Welcome New Gastronomy and Food Studies Students, Spring 2022 part 2

We look forward to welcoming a wonderful group of new students into our programs this spring. Enjoy getting to know a few of them here.

Amanda Leavitt: I’ve loved food since the second my godmother propped me on a stool in the kitchen to learn about the art of the vinaigrette, so while earning my BS in Communications at Boston University, I found myself immersed in numerous food businesses. My professional experiences include working food retail at my family’s business in Puerto Rico, hosting in a fine dining restaurant, making chickpea fritter sandwiches on a Clover Food Truck, and leading chocolate tastings out of a boutique in Copley Square. All of this allowed me to use my love for communication and my love for food simultaneously. One of my most treasured professional experiences was working for the Jamie Oliver Food Foundation in London, whose mission was to make cooking accessible to everyone. I currently work for a restaurant tech company in Boston, where I’m constantly interacting with restaurant owners. My biggest goal is to fully immerse myself in all things food. When I’m not working or studying, I can be found making cooking videos, lately of Salvadoran or Puerto Rican food. If you need a good curtido or tostones recipe, I’ve got you!

My name is Michael O’Brien and I am currently working as an legal counsel for the Department of Housing and Urban Development. I returned to New England after obtaining a degree in political science from the University of Alabama, 5 years of service in the Army in North Carolina and most recently obtaining my law degree from the University of Georgia. Needless to say, I have had my fill and then some of BBQ and Hushpuppies.

I have always found the way that food and drink is able to connect people to be fascinating. Strangers at a bar can become best friends for hours thanks to a few glasses of bourbon, never to see each other again. In Afghanistan, meetings with local leaders were often held over meals, bonding those at the table if only for a short period of time. Food is universal…unless it’s black licorice.

While I do hold onto a dim dream of one day opening my own Brewpub restaurant, I think I simply came to the Gastronomy program to learn as much as I can about food. Where it originated, how it came to be made the way that it is, what wine pairs well with what dishes. I look forward to soaking in everything like a sponge and coming out with a better understanding and appreciation of food!

Leslie Tente is a retired elementary school teacher, and resides in the village of Rumford, Rhode Island. Given her passion for cooking, baking, and culinary history, it almost seemed ordained that she settled in Rumford with her husband and daughter as it was in this section of East Providence that Rumford Baking Powder was first manufactured. Rumford at one time was referred to as “the kitchen capital of the world,” and the kitchen has always been the center of Leslie’s home!

After leaving her teaching career, Leslie’s interest in culinary history deepened through her volunteer work with the East Providence Historical Society. Leslie takes great pleasure in sharing the rich culinary history of Rumford Baking Powder with visitors to the John Hunt House, the historical society’s house museum.

In 2019, Leslie organized The Great Rumford Bake Off in celebration of Rumford Baking Powder’s 160th Anniversary. The Bake Off attracted enthusiastic amateur bakers  from all over New England, and it was during this joyous event that Leslie knew she wanted to take her volunteer work to a more scholarly level.

Leslie is excited to begin her journey in the Food Studies/Gastronomy program and looks forward to meeting and learning from all of the amazing students and faculty in the department.

Heather Yeatman: “What can I eat?” For some people, this question is easily answered by opening the fridge or their favorite food delivery app. For someone like me, this is a very real dilemma that can cause physical distress and require mental gymnastics. I’ve always had a love of food, but the affair soured in 2013 after a series of emergency abdominal surgeries triggered a combination of new food allergies. My body no longer properly processes dairy, gluten, beans, tamarind, or whole corn, and tree nuts are my kryptonite. So I had to find new ways of cooking and eating, and these joyful challenges are now my creative outlet. 

 As I’ve honed my skills in the kitchen to become a better chef, I’ve helped numerous friends and family learn to prepare and enjoy dishes they previously had to “give up.” In our house, no one goes hungry. Want a gluten-free, dairy-free tiramisu an Italian grandmother would be happy to devour? I got you. So many cuisines of the world are safe and enjoyable for those of us with food allergies if one expands their palate, and others can be made simply by substituting the right ingredients. I love exploring the culinary map, finding new options, and sharing them with my fellow foodies for whom allergies are a daily obstacle. 

Limitations place foodies in one of two categories: 1) Disenchantment and diminishing desire for food, or 2) Relishing the challenge and finding joy in a varied way of eating. I’ve chosen the latter, and it’s my goal to help others like me to do the same. My own journey back to food is chronicled in the beginnings of a website and small social network following on Instagram and Facebook where I answer the burning question, “WTF Can I Eat?!”. Just as I’ll always be learning new cooking techniques, I also need to learn new ways of reaching a wider audience to help more people. I look forward to being a student of BU-MET’s Gastronomy program to gain the tools and knowledge needed to achieve my goals and a better understanding of cultural tourism and food philosophy. You can usually find me traveling to new locales, storming castles, or hiking the lush forest trails behind our house here in Germany.

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