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Catherine O’Donnell ’15 Feeds Her Passion for Food

Catherine O'Donnell '15
Working at the on-campus Summit allowed Catherine O’Donnell ’15 to learn how a kitchen runs and to experiment with new recipes.

Similar to many students studying abroad, Catherine O'Donnell '15 decided to start a blog to keep family and friends updated on her life while on the Davidson in Peru semester program. But O'Donnell didn't just write about everything–she focused on food and kept her blog going once she returned to the United States, where she continued to foster her love of the food industry. She recently learned that her food journey will continue after graduation as she becomes a marketing coordinator at Food52 in New York.

"I'm just really thrilled with how everything has gone," said O'Donnell. Food52 is familiar territory; she completed an internship at the startup the summer between her junior and senior year. "It was really a coincidence that I ended up getting the internship," she said. "I applied expecting to never hear back, but then I presented on Food52 in a class, and a student in the class had a family friend at Food52 and put me in touch."

Food52 curates and sources recipes submitted to them by home cooks. As an intern, O'Donnell wrote about the recipes, and her pieces would then be sourced to different publications looking for food material and articles. "I was able to get my first byline in an article about lunch sandwiches," she said.

When O'Donnell returned to Davidson for her senior year, she found new ways to explore the food industry. She and friend Kate Sanford '15 began an on-campus baking company called Baked by Two Kates, which involved making baked goods for campus organizations and events.

O'Donnell also worked at the campus Summit. "It's been a huge part of my evolving food career," she said. "It was my first time being in a kitchen and learning how restaurants make food." Working at Summit allowed her to take on various roles, including barista, cook and cashier. She has even had the opportunity to work on a new brunch menu for Summit with Courtney Spear, manager of the Davidson Farmers' Market and Summit head cook. "We use a lot of local ingredients and it's been really interesting to design a menu and test the different recipes," she said.

While Summit is the place where O'Donnell's love of food blossomed, she was surprised to find that her passion had found its way into her coursework.

In a creative writing class, the professor asked students to look through their portfolios and identify recurring themes.

"It was so funny because food was a common point in all of my writing," she said. "Even if I wasn't intentionally writing about food, it ended up being about food in one way or another. So it was really cool to see how this passion of mine was not only projected in my extracurricular activities, but also in all of my work."