Check in next week for Foodie Friday!

Next week's Foodie Friday: Mia Bauer, a co-owner of Crumbs. Photo credit:

Sorry to disappoint, but no Foodie Friday today! The series will continue next week, with the co-owner of Crumbs Bakery, Mia Bauer. Be sure to tune in next week to read about Mia’s first experience with the dessert and what she loves most about baking.

In the meantime: trying to decide on a well-paying career path? Science and tech are always a solid background. Check out this article on The Huffington Post about how science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) play a key role in the sustained growth and stability of the U.S. economy.

Happy Friday!

Foodie Friday: The Competitive Eater

During a photo shoot for the documentary about Conti's eating endeavors.

Crazy Legs Conti holds world titles in string beans, pancakes and bacon, beef brisket, and Twinkies. At age 40, he can eat 348 oysters in eight minutes.

Crazy Legs, as he identifies himself on his tax forms, is a top-ranked professional eater with the International Federation of Competitive Eating and the subject of the documentary “Crazy Legs Conti: Zen and the Art of Competitive Eating.”

Extreme eating has exploded over the past few years, especially with Nathan’s Famous Fourth of July Hot Dog Eating Contest in Coney Island, N.Y. – the Super Bowl of competitive eating. Until this year, Conti participated in the contest nine times in row.

Age: 40
Weight: 230 lbs.
Graduated from: Johns Hopkins University
In the industry for: 10 years
Previous jobs: Window cleaner; nude model for studio art classes; independent screenplay writer
Real name: I’ve gone by Crazy Legs for more than 20 years; it’s the name I pay my taxes under.

Your day job: Every competitive eater has a day job to pay the bills. I’m the beverage manager at two Manhattan strip clubs, Scores and the Penthouse Executive Club, where I order all the booze and beer. So I get free drinks at that job, and free food from competitive eating.

When did your enthusiasm for eating start? I’ve always eaten as many Maine lobsters and Maryland crabs as I could get my hands on – I think I ate my first oyster at age 1. My dad and uncle would slide them to me across the table.

How did you transition from enjoying food to eating competitively? In the mid-90s, competitive eating was much more of a subculture, and I was an avid spectator. That was my entry point. I traveled to New Orleans and ate 34 dozen oysters at the Acme Oyster House, which put me on the path.

Pre-contest rituals: The morning of a contest, I’ll drink a glass of fruit juice and nothing else. Leading up to it, I’ll eat mostly soft, malleable foods, but it really depends on what the contest is for. If it’s a meat-eating competition, I won’t eat meat for a week beforehand.

And what about mental preparation? It’s all a mental game. You need a strategy going in; figure out how quickly you can eat one of the food item, and then extrapolate it.

Watch the trailer for Conti’s documentary, “Crazy Legs Conti: Zen and the Art of Competitive Eating.”

Why do you think the sport draws such huge crowds? It causes a visual reaction – even if you’re mortified, you can’t look away. In the simplest sense, competitive eating is a big communal meal like Thanksgiving. People bond over food.

When you’re not downing 29 dozen oysters, what does your normal diet consist of? Lots of oatmeal, flaxseed, and quinoa. I’d like to eat Eggplant Parmesan and French toast every day, but I try to stay in shape.

Any health problems? Nope. I jog, and have even run a few marathons.

Did you participate in Nathan’s Famous Fourth of July Hot Dog Eating Contest this year? This was the first year in nine years that I haven’t qualified; I would have been the first eater in the 96-year history of the frankfest to qualify 10 years in row. I wrote an article for about that.

During competitions, it's "mind over stomach," says Conti.

How does the qualification process work? There are three rounds, in 12 or 14 locations across the United States and overseas. Other smaller competitions have runoffs.

Is there camaraderie among eaters at the table? It’s like a brotherhood of the stomach. At the table, we’re fierce competitors, but afterward, we’ll all go out and run up a big bar tab.

Your last meal on Earth would be: Maine lobster, Gulf oysters, and my dad’s strawberry rhubarb pie.

