Name: Alison Pierce
Title: Founder of Counterculture Cooking
What is it that you do on a day to day basis?
I create blog & video content for a food website, aimed at educating and inspiring home cooks. The approach is old-school: natural, unprocessed foods and farm-fresh ingredients — and a bit unconventional in its advocacy of avoiding grains and government nutrition recommendations in favor of natural fats, particularly lard and BACON.
What are your favorite parts of your job?
Brainstorming ideas for content; talking with farmers, restauranteurs, and other food folks about their work; testing recipes; traveling; and eating, of course!
How did you get into your field? Was it something you always wanted to do or something you discovered bit by bit?
I’ve been working my way through the culinary field for about five years. I first attended culinary school part-time, while working days as a reporter. I set out to advance a well-worn hobby, but when I decided to leave my job for other reasons, it seemed like a good time to try different careers on for size. I worked as a caterer, personal chef, cooking teacher, and fitness/nutrition coach… then settled on managing a buyers’ club connecting farmers with retail customers in the DC metro area. That was a fun, highly educational, highly unprofitable two years. From there, I refined the approach to combine the best parts of my culinary experience with my preferred methods of communication (writing & video). Counterculture started publishing in March. It’s going through a bit of a revamp right now, and will re-launch again this fall.
What aspect of your work most surprised you? (Either in a good way or a bad way.)
Since I left my last “real” job (7am to 430pm, Monday through Friday, wearing a suit, covering high-profile topics and government officials), I’ve been continually surprised at how little I miss my old life. I was on track to climb the financial-journalism ladder — I could have continued to develop my skill set and (theoretically) moved into higher-profile positions that sound really good on paper and in dinner-party conversation. (“I’m a CNBC anchor,” or, “I cover the Treasury Department for the Associated Press,” sounds a lot better than, “I deliver meat in my Subaru.”) As time passes, I care less and less about how good my career choices sound to someone else. (Sorry, Mom.)
Does your education (high school, college or graduate degree) matter in terms of the work that you do today?
I studied economics at Bowdoin, and had an amazing liberal arts experience that included English, archaeology, government, and women’s studies as well. While I used my specific economic training as a financial reporter, Bowdoin taught me to think, question, and write. When I think back to the high school teachers who were most influential on my development, it’s for those same reasons. Those skills are critical in every aspect of my work and my life in general.
What environmental factors have the greatest impact on your job satisfaction? (For example: co-workers, compensation, company culture, flexibility, work/life balance, etc.)
Flexibility and self-determination. I honestly don’t know if I could go back to an office job. I love working with people, but I love managing my own destiny, so to speak.
Any career advice you’d like to pass along to others? (My audience is comprised mainly of adults in their twenties and thirties.)
Spend several separate, focused sessions brainstorming — what do you do best? What are your most enjoyable hobbies? What would you do if money wasn’t a concern? What would you do if you didn’t care a bit about the reactions of your parents, spouse, or friends? These sessions helped me get started on the path I’m on now, and while I’m far from a definitive answer, I’ve realized that the journey through my career is much better than any one job “destination.”