neagle have worked hard to try to reach as many different kinds of job seekers as possible. Applying is free; their revenue comes from employers who post available jobs. They regularly receive emails from people of all ages telling them that their site was a “lifesaver,” and a reminder that “work can be meaningful.”
The old friends’ big city days are now far behind them. Their dreams of a “back to the land” lifestyle have been realized. They meet up occasionally at their homes in Livingston and Hastings-on-Hudson to swap tomato plants, child-rearing tips and the latest stories of strangers cultivating their own dreams, thanks to their humble website. Ice cream, of course, is always on the table.