Most rewarding part of the job: I traveled with Major League Eating to various naval bases, including Guantanamo Bay, to entertain the soldiers.

Worst part of the job: The food hitting your stomach that night or the next morning. You forget what it’s like to ingest 100 Buffalo wings in 12 minutes until you’re lying in bed.

Where do you see yourself in five to 10 years? I hope to host a food-related show on TV and travel on someone else’s dime. Wherever I am, though, I’ll be sure to have a big breakfast in front of me.

Favorite celebrity chef: I’ve been reading a lot of Anthony Bourdain lately. But my favorite is Patrick Bertoletti, who is a chef and a competitive eater.

Conti enjoying Coney Island after wolfing down hot dogs at the Nathan's contest.

Weirdest foods you’ve tried: I’ll try anything once. I ate horse in Italy; hufu, which is tofu that tastes like human flesh; and fugu, a fish in Japan that contains deadly poison. I also once ate whale, which looks like beef, but has a spongy, fishy texture – I don’t recommend it.

Is there anything you haven’t tried? I read about these bats that people eat in Korea, but I think they have lots of neurological diseases.

Proudest moment: I ate my way out of an eight-foot box of popcorn at the Tribeca World Premiere for my documentary. After that, I was dubbed the “Houdini of Cuisine-y” and the “David Blane of the Alimentary Canal.” Another stunt I’m not as proud of involved me climbing out of a window in Chelsea [in Manhattan, N.Y.] while wearing a Speedo and proceeding to eat 12 donuts in three minutes. I got a lot of strange stares.

Biggest food quirk: I’m anti-condiment. I like food in its purest form.

Crazy Legs offers 3 tips on eating your way to the top.
1. Visit and find events in your area to attend.
2. Identify a food you love, eat too much of it, and see if you still like it the next day. Then find a bar that has pickled eggs in brine, and see if you can eat 10 of them without throwing up.
3. Read The Inner Game of Tennis – it will give you a mental edge.

Click here for more Foodie Fridays! All photos courtesy of Crazy Legs Conti.

Foodie Friday: The Food Spotter

Amy Cao in her kitchen in Brooklyn, NY.

Amy Cao, the head of community at Foodspotting, admits it straight up: she can’t cook. In fact, she’s afraid to cook; she’s worried it will make people sick. So instead, she dines out half the week and orders in the other half.

And that’s perfectly acceptable – lots of people can’t cook. But those people typically don’t blog about food, host cooking shows, and hold positions at websites centered on finding good food. Amy does all three.

Below, Amy dishes about the one food that freaks her out, how she avoided the Freshman 15, and a new Foodspotting project launching in July.

Position: Head of community, Foodspotting
Age: 27
Graduated from: Boston University, degree in mass communications
Has held the position for: 9 months
Previous jobs: Editor at Zagat Survey; freelance food writer for Zagat, Tasting Table, and others

Job description in one sentence: I handle Foodspotting’s conversations on and offline, meaning I work on everything from customer service to content creation to video production to social media.

What’s the purpose of Foodspotting? It’s a website and mobile app for finding good food around you, based on photos of dishes that our users recommend. [Editor’s note: a previous Foodie Friday, Mayumi Ando – she’s the creative director at Dylan’s Candy Bar – uses Foodspotting regularly!]

How you got the job: I built a strong following on my blog, Amy Blogs Chow. The job opening at Foodspotting was ideal because they were looking to define their voice online, and I love building relationships with people. It’s a combination of personal and professional.

Latest crazy food you tried: Live lobster at 15 East [a Japanese restaurant] in Union Square. It was presented live, then whisked away to the kitchen.

Why is it important to connect with foodies online? You can dine out and enjoy the experience, but sharing it makes the experience last longer. Everyone is a food critic now, or passes as one – and people aren’t looking to experts as much as they’re looking to their peers. Word of mouth from a trusted source is extremely valuable to our decision-making.

