Seattle Culinary alumna transforms education into fulfilling career

Melissa Peterman has been everywhere in the Seattle food industry: from culinary gardener to caterer to event planner to her current job helping local restaurants source fresh ingredients. But she wasn’t always on this path. Although she earned degrees in journalism and creative writing, she wasn’t eager to dive into a career in these fields. Her true passion is cooking, which started at a young age when she observed her mother creating inventive meals. But she wasn’t quite sure how to translate that zeal into a profession she could feel truly enthusiastic about.

She found exactly that at the Seattle Culinary Academy.  She was inspired by the hands-on curriculum that allowed her to garden in the greenhouse for seeds and herbs, and forced her to confront the reality of butchering an animal.  She was awarded a scholarship to attend Quillisasquet Farm School where she received an intensive course in farm-to-table cooking, an experience she described as life-altering because it gave her a deep appreciation of sustainable food preparation.

“You go to culinary school because you’re passionate about food, but Seattle Culinary Academy feeds that passion and builds on it,” said Melissa.  “It introduces you to the right people in the field who are just as eager as you are.”

The in-depth training she received on sourcing and preparing local ingredients opened her eyes to a sustainable method of doing business that has stayed with her throughout her career. During the day, Melissa uses this education in a position at Seattle-based Tate’s List, where she works to connect area restaurants with vendors of local, fresh and unique ingredients. At night, however, Melissa works to showcase local chefs for one-time dining experiences at One Night Only (also called the ONO Project), which she co-founded. The network she cultivated at the academy continues to be invaluable as she scouts the region’s culinary talent for ONO events and the comprehensive skillset she developed, including training in front-end customer service and logistics, helps her orchestrate unforgettable experiences for diners.

“The range of skills that students get at Seattle Culinary Academy versus a lot of other schools is amazing,” said Melissa. “Graduates get a lot of respect from people in the industry as people who know about every aspect of the trade.”