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One era ends, and a new one begins


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#1 Fat Guy

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Posted 02 July 2012 - 11:16 AM

After more than a decade, I'm stepping aside as executive director of the Society for Culinary Arts & Letters (the parent organization of eGullet.org).

Here's what happened: Around the time of our 10th anniversary, I told the board of directors I was going to start looking for a new challenge. Since then, we've worked to ensure a smooth leadership transition. Let me tell you about that first.

Dave Scantland, who many of you know online as "Dave the Cook," will be taking over as executive director. Dave joined us in 2002 and went from member to host to manager to director of operations, and is now taking the helm with the unanimous support of our board of directors. Dave has been a great friend to me and to the organization. He has been acting executive director on several occasions, such as during my leave when my son was born. He has been the person we've given our most difficult jobs to, and he has always handled them with aplomb. I will let Dave speak for himself about his vision for the future of the organization -- and you will hear from him soon -- but suffice it to say this should be an exciting new chapter.

Dave will be supported by Chris Hennes, who will expand his portfolio (he is currently director of operations for technology) to include managing our finances as director of operations. Janet Zimmerman ("JAZ") will continue on as a manager and a member of the board of directors. Finally, Chris Amirault will remain director of operations for eG Forums, supported by the amazing Linda Kowalcky ("LindaK") and the best team of forum hosts and participants ever. (The forums team is always looking to recruit new staff, so if you think you'd fit in please reach out to Linda via the personal messenger system.)

So, what am I doing? What am I even qualified to do after spending a decade here?

A couple of months ago, I met the folks at a company called Quirky (http://www.quirky.com). Quirky does what is called social product development, though that hardly tells the whole story. Quirky has a rapidly growing online community of about 230,000 people. Community members submit product ideas on the Quirky.com website. The ideas are evaluated by the community, the community collaborates to make them better, and every week the best inventions are selected, further developed, and actually built. Quirky has been very successful with this model and has placed quite a few products in stores like Target, Bed, Bath & Beyond, Container Store -- many of the best places. So, essentially, it is a company built around an online community, and they were looking for somebody to head up their community team.

When I saw the job description, it read like it had been written to smoke me out: they were looking for someone who had experience with a large online community, and who was looking for a new challenge. When I told them what we've been doing here since 2001, we started a conversation that extended through more than a dozen meetings and culminated last week in my taking on the position of Head of Community at Quirky, Inc.

I'm tremendously excited about this new chapter in my life. I will also miss this place terribly. Over the years, you all have become my extended family. Last summer, at our annual Heartland Gathering, I looked around and thought what an extraordinary group of people came together in this community. For example, did you know that our head of membership, Kris Yamaguchi ("Torakris"), until recently was based in Yokohoma, Japan? Yes, if you applied for membership, your application was reviewed in Japan -- that's why the people who applied at 2am in New York got approved so quickly. Yet she was there in Ohio at the gathering -- I think she traveled the farthest of anyone, though she was not the only person who came from Asia.

Our community members have accomplished many things that have moved the conversation about food forward in significant ways. Most recently, Nathan Myhrvold (member "NathanM") released his treatise, Modernist Cuisine, which was born many years ago in discussions on our forums about sous-vide cookery. A few years ago, our members broke the biggest story ever about culinary plagiarism, which ended up in the Wall Street Journal, the major magazines -- and, to this day, in law review articles. In 2003, before anybody had thought to do it, we pioneered online cooking instruction with our community-based eGullet Culinary Institute project. Several of those tutorials, like Sam Kinsey's course on cookware, remain definitive and frequently cited. At least one, Chad Ward's knife tutorial, developed into a book from a major publisher.

In 2002, we launched the Daily Gullet, articles from which have been selected for inclusion in the annual anthology Best Food Writing as often, or more often, than any other publication, whether its form is paper or pixels. It's been an early venue for some of today's most promising and prolific food writers.

Not long ago I ran into a chef who many consider the best chef in the US right now. He said to me, "Do you have any idea how much eGullet has meant to so many people?" That makes me proud, but I also know that I'm just a recognizable name attached to eGullet and that all the real accomplishments belong to the community.

I will come around the forums when I can, and I will still be on the board of directors -- and available to the team when they can't find the password to the Stamps.com account. I also hope there can be some sort of dialog about consumer products in the kitchen, because I'll be at a company that can actually build the stuff you guys think up. So I won't say goodbye, but I will say thank you from the bottom of my heart for an amazing decade.

With relish,

Fat Guy

Steven A. Shaw aka "Fat Guy"
Co-founder, Society for Culinary Arts & Letters, sshaw@egstaff.org
Proud signatory to the eG Ethics code
Director, New Media Studies, International Culinary Center (take my food-blogging course)


#2 jwwai

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Posted 02 July 2012 - 12:21 PM

We'll definitely miss you. Best of luck as you begin your new position.

