Alumni in Action: Vaughn Vreeland ’15 is cooking his way to the top (2024)

Vreeland is the supervising producer for New York Times Cooking and is making a name for himself being featured multiple times on "Good Morning America," writing recipes and filming content in his supervisory role with The New York Times, and even making the 2023 Forbes 30 Under 30 list for media.

Alumni in Action: Vaughn Vreeland ’15 is cooking his way to the top (1)

Vaughn Vreeland ‘15, supervising producer for New York Times Cooking, is making a name for himself at just 29 years old. Being featured multiple times on Good Morning America, writing recipes and filming content in his supervisory role with The New York Times and even making Forbes 30 under 30 list for 2023 for media, Vreeland is a perfect example of Elon’s alumni in action.

Vreeland originally came to Elon because he thought he wanted to major in acting, but he quickly changed direction, trying to find the best fit for him. He tried several different tracks, from anthropology to political science, but he ultimately landed on a double-major in media arts and entertainment and French. His major naturally led to involvement in other areas of campus, including Lambda Pi Eta, the communications honors society, and interning in University Communications under Dan Anderson. In this role he also was able to refine his writing skills, writing for the Magazine of Elon and the university’s news site. Another thing that he really enjoyed as a student was being a host for E-Talk, Elon’s very own talk show, hosted through Elon Student Television.

Alumni in Action: Vaughn Vreeland ’15 is cooking his way to the top (2)For his French major he had the opportunity to study abroad, with the help of a merit-based grant. Traveling to the South of France in the town of Montpellier, he enrolled at a university and focused his studies on visual art. He later returned to the same location his senior year. “I was able to successfully cross-reference my two majors in each of my senior theses, writing about the power of the director in French cinema as they portray disenfranchised communities, and explaining the use of color theory in Wes Anderson filmmaking. This got picked up for the Elon Journal and I still, to this day, get emails from people asking me about it,” said Vreeland.

Study abroad was not the only Elon experience that had an impact on Vreeland. Outside of his major-based studies and extracurriculars, Vreeland was incredibly involved. He was a member of the Student Government Association for three years and a tour guide for campus, eventually becoming the student supervisor and holding the title of Campus Visit Assistant, overseeing his fellow admissions ambassadors. He also participated in the Phi Kappa Phi honors society, the Pi Delta Phi French honors society and the Pi Sigma Alpha political science honors society, where he held various leadership roles as well.

Alumni in Action: Vaughn Vreeland ’15 is cooking his way to the top (3)The summer of his junior year he had the opportunity to intern with a small fashion magazine in New York as a media intern. As a cinema major, he knew he wanted to create in the realm of videography. “I thought fashion was going to be it for me, but I left that summer feeling a little lost in the greater media landscape because I didn’t enjoy it as much as I thought I would,” said Vreeland. “However, one thing I knew was that I was obsessed with New York.” And so began his passion to get back to the Big Apple someday.

After graduation Vreeland moved to Thailand to teach English as a second language for half of a year in an effort to continue the global citizenship that Elon instilled in him, and he absolutely loved it. “I ended up making the promotional video for The Council on International Education Exchange and I realized a lot of what I highlighted in that video was food and how it connected us to the Thai people and Thai culture,” said Vreeland. He quickly realized that food as a subject was something that he was passionate about, and this became a stepping stone into his current role with The New York Times.

Following his time in Thailand, he returned to his hometown of Raleigh to work for a French-inspired patisserie where he was able to hone his skills as a home cook, and then just a few months later he made the decision to move back to New York.

I moved to New York with no job, and I lived with two Elon alums that I didn’t know, that had posted in the Elon NYC Facebook group. Fortunately, I rather quickly found a job at BuzzFeed, also through an Elon connection,” said Vreeland, explaining the importance of the Elon network for graduates.

Vreeland worked at BuzzFeed for about two years making videos for the sub-brand, “Tasty.”

“I started making recipe videos that mainly went on Facebook and Instagram. Then, I helped start the YouTube team where we focused on creating shows for the brand. They were pretty popular videos. I gained some good exposure and ended up working with someone who then went to The New York Times as the Strategy Director for NYT Cooking,” explained Vreeland.

He found out that The New York Times was also looking to start an internal video team as well, and so he and his colleague both went to The Times to help with that startup. “It was just the two of us making the cooking videos for nytimes.com, YouTube and Instagram for about two years, and then we started building our team. We now have about thirteen people on the team total, which is really exciting,” said Vreeland.

In his role as Supervising Producer, he oversees the recipe and entertainment video operation for NYT Cooking. Some of his favorite work involves more casual videos of him in his own kitchen, such as the video of him cooking himself twenty-seven meals in just one week titled, “Is Cooking for Yourself Worth It?” or a video of him making Marcella Hazan’s famous bolognese sauce.

Alumni in Action: Vaughn Vreeland ’15 is cooking his way to the top (4)“I ideate and create content based on a whole host of things in the food landscape. This past Thanksgiving, for example, I created a concept with Ina Garten where she developed a menu using store-bought staples—canned cranberry sauce, packaged stuffing mix, boxed mashed potatoes—making them more delicious and seemingly homemade, that we called ‘Store-Bought is Fine,’ which featured a video, six recipes and a written piece for the paper,” said Vreeland.

In his role he also develops recipes and serves as an on-camera personality. He currently has several shows in the works for the channel and is featured on their social media platforms regularly. He even occasionally does national morning and daytime television spotlights to promote the NYT Cooking recipes, such as being featured on Good Morning America. Vreeland does not just produce videos though, he also works as a writer for the recipes that get featured on the site, such as this one about whipped coffee.

Alumni in Action: Vaughn Vreeland ’15 is cooking his way to the top (5)Vreeland feels prepared in his current career because of his education at Elon. “I feel like my hands-on education, specifically in my production classes, really mimicked real-life video creation,” explained Vreeland. He remembers a class with Tom Nelson where he had to make a video each week without assistance, and he said this prepared him for the fast-paced work environment of BuzzFeed where they were turning out a large quantity of content weekly. Elon also taught him the power of human connection, “without my connections I made in my time there — be they with faculty, my peers, people I met on tour — I’m not sure where I’d be,” said Vreeland. One thing he also learned as an undergraduate is that he works best under pressure. He said that, although it does not happen quite as often, he still occasionally pulls all-nighters like he did in college.

Vreeland feels that Elon alumni are successful because they receive a deeply experiential education, which better prepares them for life after college. The advice that he would give to current students is: “Define your comfort zone and work to push those boundaries. I’ve grown the most when I got uncomfortable and took risk—professionally speaking, and within reason, of course—it’s in those moments I learned the most about myself and what I’m capable of.” For him, seeking out opportunities from the very beginning and asking a lot of questions helped him to foster strong connections that helped him get where he is today.

Alumni in Action: Vaughn Vreeland ’15 is cooking his way to the top (6)As for Vreeland’s future, he said, “Stay tuned. And go Phoenix!”

If you are interested in trying some of Vaughn Vreeland’s New York TimesCooking recipes for yourself, check them out here. Also, check out his latest feature on Forbes Top 30 Under 30 list for 2023, here.

Alumni in Action: Vaughn Vreeland ’15 is cooking his way to the top (2024)
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