Eve Turow Paul is the author of A Taste of Generation Yum: How the Millennial Generation's Love for Organic Fare, Celebrity Chefs and Microbrews Will Make or Break the Future of Food. Today, Eve works as a strategic consultant and utilizes her years of empirical research to advise Fortune 500 companies, start-ups and independent entrepreneurs on how to connect with, and better serve, Millennials. She formerly worked for New York Times contributor and cookbook author Mark Bittman and her writing has appeared in a number of publications including The Chicago Tribune, The Atlantic and Huffington Post.
What did you want to be when you grew up?
I wanted to be a newscaster.
Who would you most like to be stuck on a desert island with? Why?
Dan Barber (Chef and Food Thought Leader). He's a little crazy but he’s inspired, passionate and really a deep thinker. He's forging a food movement and I’d like to know more.
What single book had the greatest impact on you?
Siddhartha by Hermann Hesse. I read it in high school and it was the first time I appreciated a perspective on the virtue of pain. I’ve grown to understand the Buddhist philosophy of hardship, that is: the more pain you experience, the more open you become to experiencing the alternative to that and the more joy you can feel.
When do you go to bed and when do you get up?
I go to bed around 10:30pm, generally after my husband and I watch a great amount of mindless television. I get up around 7:30am. I sleep a lot.
Can you briefly explain your career path to date?
I am the quintessential millennial. I graduated at the peak of the recession in 2009 and I have bounced from one thing to the next.
Initially I decided to move to Argentina after graduation to live on the Peso, save some money and have an adventure, which I did. I started writing for an expat newspaper which was the first time I wrote about food. It was a lesson to me that food was in line with my liberal arts degree, that it combines politics, religion, culture and the economy.
Upon returning to the US my first job was at the Economic Policy Institute back in Washington helping economists communicate the difference between unemployment and underemployment in 2009 and 2010. Then I was a waitress and then I traveled to Southeast Asia by myself for several months.
In 2011 I went to graduate school and studied creative non-fiction writing. I started working for Mark Bittman and helped draft recipes and articles. I was able to help organize his segments for the Today show. In reality it was like getting a masters in food media.
After with working with Mark I worked in content marketing for several years and in my spare time I worked on my book project that had started while in graduate school. I became extremely interested in answering the questions: Why are young people today investing so much time and energy in food? Why are we taking pictures of our lunch? Why do we bother watching Mario Batali cook gnocchi on television when we can't eat it, we can't smell it, we can't taste it and most of us are not going to cook it? I thought it was going to be a really really simple answer but it turned out to be far more complicated and far more interesting than anticipated. It took me down a wild and crazy path that I spent four years researching. In 2015 I published A Taste of Generation Yum.
What is the biggest obstacle you’ve overcome, as it relates to your industry?
I was fired from my waitressing job. It had to do with politics in the workplace and a male manager who had fired almost every woman on staff by that point. It was the first lesson in keeping my mouth shut! The fact that I'm opinionated and loud today gets me great things, in fact companies pay me to be opinionated. But working under somebody else in a situation where they can easily feel like you threaten them was not the place to be opinionated. It was a really good lesson in knowing my place.
What motivates you?
If I can help a company improve on a product, help them make it in a more sustainable manner or make food more accessible to more people in this country, I will feel successful in my career.
What do you wish you’d known at the start of your career?
I wish I’d appreciated the definition of success, especially in writing. Getting published is everything. You just want to get a book deal and that's how people measure success. I didn’t get that.
I took my book to publishing houses and they said they didn't know how to market it. I believe I went about it in the wrong way and didn't understand who the audience was. At the time I felt like a complete failure. I thought that I'd spent all this time working on something and no one cared. Now I have a completely different career because of it, I've ignited so many different conversations around it that I feel extremely successful. I wish I’d been able to see that from the beginning.
What do you consider your greatest achievement?
Being smart enough to marry my husband.
What do you believe has been the key to your success?
I guess the same thing that made me not the best waitress at age 20. Which is that I speak my mind. I do a good job of connecting with others and of listening. I understand the value in every person's experience and that's behooved me in my career.
What is your life motto?
Eat like you mean it.
What’s the best advice you’ve ever been given?
I went through a phase in high school, which I think a lot of people go through, when I was extremely depressed. My aunt asked me how I was one day and I said, "Well it's another day done." She said, "That's a terrible way to go through life.” That you can't think of it that way. I was fifteen at the time. I've always kept her response in the back of my head, that every day matters. You don't want to live life to get one more day done with, and if you're thinking of life that way, then you're not living it the right way.
What's your favorite TED talk?
Caleb Harper: This Computer Will Grow Your Food in The Future
Who do you most admire in business? Why?
In terms of being a writer, an advocate and a thinker, I greatly admire Michael Pollan. I don't know him personally all that well, but I'm a young person who he can tell wants to do something with my life and he's been incredibly supportive.
Are there work ethics and attitudes that you most admire in women?
I was in a meeting recently with a woman who is such a bad ass. She was very to-the-point, slightly aggressive, slightly scary, slightly intimidating, but in a good way. It immediately made me sit up straight and think, ‘I better have my shit completely in line right now.’
I'm extremely lucky that I found myself in a place where people are basically paying me to think about a topic that I find endlessly fascinating. Next for me is continuing to do research for my next book. Also, I’m trying to figure out how to be an ongoing success in this, because I know that people become irrelevant really fast. I know about one particular topic, but pretty soon, no one's going to care about it, so how do I make sure that I'm continuing to engage myself in learning something new, and also having something new to present to clients. Also making sure that my career supports my ability to live the rest of my life the way that I want to, which means having time to spend with my family, to grow a family, to not have to worry about paying my mortgage, things like that.
As told to Caroline Hugall at Kos Kaffe in Park Slope New York, on Wednesday 25th May 2016