#3 JBailey

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Posted 02 July 2012 - 12:23 PM

And you saved the new photo for the letter and didn't use it here??? Seriously Steven, best wishes to you and your family, great luck with this new adventure and thank you for making all of this happen which has given so many of us countless hours of enjoyment.
"A cloud o' dust! Could be most anything. Even a whirling dervish.
That, gentlemen, is the whirlingest dervish of them all." - The Professionals by Richard Brooks

#4 Shalmanese

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Posted 02 July 2012 - 12:38 PM

Sad to see you go but congrats on the new position, Quirky is a great company! Thanks for everything you've done over the years.
PS: I am a guy.

#5 mkayahara

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Posted 02 July 2012 - 01:34 PM

Thanks for all your hard work over the years, and best of luck in the new position! I know you're leaving the shop in highly capable hands, but it won't be quite the same here without you. Do be sure to come and visit as often as you can.
Matthew Kayahara
Kayahara.ca
@mtkayahara

#6 mgaretz

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Posted 02 July 2012 - 02:44 PM

Best of luck!

#7 cmling

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Posted 02 July 2012 - 02:49 PM

Thanks for, well, a lot!
Please don't disappear entirely. We miss you.
Charles Milton Ling
Vienna, Austria

#8 pastameshugana

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Posted 02 July 2012 - 02:55 PM

We'll miss you!
PastaMeshugana
"The roar of the greasepaint, the smell of the crowd."
"What's hunger got to do with anything?" - My Father
My eG Food Blog (2011)

#9 Panaderia Canadiense

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Posted 02 July 2012 - 03:18 PM

Thanks for the years (I didn't realize it was a decade!) of hard work. Please don't be a stranger - we'll miss you terribly if you do!
Elizabeth Campbell, baking 10,000 feet up at 1° South latitude.
My eG Food Blog (2011)My eG Foodblog (2012)

#10 Darienne

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Posted 02 July 2012 - 03:40 PM

Congratulations and all best to you in your new job, FG.

Over the past three years, you and others in eGullet have become such important persons and mentors in this new part of my life. Thank you.
Darienne


learn, learn, learn...

Cheers & Chocolates

#11 Heartsurgeon

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Posted 02 July 2012 - 04:01 PM

Stay classy Fat Guy!

#12 FrogPrincesse

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Posted 02 July 2012 - 04:07 PM

Congratulations on the new job and best of luck to you!

#13 KatieLoeb

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Posted 02 July 2012 - 04:07 PM

Steven, my sincere congrats on the new position. It sounds perfect for you! Although I haven't been around for the entire decade, I've spent countless hours here, both as member and moderator. I've made many lifelong friends here. I've learned more things than I can count. It's an awesome place you've helped build here, and through your stewardship, it has a strong foundation. Don't be a stranger. It won't be the same without you.

Katie M. Loeb
Booze Muse, Spiritual Advisor

Author: Shake, Stir, Pour:Fresh Homegrown Cocktails

Cheers!
Bartendrix,Intoxicologist, Beverage Consultant, Philadelphia, PA
Captain Liberty of the Good Varietals, Aphrodite of Alcohol


#14 Smithy

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Posted 02 July 2012 - 04:09 PM

It's been here at eGullet that I've been able to ask questions, find answers, take courses, expand my cooking capabilities, share wacky experiments and their surprising results, and make some friends. You've been one of the faces of the community and a chief driver of its growth. I'm sure Dave, Chris and Chris, JAZ and the rest of the all-star cast will keep the community thriving, but I'll miss your voice here.

Thanks, Steve, and Best of Luck to you!

Smithy

P.S. Do keep the eGullet community in mind if some new product needs beta testers!

Nancy Smith, aka "Smithy"
HosteG Forumsnsmith@egstaff.org

"Every day should be filled with something delicious, because life is too short not to spoil yourself. " -- Ling (with permission)

"There comes a time in every project when you have to shoot the engineer and start production." -- author unknown


#15 Raoul Duke

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Posted 02 July 2012 - 04:12 PM

I hope you checked the corporate refrigerator prior to accepting the position. That tells you a lot about a company. Good luck on the new challenges.
"I drink to make other people interesting".

#16 C. sapidus

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Posted 02 July 2012 - 04:58 PM

Wait - Heidi let you leave without doing a final foodblog? How did that happen?

Much gratitude for what you set in motion, and best wishes on your new direction.

#17 heidih

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Posted 02 July 2012 - 05:25 PM

Wait - Heidi let you leave without doing a final foodblog? How did that happen?

Much gratitude for what you set in motion, and best wishes on your new direction.


He is not really gone - I can still bug him. Thanks for the suggestion :) Steven you can chronicle the food at your new work environment!

#18 Marlene

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Posted 02 July 2012 - 06:02 PM

Steven, thanks for the years of service and fun. I always enjoyed working with you. Good luck on your next adventure!
Marlene
cookskorner

Practice. Do it over. Get it right.
Mostly, I want people to be as happy eating my food as I am cooking it.

