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Will Eat for Money: 100 Ways to Make Your Living as a Professional Eater

Though it may not sound like the healthiest kind of job description, getting paid to eat does sound fun and maybe even stress-free. If you’re a food junkie or are just tired of slaving away behind a desk munching on granola bars, consider one of these 100 ways to get paid to eat.

Competitions

The prize money from these competitions could pay your rent for a few months or allow you to quit your job for a whole year, depending on your lifestyle expectations.

  1. Krystal Square Off: In 2005, CNN reported that this event awarded $10,000 to the person who could eat the most hamburgers.
  2. Cherokee Casino World Barbecue Eating Contest: Eat the most barbecued pork tenderloin sandwiches and win $10,000 in this competition held in Tulsa, OK.
  3. Ash Creek Saloon World Rib Eating Championships: You could win $5,000 if you eat the most ribs in this contest. The current record is 8.4 lbs of ribs in 12 minutes.
  4. Chinook Winds World Rib Eating Championship: Held in Lincoln City, OR, this competition awards $2,750 to the person who can eat the most ribs.
  5. John Ascuaga’s Nugget World Rib Eating Championship: Head to Sparks, NV, and eat as many nuggets as you can for a chance at $5,000.
  6. U.S. Buffalo Wing Eating Championship: You could earn as much as $1,500 if you win first place in this Buffalo, NY, buffalo chicken wings eating contest. There are small awards for second and third places, too.
  7. Kolache Factory World Kolache Eating Championship: Houston’s contest awards $10,000 to the first place winner who can stuff down the most kolaches.
  8. Buffalo Buffet Bowl: Get $1,750 if you win this eating contest, which features heaping portions of sausage, chicken wings, roast beef sandwiches and more.
  9. La Costena “Feel the Heat” Jalapeno Eating Challenge: Total prizes given out at this Chicago competition amount to $5,000. Candidates have to eat as many La Costena jalapeno peppers as they can.
  10. Nathan’s Famous 4th of July International Hot Dog Eating Contest on ESPN: Probably the most famous eating contest, this competition now awards the winner $20,000, plus a mustard yellow belt and “eternal glory.”
  11. Wing Bowl: Wing Bowl is a popular Philadelphia competition that awards cars, trucks, jewelry, motorcycles and other prizes to winners.
  12. Myrtle Beach World BBQ Eating Championship: Eat the most pulled pork BBQ sandwiches and win $4,000 in this competition.
  13. Mattituck Lions Club World Strawberry Shortcake Eating Championship: Mattituck, NY’s Lions Club competition ofers $1,500 to the person who can eat the most strawberry shortcake. The record holder is 15.25 pounds in eight minutes.
  14. Costa Vida World Burrito Eating Championship: This 10-minute contest involves stuffing your face full of Big Kahuna burritos made with sweet pork, beans, rice and cheese. The winner earns $3,000.
  15. Ash Creek Saloon World Rib Eating Championship: Black Rock, CT’s competition prize is $5,000.
  16. City of Lewisville World Tamale Eating Championship: See how many tamales you can wolf down to win $3,000 in Lewisville, TX.
  17. Three Brothers Pizza World Eating Championship: Win $4,000 in total prizes or pizza for a year by eating the most pizza in 10 minutes.

Dessert

If you’ve got a serious sweet tooth, check out these ways to earn extra cash and credit.

  1. Take a survey: This couple won a $10 gift card at The Cheesecake Factory after completing a survey.
  2. Offer to feature a new business in your blog or column: Trade your services for free dessert by offering to feature a new business in your blog or by offering them free PR through your company in exchange for weekly goodie baskets.
  3. Chocolate marketing: Janette Dengo writes about her paid-to-eat-chocolate gig here.

Judging

Become a judge of a cook-off or baking contest and you might be able to earn cash or an exchange of services.

  1. Local competitions: Find out if your community has a bake-off or other food competition that pays judges.
  2. Pillsbury Bake-Off Contest: Find out how to be a judge for this elite competition.
  3. Sponsor a contest: If you’re a food critic or work for a food company, sponsor a contest that you’ll get to judge on the clock.
  4. National Chicken Cooking Contest: Grand prize winners get $50,000, but judges actually get to taste each recipe.
  5. The Search for America’s Worst Cook: If you’re looking to punish your taste buds, consider judging this contest.
  6. Just Smoked Salmon Contests: Set up a system like this recipe contest, which also drives customers and contestants to its business website.
  7. State Fair contests: Volunteer or figure out how to get asked to judge a cooking contest at a state fair.

Taste Testers

What if you woke up every morning to taste ice cream or chocolate? Check out these taste testing gigs.

