From notebooks to cookbooks

Dana McCauley, a professional chef and food analyst, talks about putting her money where her mouth is—literally

Dana McCauley made a career out of her love of food culture.
Dana McCauley made a career out of her love of food culture.

Food-lover Dana McCauley, Arts ’89, was once just like any other Queen’s student. She worked as a student constable and wrote for the Journal before graduating with an English degree. Almost 20 years later, she’s one of Canada’s foremost foodies and president of Dana McCauley and Associates Ltd.

Before finding her dream job, McCauley worked as a closed-captioning editor, assistant manager of a bookstore and the advertising editor of a newspaper. But she found herself unsatisfied with all of these careers.

McCauley said she has always been interested in food and cooking.

“I had always wanted to go to chef school,” she said, “so I decided to go for it, and I discovered I was actually pretty good at it.” After graduation, McCauley attended the Stratford Chef School and worked for Canadian Living. It was with the magazine that she learned the arts of food writing and recipe testing.

Now McCauley writes and tests recipes and has been an author, editor and consultant for eight books, including Dana’s Top Ten Table, published this past August.

McCauley has also written articles for magazines such as Canadian Living and Chatelaine, was the food editor of Gardening Life, Homemakers and Style at Home magazines and has made numerous TV appearances on shows such as Canada AM, Breakfast Television, The Today Show and CNN.

Her company, Dana McCauley & Associates Ltd., provides services to clients in the food industry including grocery product development—the company does food concept architecture, designing the presentation and design of food in grocery stores—recipe writing and research, food writing and food trend tracking and analysis.

Just as clothing trends are always changing, so too are food trends. McCauley said food trend analysis involves studying the changing styles and popularity of flavour and eating patterns in the food world.

“[It’s] all about what’s happening in the world of food and what could happen next,” she said.

McCauley said she loves her job and thrives on the diversity and creativity of what she does. On the other hand she said variety can be exhausting.

McCauley sais she’s thankful for the foundation her time at Queen’s provided. It allows her to synthesize the cooking and recipe testing aspect of her job with the need to communicate her work effectively.

Without her English degree, McCauley said, she wouldn’t have gotten the job at Canadian Living that gave her the initial access to the food world.

“I use my degree every day. I know a lot of great chefs that don’t have that background, so it limits them somewhat in the direction of their careers.” McCauley said students shouldn’t be afraid to stray from the obvious career path.

“Try everything you have the energy to try. … It’s just as important to find out what you don’t like as it is to find out what you do like.”

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