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James McIntosh, Home Economist

James McIntosh, Home Economist, Entrepreneur and World Traveller

Interview with James McIntosh via email
Written by
Jay Deagon


To be a home economist means different things in different parts of the world. It is a multidisciplinary subject with practitioners employed across a wide variety of fields such as teaching, textiles and fashion industries, family development and relationship advisors, government consultants, health and well-being advocates, scientists and researchers.  A degree in home economics can take you places… as James McIntosh can attest.

James McIntosh is a world award-winning cookery writer, home economist and food demonstrator.  He is flamboyant, talented and very busy.  I asked James to describe what an Industry Home Economists does:

I’m the link between the consumer and industry.  It’s my job to look at the needs and wants of the family as a consumer buying unit.

James works mainly with food and kitchen appliances. Many factors affect a family’s decision to purchase kitchen produce and products.  For example, cost, availability and sustainability of the product.  James’ task is to take his home economics knowledge of families into consideration when as he works with domestic appliance manufacturers to develop a product such as a new oven, stove or frying pan.

For most clients I am employed by the marketing department.  My jobs may include writing, blogging, social networking, cookery demonstrations, recipe development, food styling or product evaluation.  Basically, I make the manufacturer’s product ‘the star’.  I assist with matching the manufacturer’s wants with the needs of the family.  I give the everyday family a voice at design, production and post-production levels.  So that the family will have a product that enhances their life at home and the manufacturer has a product that will sell.


James is the CEO of Whisk Media (www.whisk.biz) and offers many services for clients.  He believes that the many forms of media and technology available to us today, such as TV, mobile phone technology and the internet, have a significant role to play in educating and reaching out to consumers.  He thinks and operates on global levels by fully utilising these technologies.

I also have my own brand of products under my own name, www.jamesmcintosh.co.uk, where I write cookery books (some of which won the Gourmand World Cookbook Award in 2008 for Best Series of Food Books in the World), I also have an iPhone App out www.whiskapp.com and presented a 20 part TV series in China about food on the Silk Road.


Chef Wan of Malaysia, Margaret McIntosh (James' Mum) and James at the Gourmand World Cookbook Awards 1 July 2009

Chef Wan of Malaysia, Margaret McIntosh (James' Mum) and James at the Gourmand World Cookbook Awards 1 July 2009


To survive, all people must learn how to feed and cloth themself.  This is a learnt skill and not an instinct.  “The family” has remained a constant feature through all of human history.  However, the needs of the family have changed considerably across the years. The way that knowledge is passed down to the younger generations has changed as technology, resource availability, distance and time pressures changed.  Most industries also evolve as the needs of society change.  In westernised societies (such as the UK and Australia) home economics education mainly involves teaching kids cooking and sewing techniques.  I asked James what he believes the main differences are between “old school” (cooking and sewing) home economics and how this compares to the home economics of today.

My mum is a Home Economics teacher, and she has told me many stories about the cooking and sewing days.  What we need to remember is that this can be viewed as ‘old home economics’, but it’s very important as it teaches life skills.  Times have changed, for example we no longer need to be able to darn our socks when they have a hole in them, but we do need to be able to sew on a button.  In terms of cooking its important not to learn a recipe as a nursery rhyme, but to understand the techniques and flavours and how they combine and see these as a building block to make and produce other things.  A good example being learning to rub fat into flour. From this we can make scones, bread, pasta, some cakes, pastry….

So what kinds of things does James think teachers should cover in home economics class?

I think teachers should make home economics fun – life is fun (if we want it to be) and home economics has many great career opportunities.  I’ve seen the world with home economics.  There are opportunities for all, a teacher should encourage students to look at options and find what’s best for them.  Remember home economics is not one subject, its requires the input of many.

James is from the UK but has worked around the world taking home economics to some exotic locations.  As an active member of the Young Professionals Network and member of the International Federation for Home Economics, he is a very active voice for home economics.  He regularly attends industry conferences to keep his knowledge and networks up-to-date and vibrant.  With his extensive international experience, I asked James about how he has seen home economics practiced differently in other countries.

Indeed I have seen the world!  Growing up on a small farm in Northern Ireland I moved to study Home Economics at university in Scotland.  Then I moved to London after and have been here ever since!  I’ve seen most of Europe, Australia, China, Hong Kong, most of the USA and Canada, Jamaica, Japan, North Africa and travelled right across Russia.  Not bad when I’m only 32!  

Each culture has different ways and traditions. However the needs of the family are the same.  Speak to a Japanese Home Economist and their families are exactly the same as ours in the UK.  Same teenage problems, same factors affecting age but their culture differs in that respect.  In the UK home economics has a strong practical cookery ethos in Greece not so much, as the Greek family culture passes down cooking techniques from Grandmother to Mother to Daughter (and hopefully son too!).  Home Economics can’t be the same in each country like Mathematics can.  It has to adapt, bend and breathe for the consumer.  Home Economics is the study and knowledge of families and consumers.

Consumerism, food security and excessive use of resources are a global concern.  These are his thoughts about sustainability and responsible consumerism as aspects of home economics and his work.

Two main points in my work are; reduce food waste and tackle obesity for my food clients and reduce energy in cooking for my appliance clients. Chefs always talk about gas as a great way to cook, but the facts are that a gas hob looses 50% of the energy created when cooking and water is the by-product of using gas.  I’m doing a lot of work on Induction cooking now as that is 98% efficient.   Recipe development for clients is not just about creating nice recipes, it’s about using a product a client manufacturers to make it the best it can be, to encourage consumers to buy and to reduce waste.

His vision for home economics?

My vision for home economics is simple.  Educate through creative means and media. We, as home economists, have the knowledge and experience of consumers, let us put that to use to empower consumers at grassroots level to make good choices in terms of their homes, families, nutrition, purchases, lifestyle, travel, clothing and well-being. 

James is probably one of the world’s highest profile and recognised home economists… and a male… so how important is home economics for young men.  What benefits are there for male students to study home economics?

*smiles with embarrassment* (but it’s probably true).  I’ve worked hard and very long hours to get where I am.  I’ve always talked to people to get to know them, ones network is very important!  What I would say is, home economics is a subject where you have to use so much creativity, and back that up with academic and technical findings.  Like accountancy there is probably more than one correct answer to a problem.  Home economics is the same, there are usually a number of solutions.  The difference is that you have to be particularly discerning about what is correct for the family because the stakes are higher and decisions will have a significant impact on the quality of life.  As a male its been challenging!!  But just look at the opportunities I’ve had, other people have paid for me to see the world with work.  I think that says enough really!

So James, any final words…

The most important part of home economics is that regardless of what, how or where home economics is practiced, the health and well-being of individuals, families and communities remains in focus and at the top of our agenda.

James McIntosh is living the life.  Home economics is fun, very relevant in the modern world and can Whisk you off to all sorts of interesting places!  We look forward to hearing and seeing more from James in the future.

HomeEcConnect is interested in stories about Home Economists doing exceptional and exciting things around the world.  If you have a story, know someone, are someone or would like someone who inspires you interviewed – please contact us!



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