Recent grad turns passion for food into career
While many college students live off of ramen noodles and mac and cheese, that wasn't the case for recent grad Melinda Feucht (B.A. '09). From the classroom to the kitchen, Feucht is proving that the recipe for success is as simple as turning your passion into a career.
By Hillary Kline
Photo: Chris BohnhoffFeucht's interest in food started at an early age. As a six-year-old, she played with her plastic Fisher-Price cash register in her parents' grocery store in Hills, Minn., pretending she was operating her very own store. After spending a summer on an organic farm in Winona, Minn., during college, and writing for publications such as Edible Twin Cities magazine and Minnesota Monthly, she realized that food, and writing, was where her heart was.
In college, cooking was a stress reliever for Feucht. It was just "too easy to pop in a pizza or make mac and cheese," she says. She would dabble and experiment with various ingredients, concoct exotic recipes, and avidly watch and re-create dishes demonstrated on Anthony Bourdain's "No Reservations," a show on the Travel Channel.
"I've always been a curious person, and growing up in a small town and seeing the foods that were offered in my parents' grocery store, it was very average and very conventional," Feucht says. "When I discovered all of these new things, it was like different artists discovering a bunch of new colors. ... It was like a playground."
Feucht's curiosity led her to David Husom's class Jour 5990, Online Media Creation and Design, which teaches students about Web design. Students learn how to create their own Web site, gathering and compiling work from previous classes, or create a Web site pertaining to a hobby or interest. Naturally, Feucht chose food.
After countless hours of what Feucht considers "working like a dog" and frantic e-mails to Husom on Saturday evenings with questions that could have waited until Monday, she knew that her Web site, which she called Freelance Foodie, would serve a purpose, both personally and professionally.
"I actually got projects out of it. ... It was dollar signs for me," she says. "To be honest, I know it sounds kind of greedy, but it was doing something for me, so it gave me the motivation to get it done."
After studying for finals last spring, Feucht was leafing through a Writer's Digest magazine and came across a Web design contest. She had just completed her Freelance Foodie Web site for Husom's class and thought, "Why not?" So, she entered the contest. Feucht filled out the online application and then completely forgot about it. It wasn't until she was in Seattle, right before an interview, when she Googled herself and realized she had won second place in the Writer's Digest Best Writer's Website competition.
"I was never notified," Feucht says. "I was just as shocked as anybody."
Husom says that her award and professional success illustrate how important the Internet has become for journalists, noting that Feucht used both her writing and photography skills to her advantage.
"I think the real plus she had, although she's primarily a writer, is that she had a lot of good visual things," he says. "The problem that writers have is to make something visually interesting."
Feucht recently began a new position as editor and site merchandiser in the magazines department at Amazon. Her team is responsible for designing, creating and tracking e-mail campaigns, and monitoring how effective they are in attracting customers. If she were asked nine months ago about what she wanted to do after graduation, she says she "would have never guessed such a specific thing."
Now, as a successful, award-winning writer, photographer, blogger and graphic designer, Feucht says that one of the most important things she learned at the SJMC was to be confident in her work and persistent in pursuing her dreams.
"Think of yourself as a salesman," she advises. "If you don't believe in the product, it's really hard to sell it. But if you value the product, and if you're absolutely convinced of its worth, you can sell it so easily."
Feucht's Web site can be viewed at http://www.freelance-foodie.com.