How did you come to terms with your love for food? I love food because it’s welcoming to everyone. When someone cooks for you, it means they care about you. My parents weren’t amazing cooks, but if I wanted to eat something, they would get it for me. There was never a no – food was always a big yes. We had a wonderful dining hall at [Boston University] where I spent a lot of time; I loved being surrounded by food all day.

Does that mean you gained the Freshman 15? I didn’t. Though I eat constantly, I only eat until I’m full. And my roommate, Jenna, whom I dined with most often, would eat half my food. I have a pretty fast metabolism, and if I craved a late night snack, it would be a chicken Caesar salad, which isn’t the worst thing to have at midnight.

Favorite dining hall delicacy? Fresh peanut butter cookies.

Amy with a batch of homemade baked sweet potato fries.

Cooking videos can be long and boring to watch. How do you keep your video series, “Stupidly Simple Snacks,” short and sweet? Each video needs to be under three-and-a-half minutes, and I edit the footage to fit the background music. Cooking isn’t the most approachable thing for me, so I make my videos silly and goofy. The goal is entertainment, and to make food less scary.

How long does editing take? Filming takes less than an hour, but editing a three-minute video can take two days. And that’s in between working full-time [at Foodspotting].

What do you use to record videos? The built-in iSight camera on my MacBook.

Your favorite episode? I had a great time working with [NYC restaurant owner and beverage director] Joe Campanale on the wine cocktails video. We made three refreshing, stupidly simple wine cocktails: a spritz from Austria, Tinto de Verano from Spain, and Bicicletta from Italy.

Something you always cook wrong: Well, lots of things. But mainly, I’d say rice – I never know how long to keep it boiling for. I either don’t use enough water or use too much.

Never-fail snack: Strawberry yogurt parfait from Pret A Manger.
Food that freaks you out: Dried fruit. I don’t like the texture.
Best comfort eats: Anything with spicy mayo; fried chicken; cupcakes; banana pudding; and lattes, if I need energy.

What are you working on right now? We just launched a beautiful app for Windows Phone 7, and we’re launching a new video series in mid-July called Foodspotting with Amy. I’ll be updating users about company news and talking to food experts in New York and beyond.

Which food blogs do you follow? A Cup of Jo, Sunday Suppers, and Tasting Table. I also love fashion blogs like Oh Joy! for the gorgeous photographs. I rarely read recipe blogs, since I don’t cook.

A typical conversation for Amy. She did say she loved spicy mayo.

Wait, you don’t cook? You just eat out and order in? Yep, that’s why I do Stupidly Simple Snacks. I dine out half the week, and order in the other half. I’m afraid to cook, because I’m scared I’ll make people sick.

What do you order? A lot of schnitzel, which is a traditional Austrian dish of deep fried veal cutlets. And Thai takeout. I wish I could make pork chops, because I love them – but I know they’d just be raw in the center if I tried.

You’ve always wanted to meet: My grandfather, who passed away when I was one month old. And Michelle Obama.

Engage with people who share your own interests online, and those relationships will help you find a job. It’s not just enough to have a resume; you need an online presence. Also, if you have an idea, go for it – or else someone will! The best time to start anything is yesterday. Whenever possible, do something to help someone; that’s where the joy is, and that’s where you can relate.

Follow Amy on Twitter at @AmyBlogsChow and check out her Tumblr. All photos courtesy of Amy Cao.

PLUS: Click here for more Foodie Fridays!

Exclusive Behind-the-Scenes Video Scoop!

Did you love this week’s Foodie Friday post about Mayumi Ando, the creative director of Dylan’s Candy Bar? >> Check out the No Joe Schmo Facebook page for an exclusive behind-the-scenes video of Mayumi during her time as a cast member in the hit Broadway musical RENT. Be sure to “like” the Facebook page while you’re at it!

Remember: feel free to submit any ideas for a future No Joe Schmo on our suggestions page.

Foodie Friday: Mrs. Willy Wonka

Mayumi (left) directing a photo shoot for Dylan's Candy Bar. Photo credit: Renata Yagolnitzer

As summer approaches, the shelves at supermarkets teem with ripe strawberries, blueberries, and watermelon. But candy is always in season.

