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Alumni Spotlight: Emily Neilson, Founder of Dirty Gourmet

Published September 9, 2019

The College of Arts and Sciences is the largest college on Florida State University campus, which includes 18 departments, 11 programs and institutes, and about 11,000 students. It awards approximately 2,000 degrees per year and is the oldest college at the university. The college has provided generations of undergraduate students instruction in the liberal arts disciplines that are essential for intellectual development and personal growth. Dirty Gourmet, LLC founder and FSU Alumni, Emily Neilson, has utilized her degree in both Biology and Philosophy in a unique way to further her profession in the outdoor industry.

Emily currently works in the outdoor industry in conservation, which was the focus of her degree (both through the Biology and Philosophy side). She completed a Directed Individual Study as an undergraduate under Dr. Walter Tschinkel, Myrmecologist and distinguished Research Professor in the Florida State Biological Sciences Department. From there, she became a research assistant in his ant biology lab which lead to a focus on experiential learning throughout her career. Emily has worked in outdoor experiential education with a focus on conservation since graduating from FSU, and started her own company dedicated to the subject in 2010.

The mission of Dirty Gourmet is to get more people outdoors by empowering them to make their experience soul-reviving and memorable. Many of these new outdoorists will become advocates for conserving the places they grow to love as they understand the many benefits those places provide. Having a biology background helps me teach people the science behind this important topic, while the philosophy allows me to consider how logic can help with buy-in on the human side.

Dirty Gourmet, LLC, is a woman-owned company focused on making food a practical and comforting part of the experience of being outdoors. Their website is dedicated to easy outdoor recipes while they also book outdoor cooking workshops to teach and provide chef services for large scale outdoor events, and have a cookbook, Dirty Gourmet: Food for your Outdoor Adventures.

I knew I wanted to work in outdoor experiential education after completing my first Outward Bound trip when I was 16. My college career was focused on helping make that happen, while also providing me with experience in field research and writing, which I enjoyed and thought would be useful to my career. I worked first in an outdoor science school teaching 6th graders science in the woods, and then became a sales manager at REI while growing Dirty Gourmet into a successful business. The need for a resource for approachable, adaptable outdoor recipes was great, and helped provide us with many opportunities to grow authentically. I never expected to be a food specialist, but it is one of the biggest limiting factors to getting outdoors for a new camper.

With Florida State University’s newest endeavor of experiential learning requirements for all students, Emily is a great example of how hands-on learning can really get you set up for your future.

When asked for advice for current students at Florida State University, Emily’s response was to “choose to study what you authentically love, and the successful career will come- even if it invents itself.”