A COACH WHO KNOWS CULINARY
knowledge to work. Allegra
Antonia Allegra, St. Helena, Calif.,
loves having that inside track on her
clients’ work challenges. With personal
experience in both the food world and in
writing/publishing, Allegra works mainly
with clients interested in culinary careers,
including food writing and publishing.
program there, earlier goals evaporated
like a cold droplet on a hot griddle. Allegra
attended LaVarenne, L’Ecole Lenôtre and
Le Cordon Bleu. When she returned to
the U.S., she put her enhanced culinary
required for a
to work in his
or her client’s
even to have
experience in it. But professional coach
the client’s answers an important
ingredient in the process. “Oftentimes,
that’s where people start to see other
extensions of what they want to do.”
In the years that followed, she became
food editor of the The San Diego Tribune;
wrote several wine guides; founded two
award-winning publications; directed her
own culinary school; was on the launch
team for The Culinary Institute of America
at Greystone, St. Helena, Calif., and
more. She is director of the prestigious
Greenbrier symposium for professional
Allegra trained as a professional coach
through Coach University, an offshoot
of the International Coach Federation, a
Lexington, Ky.-based worldwide resource
for professional coaches. “It took two and
a half years,” she says, recalling weekly
classes over the phone, plus exams.
She has guided some 1,500 clients
over the past 12 years as they navigated
career dreams, confronted dilemmas
and pursued greater work satisfaction.
Maybe just as useful as her background
in two industries is her own experience in
career happiness. “Everything I do, I love.
I will not take on something that is not
interesting”, she says.
She feels the culinary world deserves
coaches who understand it. So she
joined with colleagues Merrilee Olson
and Debi Benedetti in founding the
C4 Collaborative, Santa Rosa, Calif., a
coaching group dedicated to the culinary
and hospitality trade.
“It’s just a normal part of life to want to
know what’s going on with someone
else and to really listen,” Allegra says of
her coaching perspective.
To help clients discover their own routes to
happiness, Allegra poses a question early
on in the relationship. She asks the client
to list the top 10 directions he or she might
like to go in, in the next five years.
Allegra also views coaching as another
direction that culinary people might
branch out into. “Perhaps there are
people out there who understand
what the coach spark is,” she says,
emphasizing the serious effort it involves.
As a young woman, she always loved
cooking, but planned to go into early
childhood development and theater. Then
her husband’s career sparked a move
to France. When she entered a culinary
“It could be dog sledding, tree trimming,
anything,” Allegra says. She considers
For anyone who’s interested in
taking on the role, she offers simple
encouragement. “Call me,” she says.
tools for giving a client a better view of
himself or herself. Some coaches even
specialize in those assessments.
can call himself or herself a coach. So
it’s important to ask about credentials,
background and experience.
some kind of written contract, even if it’s
just a simple letter of agreement.
Armstrong uses such tests to supplement
information she gets in interviews with the
client, his or her colleagues and supervisors.
Coaches and clients agree that coaching
may not be the answer for everyone.
But if you do decide to look for a coach,
experts say, keep this in mind: Coaching
is not a regulated profession—anyone
At the International Coach Federation,
Cannon advises looking for three things:
A coach should be trained specifically
for coaching, have an actual credential
to prove that and subscribe to a code
of ethics. “Be really clear what you’ll be
paying for, what you can expect from the
coach and how often you’ll meet,” she
says. And, she warns, be sure to have
Many coaches offer a free introductory
meeting for prospective clients. One way
to explore the topic more is through Web
referral listings of professional coach
organizations such as the ICF and Santa
Rosa, Calif.-based C4 Collaborative.
Ginny Marcin has been writing about the
food industry and food people for more
than 20 years. She lives in Westmont, N.J.