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Five unusual jobs with food and drink

By Candace Corner
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( -- So you'd like to work in the food and drink industry, but you want something beyond the typical server, busser and chef positions. Here are some people who are working in interesting ways to market, create, manage and serve in the industry:

1. Taste-testerexternal link

As the test kitchen director for Mr. Food and Mr. Food no-fuss Meals Assembly Stores, Patty Rosenthal oversees a small staff of culinary experts who work together to create 15 recipes a day for Mr. Food, a company and television program that runs on over 150 television stations around the world and has published more than 40 cookbooks.

Although the job never leaves Rosenthal hungry, some of it can be a little hard to swallow. "When we did 'The Chocolate Cookbook,' testing at 9 a.m., it was a lot to take in," Rosenthal said. You're testing chocolate all day.

While culinary training is a plus, Rosenthal says she went to school for criminal justice before following her passion for food. "Although (training) can be helpful, we don't look for culinary degrees, but you need to have a love for food and understand the philosophy behind the company," she said.

Salary: The median salary is $40,000.*

2. Server on skatesexternal link

Lindsay Kent has spent the last two summers serving at the Redline Drive-In Restaurant, a 1950s themed business in Mayville, New York.

The servers don't wear protective gear, but they do have health insurance and they don't have to worry if they're a little wobbly on their wheels. "It's not a requirement to skate while waitressing," Kent said. "If you're working long hours it can get pretty difficult, and there are a few girls who don't skate at all."

Salary: The median annual salary is $25,000.

3. Roverexternal link

Imagine it's your job to travel all over the United States meeting all different kinds of people and going to all the major snowboarding competitions.

If you're Jacob Levine, this is reality. The former professional snowboarder was selected out of 1,800 applicants to be the designated rover for Snickers candy and Burton, a company specializing in snowboarding equipment. His job is to create brand awareness, which means meeting millions of people and passing out samples. "In a typical day I can go to a venue, interact with the public, skate, get a feel for the atmosphere, and talk to people about what they think about Snickers."

And the perks? Levine's company-sponsored H3 Hummer has become his home. He also gets a full wardrobe and skating equipment from Burton, a laptop from Hewlett Packard, and a digital camera and video camera from Panasonic.

Salary: While there is modest compensation and an allotted travel budget, the big pay is the perks and all expenses are paid.

4. Master roasterexternal link

As the Master Roaster for Millstone Coffee, Rich Bertagna consumes at least several pots of coffee a day. Blends include regular, decaf and gourmet varieties and Bertagna tastes it all to judge what blends work best. "It's like wine," Bertagna said. "You want coffee that goes with your food -- complementing, but not overwhelming."

Bertagna started out in paper product development in 1969 before moving into coffee in 1982. Building up to the "graduate level" as a coffee expert takes around five to 10 years, and he says the advancement comes when you can recommend new blends after years of blending, roasting, grinding and drinking different types of java. The title of master roaster is coveted, and Bertagna speculates that most companies probably only have one.

Salary: The median annual salary for a coffee roaster is $31,000, but Bertagna reported that for this type of work, experts can earn between $50,000 and $250,000.

5. Chocolatierexternal link

Jared Pierson knows a thing or two about chocolate. In addition to co-owning Imatra chocolate, Pierson works under a division of his company called "The Chocolate Guy -- San Diego," a company that offers chocolate and cheese fountain rentals among other chocolate related products for sale online. Pierson's business has attracted high-profile clientele such as Shaquille O'Neal, John Travolta, the mayor of San Diego and the NFL.

"Most of our events are done with hotels and catering companies that rent our equipment, but we also do private events," Pierson said. "The majority of business is on the weekends. A typical Friday, Saturday and Sunday include about eight events per day."

Pierson did not have to attend culinary school to create his successful business, but he said that his mother is well-versed in working with chocolate and has experience in catering. "I didn't go to school and learn about chocolate; it's all about experience and learning it on my own," Pierson said.

Salary: As his own boss, Pierson's salary is his decision, but he said his company grossed $350,000 last year.

*Salary information from, The Bureau of Labor Statistics and as reported by interviewees.

© Copyright 2007. All rights reserved. The information contained in this article may not be published, broadcast or otherwise distributed without the prior written authority
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