Class of 2019: Former Food Writer Mixes MBA Into Recipe to Launch Career as Restauranteur
By Emma D'Arpino
When Jed Portman (Class of 2019) came to the University of Virginia Darden School of Business, he came in with a background in journalism. As he prepares to graduate with his MBA two years later, he’ll be leaving with the confidence to tackle the business side of the field that he once wrote about.
“I had my dream job in journalism at Garden & Gun,” Portman said. “But I had always hoped for the opportunity to be a player in the food and beverage industry, and Darden has given me the skills and confidence to do that successfully.”
Writing for Garden & Gun had been Portman’s goal after graduating from college. He knew the award-winning magazine that covered everything from the best food to the best art in the South was the right fit for him. So, he turned down offers from other magazines for an internship at Garden & Gun when the opportunity became available. His internship developed into a full-time position as food editor, where he had the chance to speak with chefs, visit production facilities and go to farm fields to produce content for the magazine. During this time, Portman started thinking about where he wanted his career path to take him in the future.
“When I started considering what I wanted to do next, I realized that I had fallen in love with the food business, not just food journalism,” Portman said. “It was pretty clear to me at that point that I wanted to move from the media side to the business side.”
The question that then emerged: How would he make this transition?
Upon advice from others, he decided to pursue an MBA, but he wasn’t sure what to expect from business school. However, at Darden, he found a supportive community that helped guide his new career direction — naming Professors Lalin Anik, Saras Sarasvathy, Marc Lipson, Michael Schill, Jeanne Liedtka and Peter Belmi, in particular.
“But I don’t even need to mention those names because, really, every professor at Darden has been patient with me, a former journalist trying to better understand basic business concepts,” Portman said. “They’re some of the smartest and most accomplished professors in the world, and they’ve been so generous with their time.”
Brewing Up Success With New Student Club
While at Darden, Portman’s experience hasn’t just been shaped by what he’s learned in the classroom. He’s also taken away a lot from his time with the Darden School of Brew, which was the 2019 recipient of the Darden Club Prize for Excellence Award. This year, Portman served as president and head brewer of the club, which gives members the opportunity to collaborate with Charlottesville breweries to brew beer on a monthly basis and provides them with an invaluable experience seeing all stages of product development.
“No matter who you are, or what your background is, you can find a way to be a leader and make a difference at Darden,” Portman said. “For me, that was the School of Brew, where I was able to leverage my food industry network and knowledge to create new experiences and products for the classmates who helped me through finance and accounting.”
Portman has also taken advantage of other opportunities to expand his knowledge outside of the classroom. While working in product development for Kroger during a summer internship, Portman had the chance to put a lot of lessons he’s learned at Darden into context. He’ll again be tasked with putting the knowledge he’s learned from business school into context as he prepares to fulfill a career goal: to open a restaurant in Cincinnati, Ohio.
“When I was first looking at business schools,” he says, “a friend who had taken a similar path described his MBA as the fourth wall of a house. You have three solid walls, he said, and, sure, you can build something quick and flimsy, or you can ask your friends to help you hold the roof up, but if you take two years and invest in yourself, you can complete the building. I’m leaving Darden feeling fully equipped to make a difference in Midwestern food and drink.”
The University of Virginia Darden School of Business delivers the world’s best business education experience to prepare entrepreneurial, global and responsible leaders through its MBA, Ph.D., MSBA and Executive Education programs. Darden’s top-ranked faculty is renowned for teaching excellence and advances practical business knowledge through research. Darden was established in 1955 at the University of Virginia, a top public university founded by Thomas Jefferson in 1819 in Charlottesville, Virginia.
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