Graubart (ABJ ‘82) mixes producing, authoring into career of her own

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.

Cynthia Graubart holding the cookbooks she has authored.
Cynthia Graubart has authored or co-authored more than ten cookbooks.

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.”

Alumni Feature: Cameron Whitlock

When Cameron Whitlock graduated from Grady in 2011 with a degree in journalism, he had no idea where the next few years would lead him. Using the skills he learned during his time at UGA and the life experiences he gathered post-grad, he now freelances and works as a wedding videographer.

Cameron Whitlock graduated from Grady College with a degree in journalism. (Photo: Cameron Whitlock)

In college, Whitlock said he was pulled toward a career that allowed him to be creative. With a heart for public relations and a love for storytelling, he ultimately decided to study journalism.

Whitlock started working for a newspaper in Jackson County after graduation, where he implemented the skills he gathered in college. Through his classes, Whitlock says he learned core photography and graphic design principles that he used and further refined at the paper.

“They let me have a lot of liberty with the front of my sports section. I did graphics and different charts and really put a lot of visual aids in a small newspaper that probably didn’t have that sort of thing really going for it before, but they let me be creative,” he remembered.

After about four years at the paper, Whitlock decided to try something new. He packed up a bag and left Georgia to travel internationally for a year. 

“It had always been a dream of mine to travel the world. I really love traveling and learning different cultures and languages and different things, so I kind of did the ‘digital nomad’ thing for about a year or so,” he said.

Whitlock freelanced in both writing and graphic design while he backpacked. Everywhere he went, he took his camera to document his adventures. 

“I had a small backpack for over two months in Spain and France, and I actually can’t believe I carried around a giant camera with me now,” he said. “But I just filmed everything and got much better.”

Whitlock now works as a wedding videographer for Whitlock Wedding Films. (Photo: Cameron Whitlock)

When he finally returned to Georgia in 2017, his newly developed camera skills came in handy. A friend saw his work and asked if he had considered wedding videography. Whitlock took a leap of faith and gave it a shot. After people saw his first video, the business “took off,” he said.

Whitlock said his time in the College taught technical skills like software editing as well as helped him grow personally. While before college he was more introverted, he credits UGA with helping get him outside of his comfort zone to meet a variety of different people.

“It really is the skills that I learned from some of the graphic design stuff in school, some of the photography stuff on the job, talking to people in Grady and in my reporter job really helped me a lot,” he said. 

When it comes to advice for students looking to pursue a more non-traditional career, Whitlock’s answer is simple: just give it a shot.

“Don’t shy away from exploring different things because you never know when you’re going to find something that is exciting and new and interesting to you,” he encourages. “I would have never thought that I actually enjoyed filming weddings and going to random weddings every Saturday. It’s not something I would have thought would have been up my alley.”

But now Whitlock said exploring this avenue has given him a career that he is not only successful at but also is job he finds genuinely fulfilling.