No place knows that better than Dylan’s Candy Bar, the supersize candy store on Manhattan’s Upper East Side (other locations include East Hampton, NY; Garden City, NY; Houston, TX; and Orlando, FL). Mayumi Ando, the company’s creative director, oversees all graphic needs. People buy sweets at Dylan’s Candy Bar in no small part because of its unique packaging; the company’s trademark bold, rainbow style is part of the experience.

Mayumi’s theatrical background gives her a unique approach to design – most notably, as a cast member of the Broadway show RENT. And despite her nickname as “The Gobstopper” (because she’s sweet but tough), she lacks a sweet tooth. In fact, she’d prefer Latin American arepas over chocolate-covered almonds any day.

Title: Creative Director, Dylan’s Candy Bar
Age: 32
Has held the position for: 2 years
Graduated from: Columbia University, Bachelor’s degree in sociology
Number of cavities: Many. I’d like to blame that on genetics rather than eating too much candy.
Previous jobs: Hostess at The Russian Tea Room; tap dance substitute teacher; cast member in the Broadway musical RENT; freelance designer

The Everything Under the Sun Mix, an online exclusive, includes Jolly Ranchers, Starbursts, and Skittles. Photo credit:

Job description in one sentence: Everyone at Dylan’s Candy Bar wears many hats, but my responsibility is to oversee all creative aspects of the company – everything from internal graphic needs to product development/packaging, window displays, and website design.

How she got the job: I began freelance designing for Dylan’s three Christmases ago, when they were really swamped and only had one person in their creative department. A few months later, the creative director was leaving, so I filled in for her while [the company] searched for a replacement. In that time, they realized I was very capable of the job, and one thing led to another…

Something people don’t know about your job: Many don’t realize how involved Dylan [CEO and founder of Dylan’s Candy Bar] is in the company. Nothing goes out without her final approval; she is available via Blackberry 24/7, and is in my office three to four times a week. Also, a lot of people also don’t know that Dylan is Ralph Lauren’s daughter. In a way, that’s a testament to Dylan’s branding and business savvy!

Tell me a little more about Dylan. She’s an extremely creative person, which everyone is very surprised by. She loves bright colors, and dresses the way she’s created her brand – the other day, she came in wearing extremely bright green jeans.

How would you describe the brand? Very bold and colorful. Sophisticated but fun. There’s nothing shy about it.

From where do you draw inspiration? New York City is the perfect place. I’ll get on the subway and look at shopping bags people are holding, what they’re wearing, the conversations they’re having, the books they’re reading. I also love the idea of combining aesthetics from other countries into the Dylan’s Candy Bar brand. I just came back from a trip to Japan.

Donut-shaped mochi in Japan. Photo credit: Mayumi Ando

Any good finds there? Donut-shaped mochi! They look like colorful donuts, but are actually mochi filled with cream and drenched in a candy coating, then frozen. They taste similar to mochi ice cream – which is a ball of ice cream covered in mochi – but are filled with frozen cream, not ice cream.

Best part of the job: Seeing a final product come in after many months of development and thinking, “That initially came from my brain, and now everyone can see it, touch it, and enjoy it.”

Hardest part of the job: I have a large volume of work and responsibilities, and many short deadlines. There are “fire drills” on a daily basis, and in a way, they keep me challenged and excited. But it can also wear me down. Sometimes, I have to give myself a break and say, I just can’t get that done in an hour.

Guilty pleasure: – I don’t have a TV. I’ll put on Iron Chef and stare at all the beautiful food. I’m more of a savory person than a sweet one; I love Caracas Arepa Bar in the East Village.

What are the creative meetings at Dylan’s like? We’ll sit on the floor, sifting through magazines, throwing out scenes and branching off one another. It’s more talking than drawing.

Dylan’s Candy Bar was featured in the movie Arthur, starring Russell Brand. Catch it in this trailer at 1:45!

