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Advice / Career Paths / Exploring Careers

I Used My Love for Cooking and Baking to Switch Careers Into Food Branding

Elizabeth Tilton
Elizabeth Tilton

Growing up, Elizabeth Tilton—Head of Brand at W&P—wanted to be a doctor, just like both of her parents. But the closest she ever got to being one was dressing up like one for Halloween. Because while she was on the pre-med track in college, she knew that, deep down, she wanted to try another field first: cooking.

“Growing up in New Orleans (arguably one of the country’s best culinary cities) played a huge role in my love for food, as did my dad’s commitment to eating dinner together every night,” Tilton explains. “Even during the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina, when my family and friends were scattered across the United States, food continued to bring us together.”

So, she gave it a try. While in school, she launched Sweetology Catering, where she designed and directed the catering aspect of events, such as weddings and corporate parties. After graduating, she began working at Sucré, a popular and delicious dessert boutique in New Orleans. There, she served as a pastry cook, head chocolatier, and assistant to the executive chef. (Oh, and she ran the macaroon station!) She’s also worked as a pastry cook at other top-notch restaurants.

In 2012, Tilton switched gears a bit, from baking pastries and perfecting chocolates to serving as the public relations and marketing manager for the restaurant group Momofuku.

“This may seem like a hard left turn, but it happened pretty organically,” explains Tilton “I moved to New York to pursue a front-of-house and operations role at Momofuku. Several months in, I learned about an opening on the PR and marketing team. I talked to the department head and realized I was really interested in the position. Luckily, they were willing to take a chance on me.”

Tilton and staff at Le Bernardin in 2011.

Tilton enjoyed her time in that role so much that she continued pursuing opportunities in the same field. For the past three years, she’s been leading the marketing and communications team at W&P, a company that creates food and beverage products, such as carry on cocktail kits and spice grinders.

To learn more about Tilton’s career journey, keep reading.

What Was Your Favorite Part About Being a Pastry Chef and Chocolatier?

There were four parts of being a pastry cook that I really loved: working with my hands, perfecting a skill, managing the delicate balance of efficiency and quality, and crafting beautiful food that provided joy and nourishment to others.

In terms of chocolate, I really loved the science of tempering. When I worked at Sucré, we’d hand-cast and enrobe 28 different types of bonbons and confections. This results in nearly 170,000 (and sometimes more) individual pieces during the holiday season alone. If that doesn’t teach you organization, I’m not sure what would!

What’s One Setback You’ve Experienced, and What Did You Learn From It?

Working in a toxic environment. I was still a pastry cook working at a coveted restaurant, and a lack of trust permeated the company, due to senior leadership. It was jarring to realize that, sometimes, those who rise in the ranks don’t get there because of proven skill.

From then on, I’ve measured the success of a company completely differently. In my eyes, trust, collaboration, and work-life balance are crucial to the longevity of any organization.

That’s why joining W&P in the early stages was such an incredible opportunity. I’ve been able to hire some highly talented, hard-working, and accountable team members. If they trust that I’ll recognize their talents and respect their opinions, then I believe they’ll continue to rise to the task of making W&P the best brand—and work environment—it can be.

If You Could Provide One Piece of Career Advice, What Would It Be?

No matter whether a company succeeds or fails, the personal and professional relationships you develop will long outlast the value of any quantifiable achievements. Do everything with grace and integrity.