I met Sheila at FNCE Philly in 2012 when we shared a booth at the Member Product MarketPlace.  I had seen her NE EML request to share a booth to save money and thought: What a great idea!  We had to work together to fill out paperwork and meet deadlines for the booth reservation, but everything went smoothly and when we finally met in person at the booth, Sheila was so kind and helpful.  Throughout the day I got to know her better and learn about her amazing tours.  Months later we still remained in contact, and Sheila generously offered to write a guest blog for me and interview one of her favorite RDs, Sandra Frank.  Now, it’s my turn to interview Shelia!

MELISSA: How did you become interested in a career in nutrition?

SHEILA: You have to understand that I grew up in Iowa and went to college in the early 70s.  Girls in Iowa went to school to learn to be teachers or nurses.  I picked teaching Home Economics Education. Now it’s called Family and Consumer Science but to me, it’s still Home Ec.  When I look back, it was a good basic background.  I learned a bit of nutrition, food science, and useful skills like sewing.

MELISSA: Seems like most Americans could use a little more of the basics!  Tell me a little bit about your nutrition philosophy – what are you known for?

SHEILA: I studied the sociology of professionalism as my dissertation topic.  I focused on dietetics, of course.   I learned that one of the cardinal features of a profession is that professionals have a discipline-specific knowledge.  That is, we know how to do something that no other profession can do.  Professionals also have a fiduciary relationship and responsibility to their clients.  This means that professionals always put the good of their clients first and foremost. Based on these ideas, I believe that RDs’ discipline-specific knowledge is to translate the art and science of nutrition and the culinary arts into yummy, healthy diets for all people.  Put this way, you can see that MDs don’t do this, RNs can’t do this; neither can other health care professionals.  Now, chefs may say they do this but really, their first goal is excellent taste, so healthful meals can take a back seat to butter, salt, and sugar.

MELISSA: That reminds me of this great video that uses a dietitian analogy to explain what fiduciary means.  I’m always teaching my dietitian clients to use more analogies to explain their key points, and I just love how this investment firm compares dietitians and butchers to explain the difference between fiduciaries and brokers.  Check out the video here.


Sheila, what prompted you to start A La Carte Food Tours?

SHEILA: I spent the first part of my career in nutrition support.  That was back in the days when nutrition support dietitians wanted to stay as far away from the kitchen as possible—it wasn’t as sophisticated as tube feeding and TPN! Later I was recruited to Ross Products (now Abbott Nutrition) and spent the next 17 years in R & D working with isolated nutrients and specialized dietary compounds.  That was about as far from a home cooked meal as you could get. When I retired I wanted to return to the beauty and sensuality of food and cuisines and renew my relationship with the culinary arts. I’ve reawakened to the sensuality of food with its colors, aromas, and textures. After I retired I made a trip to Costa Rica and experienced some wonderful food adventures there.  I wanted to share the adventures with other foodies and voila, A La Carte Food Tours was born. I take guests on 7-day culinary programs as well as on 3-hour food tours in the Columbus, OH area. I’ve lead culinary tours to Costa Rica for the last 4 years.  This year, “Tasting Costa Rica: A Tropical Culinary Adventure” will run from Nov 10-16, 2013. This will be the last year for Costa Rica because I have plans for Tasting Tours to Barcelona, Spain and Florence, Italy. Here’s the website for Tasting Costa Rica:

MELISSA: What a wonderful way to recapture and embrace your love of food….and people!  What do you enjoy most about your food tours and what inspires you?

SHEILA: Two years ago, two innovative dietetics students, Jacqueline Hacker and Abigail Kurowski, attended Tasting Costa Rica, as part of their Leadership requirement at Kent State University, Kent, OH.  I was so happy to act as preceptor to them working with students is a great way to “pay it backwards” to all of the mentors I’ve had in my professional life.

Speaking of professional collaboration, I just read an interesting book, Give and Take, A Revolutionay Approach to Success, by Adam Grant. 

Give and Take

Mr. Grant says that that when people in the work place act like givers, they contribute to others without seeking anything in return. They might offer assistance, share knowledge, or make valuable introductions. When they act like takers, they try to get other people to serve their ends while carefully guarding their own expertise and time. He claims that, surprisingly, givers are the most successful.  I just know from personal experience, that being a giver makes me happy.  I was influenced by Kathi Eckler, RD, during our tenure at Abbott Nutrition.  She said that, in the marketplace, success is not finite.  Rather if we grew the size of the whole pie (the pie being success), everyone got more pie.  I believe that is true in our professional and personal lives.  I’ve certainly found that people who love food are giving people.  So many food entrepreneurs have generously given to me without expecting anything in return.  I try to do the same.  It doesn’t hurt me to give and it just may help someone else.

