Full name: Shirley O. CorriherAge: 75
Hometown: Atlanta, GACurrent position: Food writer
First job: Office CaretakerFavorite job: Many
Education: Vanderbuilt, BA in chemistryYears in the field: over 50What you learned from being a scientist: There are many fascinating things out there/How I got here in 10 words or less: Working hard
Q: You authored CookWise and BakeWise. What was your publishing experience like?
A: I had 11 editors in the production of CookWise and it took 11 years to get out.
Q: When did you first begin applying your scientific know-how to your passion for cooking?
A: I needed all the help I could get cooking for our boys’ school, Brandon Hall.
Q: With your science background, how does your approach to cooking differ than others without that background?
A: I approach most dishes from a totally different direction. Instead of looking at mother sauces, I see emulsion sauces, purees, starch-bound sauces, etc.
Q: What is the nature of your job day-to-day? What do you like most and what do you dislike?
A: I give lectures, traveling a lot to do this and I spend time writing.
Q: How do you define success?
A: For me, I am successful when I solve problems and make life easier for my colleagues.
Q: In your eyes, what is the secret to a perfectly cooked meal? Why?
A: I look at one dish at a time. If the batter has fallen off the fried green tomatoes, they need to flour the tomatoes before battering.
If the cake is sunken in the center, it is not done or more likely it is overleavened.
Q: You received the Best Cooking Teacher of the Year in Bon Appetit’s “Best of the Best” Annual Food and Entertaining Awards. How do you connect with students so effectively?
A: If you can tell a story about the subject, people will enjoy and remember it.
Q: What was it like transitioning from a full time chemist to a full time cook and author? What elements of your science background have most helped you in your current role?
A: Everything happens gradually. I wrote a lot of non-requested articles–simply sent articles in that I though would be of interest or help the reader of that publication. After a bit, publications were asking me for articles.
Science taught me research–find an expert in the field and ask him. He will know more than you will in a month of study.
Q: What would you consider to be your biggest setback and achievement in your professional career?
A: Getting the books out.
Q: What’s next for you?
A: Another book.
Career Advice from Shirley
Best advice: Do an outstanding job of whatever you are doing. You never know where it may lead and make you own opportunities.
Skills you need: Willingness to work.
Degrees you should go for: Will vary
Where you should start: Make your opportunities
Professional organizations to contact: In chemistry ACS, in writing the Authurs Guild, in the food world, the International Association of Culinary Professionals, IFT, Research Chefs