Best lesson learned: At RENT, I not only got to do what I loved and trained so hard to do — dance, sing, and act — but I also believed in the all-encompassing message of acceptance behind the show. Knowing that I touched the audience and changed teens’ lives … that just meant the world to me. From then on, I knew that it was possible to have a career doing what I loved and to inspire people. Having both parts fulfilled is a must for me now, in any job I choose.

Bottom left, wearing pink: Mayumi Ando, with the cast of RENT in 2007. Center, wearing red: Frenchie Davis from "The Voice." Photo credit: Joan Marcus

How did you make the transition from musical theater to graphic design? I love to dance and perform, but after four years in RENT, I started feeling creatively stunted. I started experimenting with the video camera, teaching myself Final Cut Pro, and drawing a lot. My castmates noticed, and I quickly became the artist-in-residence at our theater. At one point, a castmate showed me preliminary layouts for her website and asked for my advice. Mid advice-giving, we paused, looked at each other, and she said, “You know, you could really do this as a career.” I was thinking the same thing. It was a lightbulb moment.

So you decided to leave Broadway? The next day, I started researching art schools in New York. For a semester and a half, I attended classes at Pratt Institute [for digital media and interactive design] during the day and performed in shows at night. I saw a future for myself in design, so I quit RENT to develop those skills – and became so much better when I could devote 100% of my efforts to it.

How did you build up your portfolio? I got it going pretty quickly, since my castmates were still coming to me to take their headshots, lay out their websites, and design posters for their shows. I was the go-to girl, and my name spread within the Broadway community. I kept putting myself out there, and nailed lots of jobs through recommendations and replying to posts for freelancers. I did in-house design at firms and learned how to work in corporate settings.

Favorite candy growing up: Mini Snickers and Reese’s peanut butter cups.
Favorite candy now: Sour straws. I like chewy, sour stuff.
Least favorite candy: Jellybeans. But I love their colorfulness.

The striped pretzel tower is filled with 3.25” x 2.5” white and milk chocolate covered pretzels. Photo credit:

How many times a day do you eat candy? Maybe twice a week – but if I get cravings, I clearly have access. In my mind, people buy our products for the packaging. You can get chocolate covered pretzels anywhere — though I can vouch for our chocolate-covered pretzels being of premium quality — but most people choose to buy them at Dylan’s Candy Bar because the packaging is so unique.

What are you working on right now? Although it’s summer, it’s very much Christmas time right now for us. We’re also collaborating with Hello Kitty to help support the earthquake and tsunami relief effort in Japan. I am proud to be designing two chocolate bar wrappers specifically for this project.

Mayumi Ando divulges three key steps for aspiring graphic designers.

1. Craigslist doesn’t make any sense for designers, in my experience. When I was applying to jobs and replied to postings on Craigslist, it wore on me to get only one response for every 20 portfolios I sent out. Now that I’m on the other side, I see that posting a job opening on Craigslist means receiving hundreds of portfolios a day. I recommend using your school’s network and alumni database; it increases your chances of being seen because of the fewer number of applicants, and alumni are often willing to help and trust the quality of training by fellow alumni.

Photo credit:

2. The only way to keep the creative juices flowing is to continually design, even if just for yourself. Design is like dance – if you don’t dance every day, your muscles atrophy. Your brain can’t remember how to pick up new choreography quickly. It’s all about upkeep.

3. I’m more impressed with solid student work than so-so real-world work. Once, an applicant showed me her work from a gig at Bed Bath & Beyond, but it was clear that her job was to just lay out existing artwork onto postcards and flyers. It didn’t show me what she was truly capable of. If your real-world work isn’t as impressive or doesn’t portray who you are, it’s not worth showing – just list it on your resume.

Click here for more Foodie Fridays! Follow Dylan’s Candy Bar on Twitter at @DylansCandyBar, and check out Mayumi’s website for some of her work.

PLUS: Trying to cut back on sweets for bikini season? Indulge in some of Dylan’s “skinny sweets,” like gluten-free cookies and sugar-free gummy bears.