  1. Ice cream: Learn about ice cream taste testing and writing here.
  2. Part-time taste tester: This job description maintains that a taste testing job like this one could be a good fit for retirees or stay-at-home parents.
  3. Dog food tester: You may not love the idea of tasting dog food, but if it pays the bills….
  4. Taste Tester Maintains Million-Dollar Tongue: Check out this interview with an Edy’s taste tester, who doesn’t swallow ice cream on the job but gets to snack after hours.
  5. Standardized taste testing leads to better eating: Learn about scientific taste testing systems here.
  6. Baby food taste tester: Just like food for adults, baby food needs to be taste tested too.
  7. New taste testing method identical to concept used in breath fresheners: Read this article to learn more about new taste testing techniques.
  8. Water: The professionals involved in this taste test were only concerned about water.
  9. In-house taster: Look for job postings like this one, that recruit taste testers to taste a variety of items.
  10. Taste Tester: Set up an account with this company to become a taste tester and part of a market research project.

Beverages

The beverage industry holds a lot of interesting jobs that involve tasting and sampling.

  1. Brewmaster: If you’re a major beer fan, try to get a job at a brewery, where you get to taste your different stouts and ales.
  2. Wine tasting: Even if you can’t afford to buy a winery, vineyard employees may get complementary bottles for special events or get to taste the goods every once in a while.
  3. Work at a vineyard: Wine consultants can help restaurants, stores and bars select the kind of wines they want to carry.
  4. Master Sommelier: This title is actually a diploma and “the highest distinction a professional can attain in fine wine and beverage service.” Doug Frost, one of few American Master Sommeliers, is a respected consultant, writer, lecturer and judge.
  5. Tasting room staff: This position requires employees to greet visitors, present and pour wines, sell wine and maybe even get to sip a glass after hours.
  6. Winemaking and production: Develop new flavors, and manage administrative, quality assurance, and other production duties as a winemaker.
  7. Drinking companion: Look for an ad like this one, which was submitted by an elderly gentleman in England who just wanted someone to share a pint with him.
  8. Coffee taste test manager: Run a taste test like this one, which compared coffee from McDonald’s, Starbucks and even Coca-Cola.
  9. Bartender: Bartenders often get free shots and drinks courtesy of their patrons.
  10. One-time taste testers: Some breweries may periodically sponsor random taste tests to get feedback from the general public. If you’re lucky, you’ll get paid too. This taste test awarded $100 for every male who participated.

Farming, Production and Sales

From growing and selling your own products to becoming a quality manager or sampling new products, follow this list to yummy goodness.

  1. Fruit or vegetable farmer: Taste your own produce before shipping it off.
  2. Backyard gardener: Sell your produce from your backyard garden to friends and neighbors, and of course, save some for yourself.
  3. Head to a farmer’s market: Take your baked goods, cheeses, meats and produce to a farmer’s market where you can sell the food you eat at home for “free.”
  4. Quality manager: Depending on what type of quality manager you are, you may get to assess taste quality, as well as food regulations and quality of production and technology.
  5. Wholesaler: Try out samples of new products to recommend to your customers.
  6. Fisherman: Though most fishermen get paid by the weight of their catch, it still might be worth it to take out one or two fish for dinner.

Party Planning

Caterers and professional hostesses have lots of tricks for scoring food for money swaps.

  1. Wedding planner: Wedding planners need to know a lot about the different flavors and offerings of wedding cakes, hors d’oeuvres and more.
  2. Caterer: You’re getting paid to cook and deliver, not taste, but who will know if you save samples for yourself?
  3. Start a birthday cake baking business: Bake birthday cakes for friends and family, and you’ll get to lick the bowl and maybe even save a piece for yourself.
  4. Score an invite: Party planners who score invites to the actual party will get to eat and drink for free while enjoying their paycheck for organizing the event.
  5. Professional hostess: Be a professional hostess and get paid to organize a party with someone else’s budget and space.

Entrepreneurial Endeavors

Run your own cupcake business or restaurant, or start your own career as a food critic if you’ve got entrepreneurial spirit.

  1. Cupcake business: In the last few years, more and more cupcake businesses have sprouted up. Start your own and save messy or unpresentable cupcakes to take home.
  2. Open a restaurant: Open up your own restaurant, as a place to make money and eat for free.
  3. Foodservice consultant: Become a foodservice consultant and earn money recommending food safety guidelines, food products and more to restaurants and wholesalers.
  4. Start a blog: Start a food blog or restaurant review blog. Set up Google AdSense or another advertising system, and the more popular you are, the more you’ll get paid!
  5. Food styling: This business is run by a man who consults for and assists writers, recipe developers, cooking classes and more. Food styling involves mastery in food composition and presentation.
  6. Recipe reviewer: Review popular recipes from books, and then post them onto your money-making blog.
  7. Start a bakery: Whether you have a bakery building or just sell cakes and desserts from your own kitchen, taste everything before wrapping it up for sale.
  8. Freelance: Even if you have a regular job but want to get paid for eating, offer to write restaurant reviews or to share recipes for a local magazine or a website. You might get paid in cash, or you might get compensated with the free meals.
  9. Dietician or nutritionist: It sounds counterintuitive, but dieticians get to try out diet food and health foods so that they can recommend them to their clients.
  10. Personal chef: Depending on the person or family you cook for, one of your job’s perks could be getting to eat what you’ve cooked.