#19 IowaDee

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Posted 02 July 2012 - 06:05 PM

You're leaving us in good hands but you will be missed! Best wishes for your exciting future.

#20 Fat Guy

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Posted 02 July 2012 - 06:38 PM

I hope you checked the corporate refrigerator prior to accepting the position. That tells you a lot about a company.

I have never seen a corporate refrigerator situation to rival this one. There are actually four refrigerators -- the big-ass Sub Zero kind. Two of them are stocked with an array of beverages that includes not only soft drinks but also beer and wine. One is stocked with fruit, yogurt, and other snacks. One is for use by employees for storing items they bring for themselves. There are also cabinets full of snacks like potato chips, pretzels, pistachios, muffins, Five Hour Energy, etc. There's a Natura machine for sparkling and still purified water. A Nespresso machine for coffee and related beverages. Not to mention a fully operational, well-equipped kitchen.

Steven A. Shaw aka "Fat Guy"
Co-founder, Society for Culinary Arts & Letters, sshaw@egstaff.org
Proud signatory to the eG Ethics code
Director, New Media Studies, International Culinary Center (take my food-blogging course)


#21 Fat Guy

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Posted 02 July 2012 - 06:39 PM

Steven you can chronicle the food at your new work environment!


Once I settle in, surely, I should be able to do that.

Steven A. Shaw aka "Fat Guy"
Co-founder, Society for Culinary Arts & Letters, sshaw@egstaff.org
Proud signatory to the eG Ethics code
Director, New Media Studies, International Culinary Center (take my food-blogging course)


#22 Lisa Shock

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Posted 02 July 2012 - 08:19 PM

Congrats on the new gig!

#23 andiesenji

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Posted 02 July 2012 - 08:51 PM

Congratulations on your new adventure. I'm sure this endeavor has given you an infinite variety of experiences that will be of significant value in the future - probably at times must have felt like herding cats.

I am just one of many who will greatly miss your wit and knowledge. Please do visit from time to time and keep us up to date with your activities.

Andie
"There are, it has been said, two types of people in the world. There are those who say: this glass is half full. And then there are those who say: this glass is half empty. The world belongs, however, to those who can look at the glass and say: What's up with this glass? Excuse me? Excuse me? This is my glass? I don't think so. My glass was full! And it was a bigger glass!" Terry Pratchett
My blog:Books,Cooks,Gadgets&Gardening

#24 liuzhou

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Posted 02 July 2012 - 09:15 PM

Good luck!

#25 nickrey

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Posted 02 July 2012 - 11:45 PM

Wishing you all the best in your new challenge.

I'm sure we'll see you posting as often as you have but you won't be doing the huge amount of work that is hidden from most of us.

Thank you for making this such a safe, friendly, authoritative, and influential forum.

Nick Reynolds, aka "nickrey"

"My doctor told me to stop having intimate dinners for four.
Unless there are three other people." Orson Welles
My eG Foodblog


#26 Fat Guy

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Posted 03 July 2012 - 05:18 AM

Thanks Nick. I was just talking about you at the new office. I mentioned that we once had our community focus group transcripts analyzed by a corporate psychologist in Australia, who developed a survey for us. It all sounded very impressive. Actually, in retrospect, the story impressed me too.

With respect to the behind-the-scenes work, I think my successors are slowly realizing that I did less than they thought and that I didn't do it as well as I should have!

Steven A. Shaw aka "Fat Guy"
Co-founder, Society for Culinary Arts & Letters, sshaw@egstaff.org
Proud signatory to the eG Ethics code
Director, New Media Studies, International Culinary Center (take my food-blogging course)


#27 SylviaLovegren

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Posted 03 July 2012 - 05:50 AM

Congrats! Hope the new job is fun and challenging and rewarding. And really hope that you'll pop back in here with questions and comments. Especially questions -- always enjoyed your topics!

#28 gfweb

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Posted 03 July 2012 - 06:20 AM

Wow. Big change going from being the boss to being not-the-boss. We'll miss you for sure.

Quirky sounds cool; one question, how do you handle the IP issues?

#29 Simon_S

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Posted 03 July 2012 - 06:23 AM

Best of luck, Fat Guy, hope all goes well at the new venture.

If you ask me, you were starting to look a bit too thin for these parts anyway...

#30 Fat Guy

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Posted 03 July 2012 - 06:28 AM

Wow. Big change going from being the boss to being not-the-boss. We'll miss you for sure.

Quirky sounds cool; one question, how do you handle the IP issues?

Not being the boss pays better!

Basically, if the company endeavors to build your invention, the company owns the intellectual property and pays you (and your collaborators) a perpetual royalty.

Steven A. Shaw aka "Fat Guy"
Co-founder, Society for Culinary Arts & Letters, sshaw@egstaff.org
Proud signatory to the eG Ethics code
Director, New Media Studies, International Culinary Center (take my food-blogging course)