February 5, 2023
Ithaca, NY | 44°F


Ithaca College professor explores culinary communications

From Tokyo to Italy, Cory Young’s passion for food and communications has brought her around the globe. Currently on sabbatical leave, Young is on a quest to combine these two passions to define culinary communications and how it could potentially become a field of study at Ithaca College.

Young, an associate professor and graduate program chair in the Department of Strategic Communication, said she has been toying with the idea of creating a culinary communications minor. Young said culinary communications is a field that is growing exponentially, according to her research.

Young is researching and creating a definition for culinary communications during her sabbatical leave. She said culinary communications cannot be explained with a quick Google search because it hasn’t been researched thoroughly.

Her current definition of culinary communications is how the food industry markets and communicates business.

“When you think of communication, there’s the right message, through the right audience, through the right medium … so it’s really what kind of messages are coming out of the making of food that are being connected to the right audience with the right medium,” Young said.

And if the college does implement a culinary communications minor in the future, it would be the only college in the United States to have one. The closest major that Young could find that relates to culinary communications is Boston University’s master’s program in gastronomy.

Last May, when Young was applying for sabbatical, Ketchum Inc., a major public relations firm, created a culinary communications food lab. Young said this lab provides clients with a space to make products, create menu developments and food branding. Time Inc. has also created a digital food lab for the same purpose as Ketchum.

Young has also been involved with multiple conferences across the United States, interviewing experts and researching how to define culinary communications. She recently submitted her ideas about culinary communications to a Florida Communication Association conference about trends in communication.

She’s also done research on crisis communication, which she presented in Tokyo, on the Domino’s crisis, when two employees posted a video of themselves defiling food by coughing in it and doing other unsanitary and inappropriate things to customers meals.  

Young said culinary communications is a complex topic. It encompasses not only public relations and the marketing of food, but training communication, crisis communication and interpersonal communication within restaurants.

“My interviewees have said the kitchen is an emotionally abusive environment,” Young said.

She said celebrity chef Gordon Ramsay’s rage is considered normal in the culinary world, and people in the restaurant business are affected by the high-stress environment. This is why Young said she is also analyzing how culinary communications can help make the environment a more enjoyable place to work.

Before Young entered college, she worked in the culinary field as a waitress, caterer and manager of a gourmet restaurant.

Young initially went to Bowling Green State University in Ohio, where she struggled to find her passion — until she took Introduction to Human Communications.

“Something just lit my brain on fire,” she said.

Alberto Gonzalez, now professor and chair of the Department of Communication at Bowling Green, helped Young get into graduate school with full funding. Gonzalez said he knew Young was passionate and needed to continue her education.

“You could tell she had a passion for communication, which won us over,” Gonzalez said, referring to how he was able to get Young admitted as a graduate student.

Young began her career as a visiting associate professor at Kalamazoo University in Michigan but was laid off due to budget cuts.

“I found myself with a Ph.D., unemployed. And I can tell you that that was an interesting experience,” Young said.

Young is now planning a trip to go to Milan, Italy, for another conference about food and design, which will be held Oct. 14–16.

Sophomore Tatiana Prater, president of the Culinary Arts Club, said she really admires Young’s research.

“Because of her, I’m more inspired to actually do more research on the whole industry,” Prater said.

As an integrated marketing communications major, Prater said being able to combine her passion for food with communications would be a great opportunity.

So far, Young has conducted almost 30 interviews and still has 25 more books to read while on her quest to define culinary communications.

“I vow to trust whatever comes up … and I’ve been on an amazing adventure so far,” she said.

Grace Elletson can be reached at gelletson@ithaca.edu or via Twitter: @graceelletson