From the moment she heard her first two years of pharmacy school would be spent in the basement of the building at the University of Georgia, Cynthia Graubart (ABJ ‘82) knew she needed to pick a different major. It just so happened that when she left the auditorium during her orientation, she saw a sign for the journalism school and knew that would be her path.
But Graubart took an unconventional turn down that path. She stirred her love for cooking with a talent for producing, added a dash of leadership and mixed in flexibility to become a published cookbook author.
“I think being able to have your fingers in a lot of different pies is a great thing,” Graubart said. “It helps you be more nimble, it helps you adapt and it helps you be able to present a multitude of skills to a potential employer.”
Graubart began her career after graduation as an independent television producer. Through her work, she was recommended to help produce a cooking show series for southern cookbook author Nathalie Dupree.
After Graubart had children, she took a break from producing. It turned out to be much harder than she expected.
“And I said, someday I’m going to write a book called “The One-Armed Cook,” because there I was holding a baby on my hip, and having to do everything. And I ended up writing that book, so that was my first foray into being a cookbook author.”
She is now the author of 12 cookbooks, many about the southern art of cooking chicken, vegetables and of course, biscuits.
Graubart attributes her Grady education to being a discernible reader and clear writer, which helps when trying to write recipe steps that are engaging and easy to follow. One of her most vivid memories that established her strength as a producer happened in her television production class. A student production assistant missed a lighting cue on Graubart’s final project, and her grade was penalized. When she approached the professor, he told her she was responsible as the producer for the missed cue. From then on, Graubart made sure everyone on her production team understood their job and knew what she required of them.
“Being a graduate of Grady College has always been a seal of approval. The reputation of the school has always helped open doors for me.”
Her secret weapon in the industry is bringing experience from behind the camera as a producer and in front of the camera when promoting her cookbooks. This ultimately led to a new endeavor in April.
She co-founded Culinary Media Training with business partner Virgina Willis (also a UGA grad) to help clients tell their culinary story on video.
“It was really clear that people were going to depend on video and that people needed to know how to do this that had never done it before,” Graubart said, describing the launch during the COVID-19 pandemic.
The most surprising aspect of the new business has been working with repeat clients, she said. From growing a YouTube channel and cultivating an Instagram feed to promoting a product or book, Graubart and her team do it all.
“You’re going to have multiple opportunities to reinvent yourself.”
Most recently, Graubart heads the James Beard Foundation Awards’ broadcast committee. The foundation is resetting its entire award structure to create a more diverse voting body and remove systemic bias. Graubart’s broadcast committee specifically will use updated media categories and judging criteria.
“It was an exciting opportunity to start again with a clean slate and really look at the awards program on a very granular level,” she said.
Graubart hopes to impart some wisdom on college students about career changes. She wants them to be less stressed than she was when deciding what they want to do with their lives.
While the basic principles of television and video production remain mostly the same, Graubart wishes she took more writing classes to increase her skill because “you still need to tell a great story.”