And, speaking of food.  I’ve found that, regardless of culture, food brings people together.  Even if two people don’t speak the same language, they can enjoy the same meal together.  I’ve made great friends in other countries because we started chatting in a market.  One of my best experiences was meeting my friends Maryline, Joshua, and their daughter, Elisa Justice in Cozumel, Mexico.  I was scouting Cozumel in the process of putting together “Tasting Cozumel: A Culinary Adventure on the Riviera Maya”.  This trip is scheduled again for Feb 2-9, 2014.  We’ll be in Cozumel around Carnaval time.  Last year we loved having experiences in sunny Cozumel in Feb.  I’m looking forward it again in 2014.  Here’s the website for more information about “Tasting Cozumel”:

Tasting Cozumel

The Justices own and operate Kaokao, a Mayan Chocolate Artisan Workshop.  Even though I am not fluent in Spanish, Maryline and I were able to discuss chocolate making and its unique Mexican history.  Maryline mentioned that she needed to create nutrition labels consistent with US regulations so that she can ship her marvelous chocolates to the US.  Voila! What an opportunity for sharing.  I offered to prepare the nutrient analysis and label template for her because I wanted to help another woman business owner who also has a passion for food.  We accomplished this on a handshake and a smile.  Kaokao Chocolate’s website is

MELISSA: You’re currently planning a scouting trip to France for a 2014 tour – tell us about that!

SHEILA: Oh, by the way, Maryline is French.  She goes home every summer to Dijon in France’s Burgundy Wine Region to visit family for a month.  When she suggested that we develop a Tasting Tour to Burgundy, I immediately took her up on the offer.  I just returned home from a glorious 10 days in France where we ate country food, sampled world class wines and visited wineries housed in medieval chateaus, toured family-owned cheese processing plants, watched anise pastilles being made in the original site, a Benedictine abbey in Flavigny  (Flavigny just happens to be where scenes from the movie, Chocolat, starring Johnny Depp, were filmed).  I can’t wait to take foodies back to France for “Tasting Burgundy: A Culinary Tour of France’s Wine Region”, August 3-9, 2014.  Maryline, and her charming father, Daniel, our French hospitality team, provide French interpretation and guidance.

Our Hospitality Team (from left: Daniel, Maryline, and Sheila)

Saucisson maker and vendor at the Dijon Market

Sheila and Maryline admiring saucisson

Gorgeous food in France

This trip, especially visits to local markets in Dijon and Beaune, inspired me to get back to using whole, fresh foods here at home.  It was great fun to get cooking tips and ideas from the vendors and other customers at the markets. We attracted so much attention in the Dijon market that a local reporter interviewed us and we made the local newspaper!

Maryline (center) intrepreting French reporter’s (right) questions to Sheila (left)

MELISSA: It is so interesting to see how meeting someone and building a relationship has resulted in such an exciting next phase in your tour scheduled!  What other nutrition communications do you specialize in and what do you enjoy most about it?

SHEILA: Most of my life has been spent writing and communicating scientific and technical information.  Now I am stretching new creative muscles as I write information for my website and marketing materials.

MELISSA: What is your number one tip for other RDs who want to do more writing?

SHEILA: Like playing the piano, writing takes practice.  Write, write, write, then edit, edit edit.  And, before you say, post or publish something, be sure to check the facts first.

MELISSA: What skills or experiences do RDs need to cultivate if they want to become an entrepreneur like you?

SHEILA: I highly recommend reading the E Myth Revisited.

The E Myth Revisited

I also recommend actually writing a business plan.  I hated doing it but it laid the ground work I needed in starting a new business.

MELISSA: What comes naturally for you and what do you have to work hard on when it comes to your business?

SHEILA: I am a showman and love being “on stage”.  So giving talks, presentations and leading groups is easy and fun for me.  On the other hand, I have to force myself to get into the detail work like accounting, the day to day marketing tasks that you can’t let slide.

MELISSA: Please share one story or experience that either taught you a lot or you think would help other RDs.

SHEILA: I read a Newsweek story years ago.  The gist of it was, “never miss the chance to learn something new even if you don’t know how you’ll use it”.  Fortunately I had a boss who believed this too.  I’ve tried to do that for my staff members as well.  One more thing, never fail to listen to older folks. They are frequently funny and full of wisdom.

Sheila in front of a French dietitian’s lovely office window in Beaune, France

Thank you to Shelia for sharing her story with us.  What an exciting niche for a dietitian!  While we can’t all be Sheila Campbell and tour the world as part of our job – we CAN sign up for her tours and enjoy the fruits of her labor!  For more information about Sheila, A La Carte Food Tours and upcoming trips be sure to check out the website and these links to “Tasting Costa Rica”:

and “Tasting Cozumel”:

Like what you read here? Hear what other nutrition experts have to say about careers, communication and chasing their dreams. Visit the Directory of Dietitian Interviews and be inspired!

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