Female Disruptors: Muffie Fulton is helping the world embrace modernist cuisine
I had the pleasure of interviewing Muffie Fulton. She is the founder and owner of Bold Food, where she teaches the science of cooking and modernist cuisine, and runs food tours all over the world. Muffie has a background in academic neuroscience, spent years in biotech, and now combined all her experience and passion in Bold Food.
Thank you so much for doing this with us! What is your “backstory”?
I spent my academic career studying neuroscience and my professional career in biotech global supply chain management. Both careers, in unexpected ways, prepared me to start my own business as a culinary educator and tour operator.
I’ve always been a voracious cookbook reader. Many years ago when I picked up a copy of Chef Ferran Adria’s celebrated A Day at el Bulli, I was surprised by how much overlap there was between what high-end chefs were doing and my own scientific training.
At the time, no one was teaching the foundations of modernist cooking, so I took it upon myself to learn these difficult techniques. In 2015, I began teaching classes in Los Altos, California to demonstrate how to use modernist techniques, like sous vide, spherification, hydrocolloids, foams, smoking guns, and fluid gels, to make food look and taste as good as possible.
One of the benefits of my corporate experience was traveling all over the world and seeing modernist techniques in use at the world’s top restaurants. As I traveled, I immersed myself in each country’s culinary culture, using my well-honed organizational skills to create weekend food trips for myself and my colleagues.
Today, I curate exhaustive culinary tours around the world with a combination of top-rated restaurants and local food experiences on the itinerary.
Why did you found your company?
After graduate school in neuroscience at Stanford, I spent 15 years in consulting and biotech working for large, worldwide companies. I was successful and became a leader at those companies, but I was always doing someone else’s work, building someone else’s company. It was financially beneficial for me personally, but emotionally empty.
I know so many women in the corporate world who tell me they would leave and start their own company if they knew what they wanted to do. Well, I knew. I wanted to build something of my own, in a workplace devoid of gender discrimination and sexual harassment.
What is it about the work you’re doing that’s disruptive?
There are very few people teaching the science of cooking, and food tourism is just starting to become big business. I want a piece of both of those things, but what I want more than that is to make my own path.
I don’t want to create the next huge company, the next thing everyone is talking about. I want to create something unique, and do it in a way that is sustainable and values everyone. I want to show that there are alternatives to working in a big company that may reward its employees well financially, but not emotionally.
We all need a little help along the journey — who have been some of your mentors?
I had a manager early on in my career named Janet Hillman. She is an executive in biotech, and she gave me all the responsibility I could handle, along with the support to help me learn to handle that responsibility. I also learned from her how to be true to yourself and your beliefs.
I learned that doing the best work you could may actually have consequences because most people won’t live up to those standards, but compromising your standards also has consequences and you have to choose what is best for you, understanding the trade offs.
How are you going to shake things up next?
I’m going to write books. Books have the ability to reach many more people than I can teach in my kitchen workshop everyday. Not only do I want to share my knowledge of the science of cooking, but I want to share honest and authentic views of being a woman in the workplace.
Can you share the best words of advice you’ve gotten along your journey?
The best advice I’ve received is about using your network. Even though you may move on to another industry, company or field, never forget the people that you’ve met along the way. Not only might they come in handy if you have a question, these people already know you, respect you, and can end up being your best customers in your new endeavor.
What’s a book/podcast/talk that’s had a deep impact on your thinking? Share a story with us.
Believe it or not, the podcast I’m going to talk about is Buffering the Vampire Slayer. This is clearly not a podcast about the business world or entrepreneurship. This is a podcast by two women, a married couple, about the television show Buffy the Vampire Slayer. They have gained a huge following and critical acclaim because Kristin Russo and Jenny Owen Youngs have created something that is very much themselves.
They talk about topics they know well in the context of a show they love. They don’t sugarcoat their opinions or try to appeal to everyone. They may not ever become as big as The Daily or Serial, but they know who they are and they have created a huge following of extremely loyal fans, and with which they can support themselves. To me, this is a true success story achieved by authenticity.
Some of the biggest names in Business, VC funding, Sports, and Entertainment read this column. Is there a person in the world, or in the US whom you would love to have a private breakfast or lunch with, and why? He or she might see this. 🙂
I would like to meet Lena Dunham. I am impressed by her talent, and also her courage to learn and grow openly. She has grown up under the microscope, with criticism coming from every direction, yet she is still an outspoken supporter of all women. I have always been amazed by her ability to engage with critics and learn from them. She shares the beautiful and ugly parts of herself, and is strong enough to continue to be open and learn from her mistakes, sharing them with others so that we might all grow.
How can our readers follow you on social media?
@boldfoodco on Facebook and Instagram
Originally published at t.co