Cool Food Jobs & Careers

Calling all chemists, lumberjacks and nature lovers

If your track record of burnt toast and messed-up eggs belies your deep-seated dream of becoming a chef, fear not: The food industry has you covered. Though we typically think of restaurants as the be-all, end-all of the culinary arts, there are plenty of career paths for the gastronomically inclined, even if you can't cook a wink. Here are five of the coolest food careers out there—no fancy knife skills required. 

① Truffle Scientist

For centuries, farmers used pigs or dogs to dig up this expensive fungus; that is, until Dr. Paul Thomas came along. Thomas made headlines when he farmed Great Britain's first man-cultivated truffle, and he has since become the leading expert in the field. It was his background in biology and natural environmental science—not food prep—that catapulted him to rarified air within the food world. 

② Master of Wood

If you know your way around crosscut and coping saws, your future may lie in whiskey. Just look at Stuart MacPherson, an expert wood maker and cooper (someone who specializes in making casks): He was hired by Macallan to construct and repair the barrels used to age spirits. MacPherson not only heads a team of 16, he runs an apprentice program where budding woodshop lovers learn the tricks of the trade.  

③ Beverage Architect

Sure, there are building and landscape architects. But beverage architects? That's exactly how Mary Sherry parlayed her degree in chemistry into a job with Flavorman, a Louisville, Kentucky-based consultancy that advises wholesalers on how drinks will taste. Sherry tweaks these formulas to achieve certain criteria like flavor, caffeine and alcohol until clients—usually established and up-and-coming beverage brands—are satisfied.  

④ Airline Caterer  

As more airlines look to improve their in-flight dining menus, some are turning to expert caterers like Peter DeVito to take the helm. DeVito, who started 121 Group, helps create meals that will taste good at 30,000 feet. He often travels via both private jets and commercial airlines to meet clients at their home bases in destinations like Sardinia, Amsterdam and the Middle East.

⑤ Master Gardener

With the farm-to-table movement booming, more and more restaurants and hotels are in need of green thumbs to manage their gardens. For Ben Pauly, who landed a gig as master gardener at the Woodstock Inn & Resort in Vermont, the "office" is the great outdoors, where he tends to the more than 200 varieties of produce that factor into seasonal menus.

Jordi Lippe-McGraw is a freelance writer covering travel, food and entertainment. She's also an avid penguin, puppy and truffle lover. Follow her on Twitter @jordilippe and Instagram @welltraveler.