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VoyageDenver: Meet Rachel Waugh

December 1, 2020

Today we’d like to introduce you to Rachel Waugh.

Hi Rachel, we’d love for you to start by introducing yourself.

My passion for food began when I was three, and my parents started letting me help out in the kitchen. Ever after, I became what you might call a “foodie.” I loved eating and cooking and thought I would grow up and be a chef. I even test-ran this career with an informal vegetarian catering business that I began in eighth grade. As I got deeper into my education, I fell in love with the social sciences. Of course, my favorite was when my interest in food connected to my course material on anthropology, religion, settler colonialism, and pop culture. While in undergrad, I started connecting these pieces of social justice, social sciences, and food to create experiences for my friends. Looking back, it makes perfect sense that producing a dystopian food justice theater performance and multi-course dinner at my undergrad, Wesleyan University, was the beginning of the idea that grew into the Museum of Food and Culture. This idea propelled me to graduate school, where I learned more about the food system, culinary tourism, and theories in education. After I completed my program, I moved back to Colorado to be further inspired by the state’s foodscape.

Alright, so let’s dig a little deeper into the story – has it been an easy path overall and if not, what were the challenges you’ve had to overcome?

In some ways, the road to the Museum of Food and Culture seems almost inevitable for me. I think my main struggles in tackling this dream and project came in the form of always wanting to be an entrepreneur – or really, just create something that had meaning – and not knowing how to go about it. I have been very lucky to be surrounded by incredibly talented and thoughtful family and friends who have lent me their ears.

As you know, we’re big fans of you and your work. For our readers who might not be as familiar, what can you tell them about what you do?

The Museum of Food and Culture is co-creating a community that uses food to bridge histories, cultures, and personal experiences. We are a new nonprofit organization (est. 2019). We believe that everyone has a food story and that that story is a spark that can help inspire curiosity, creativity and excitement for history, culture, and other people. In the 21st century, museums should be of, by and for all people — meaning that we are striving to be representative of our Denver community, provide experiences where people can share their food stories, and establish spaces where everyone feels welcome.

How do you define success?

Success for me is about how you approach each day with your passion. I’ve learned a lot about the balance of taking days off and chugging through when I have the energy. In this way, success feels internal, which I think helps combat the classic entrepreneur stories. Balance is the key for me. In how I think about the museum’s success, it’s more about embracing the journey, thinking through and engaging different perspectives, and continuously improving. As a new nonprofit, we are still learning so much, so it’s great to have a level of flexibility in our approach. I think that makes us more resilient in the long run.



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