Kids and Teens

From scholarships and loans to babysitting and lemonade stands, kids and teens can get creative in their search for food-friendly jobs.

  1. Food scholarships: Get a scholarship or grant that will put you through culinary school and experiment (and taste) different creations.
  2. Non-related loans: Any kind of loan that puts you through college or graduate school will indirectly pay for your food until you graduate.
  3. Lemonade stand: Who can resist a cute kid with a lemonade stand? Drink all you want and sell the rest to your neighbors.
  4. Babysitter: Babysitters usually get their pick of what’s in the fridge, or at the very least, a couple of slices of the pizza you ordered on the kids’ parents’ tab.
  5. Start your own business: Bake brownies or make one-of-a-kind pizzas to sell to your friends and neighbors. The best part is getting to munch on ingredients and samples.

Entertainment Industry

If you’ve always had dreams of making it in the entertainment industry and want a job that pays in food, try these out.

  1. Actor: See if you can snag a part in a food commercial or a scene that requires you to eat at a restaurant. Mess up often so you can keep redoing takes and keep eating.
  2. Celebrity endorsements: If you’re already a celebrity, see if you can get an endorsement to be in a Gatorade commercial or a representative for any other food or beverage brand.
  3. Reality show: Reality show contestants often get to eat and drink on the show’s tab, but read the fine print before you sign up: you may be eating nothing but mice or tree bark for a while.
  4. Get paid to party: Celebrities like Paris Hilton and even Spencer Pratt get paid to make an appearances at parties, where we’re sure they get to eat and drink all they want too.
  5. Owner of a hotspot: Owners of hotspot clubs and restaurants can eat for free while they schmooze with guests.

Restaurant Work and Customer Service

From being a hostess to working on a cruise, these jobs offer extra perks for grumbling stomachs.

  1. Chef: You may not be allowed to taste while you cook, but whip up something special for yourself before or after your shift.
  2. Waiters: Wait staff often get free meals before or after their shifts, plus whatever free mints or bread sticks they can sneak on the sly.
  3. Bus boy: Yeah it’s gross, but if you can secretly pick from leftover plates while you’re on the clock, you’re getting paid to eat.
  4. Owner: You’re basically stealing from yourself, so eat whatever you want when you check up on the restaurant.
  5. Hostess: These restaurant employees also usually enjoy free meals before and after shifts. Take off a few minutes early (if you can) and stuff your face while you’re still on the clock.
  6. Anyone on salary: Some restaurant employees may get paid on salary, so you might be able to get free food whenever you show up.
  7. Work on a cruise: Get a chance to travel while you get to eat in exchange for your services.
  8. Critic: Restaurant critics who write regular columns and reviews for newspapers, magazines and websites can earn a solid living. Others may have to pick up other jobs to make ends meet.
  9. Flight attendant: Sneak a bag of peanuts or a soda the next time you’re in flight and on the clock.
  10. Casino owner: Casino employees may get free meals around their shifts, and owners can enjoy complimentary drinks and food too.

FDA and Food Safety

Spread awareness and make sure food products are up to par while reaping the benefits.

  1. Quality assurance: As a quality assurance supervisor, you’ll be responsible for evaluating production techniques, technology, factory quality, consumer response and more
  2. Food Safety Education: Within this field, you may get the chance to design and present lectures to the public or to schools about food safety and the process of ensuring food production quality. As part of your presentation, bring snacks to make it fun.

Chemistry/Food Research

From participating in studies to entering contests, here are even more foodie jobs.

  1. Product development: Join a product development team to come up with new flavors and food products.
  2. Enter and win a recipe contest: If your recipe wins, you could be reimbursed with money, scholarships, travel, food and more.
  3. Be in an allergy study: Participate in a food allergy study, and you could get reimbursed.

Endorsements

Picking up an endorsement may be tricky if you aren’t already famous, but these gigs pay you to eat their products.

  1. Be the new Jared: Knock Subway’s Jared out of his top spot as the chain’s “celebrity” endorser, and you could get free meals and a contract.
  2. Jenny Craig: Whether you appear on the commercial or get a serious contract for endorsing the diet brand, you’ll probably get free meals.

Miscellaneous

Check this list for another random assortment of jobs that let you eat while you’re on the clock.

  1. Teacher: Sponsor food tasting days as part of a lesson, and munch on snacks all day long.
  2. Business traveler: Find a job that requires you to do a lot of traveling on their account, and you’ll get to enjoy free or reimbursed meals.
  3. Professional shopper/reviewer: Some professional shopping gigs also want their secret reviewers to go to restaurants.
  4. Champagne buyer: This article wonders if being a champagne buyer might just be the best job ever.
  5. Etiquette coach: Demonstrate how to use a fork and knife at dinner time, and charge for your services.

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