Barbara Kafka: A True Culinary Adventurer

As acknowledgment of her self-proclaimed 'accidental' culinary career, Barbara Kafka received a 2007 James Beard Foundation lifetime achievement award, which is given to "an individual whose lifetime body of work has had a significant and long-lasting positive impact on the way we eat, cook, and/or think about food in America."

Barbara Kafka:  A Culinary Maven

While she's not a restaurant chef, Kafka has written a number of highly successful cookbooks and other culinary-related books; served on James Beard's editorial staff early in her career; authored culinary pieces for prestigious food magazines in Australia, the UK, and the US; has written for The New York Times; edited culinary magazines; collaborated with a number of culinary greats including Jacques Pepin; and consulted on a number of well-known restaurant openings. Amazingly enough, she still finds time to host her own web site.  The site features her own personal recommendations for restaurants she has visited in foreign countries, an 'Ask Barbara' page, and a blog entitled 'Foodtalk.'

Cookbook and Kitchen Queen

"I like pretty," states Kafka. "I like to have fun with my food." Her cookbooks showcase this lighthearted attitude. They include American Food and California Wine, Food for Friends, Vegetable Love, Party Food, Soup: A Way of Life, Microwave Gourmet, The Opinionated Palate, and Roasting: A Simple Art, which won her a Julia Child cookbook award. Kafka even features a microwave risotto recipe, which could seem like blasphemy to other chefs. She makes sure to create and test her recipes on domestic equipment, whether a microwave or a kitchen range, because she says, "a commercial oven cooks differently. If I work on [commercial equipment], I don't think what I write is accurate for the home cook."

Becoming a Chef--& Beyond!

Obtaining a culinary degree doesn't necessarily have to translate into a career as a chef. Many other careers in the culinary arena call for a similar skill set, such as a food critic, a food writer, a restaurant consultant or a manager.  A number of other culinary-related careers  allow you to combine your culinary expertise with other creative talents and passions.  Look at Barbara Kafka and remind yourself to think outside of the box during and after you earn your degree; the sky is the limit!



  • Barbara Kafka, Lending Veggies a Little 'Love,' NPR.org