So what does a food writer do? Type this statement into Google and you will see a plethora of results that examine the definition, tasks, and requirements behind being a highly sought after food writer.Now, my favorite food writing advice comes from acclaimed Washington D.C food writer, Monica Bhide.
In a 2011 Forbes article she advised new food writers to:
1.) Ask a ton of questions.
2.) Go out into the world and immerse your senses in food. Listen to foodies, smell clementines, and hone into your senses.
3.) Read voraciously.
4.) Get used to rejection.
If you love her advice (which you should) definitely tweet her here.
Aside from studying the concept of food writing, the best way to learn about food writing is to learn for yourself; That’s what I did several years ago when I first started in the gourmet food industry. I was a fledgling when it came to truly understanding how a Hershey chocolate bar could never supersede deluxe bars of milky brown gold from Belgium (craving Belgian chocolate right now). Now I am armed with the ingenuity, foresight, and verbal dexterity to write either mouth-watering restaurant or product review.
Along with writing, so what does a food writer do? Well, here’s a candid picture behind this food writer that I hope will help you along your own food journey.
1.)Network and learn from trade shows. It’s a given but attending the NASFT Fancy Food show, and other regional food shows across the U.S not only cultivate your senses with unique delights (mushroom flavored mochi) but this is the best place to create everlasting relationships with notable key figures. A few years back, I attend the Summer Fancy Food Show and struck a fun conversation with the CEO of Tortuga. After we chatted, I was able to sample his new line of rum cakes and had a memorable time reviewing them for my blog. Primarily at food shows will you stay abreast with food trends and also learn about new products before the public does.
2.) Try new foods and don’t wimp out. It’s basically a given but how can anyone write about food if they don’t know what it tastes like. Also, when I say try new foods I don’t mean just new American or just fancy foods at pricey restaurants (that’s just being a poser). I mean foods from all over the world that both tickle and intrigue your senses. Why not eat some couscous with your shakshuka? Or try something else aside from chicken tikka masala. For my past birthday I received this delicious subscription boxset. Try the World lets foodies sample exotic spices, teas, jams and beyond from countries like France and Thailand. My baked chicken was a success this week thanks to the French persillade from Mont Saint Michel and also a dosage of butter to moisten up the bird.
3.) Write.. Duh! Learning how to write about food is both a culinary and artistic experience. When I first started, I would do online and offline research on foods. I would later create an outline, fill that in with information I gathered from diverse sources, and write out my thoughts as simply as possible. It’s always best to remember KISS (Keep It Simple Stupid) but it never hurts to throw in fancy food words here and there if you thoroughly know what it means. Use your imagination, freely. Do not feel constrained by what your peers are writing too since writing, in itself, is an art form. Read from notable food writers online and learn to write like them. Once you gained the confidence to write like them, freelance and write for notable food blogs like We, The Eaters. Once you finely tune your craft, feel free to start your own food blog and brand yourself.
4.) Meet and eat with foodies. When you are in the food industry, it’s hard not to meet up with other foodies. If you are new to being a food writer, just do a simple Google search, and you will find other food bloggers in the area. Definitely connect with them on social media and start a relationship there. You can find fellow foodies on Instagram and on twitter if you type in #foodie in the search bar. Social media is all about connecting. In fact, I met my food marketing expert friend, Jimmy Matorin through Linkedin. (check out his blog here) You can also find fellow foodies at food shows and through events sponsored by your favorite newspaper. As an avid reader of The Washington Post weekend guide, I often look up food shows, festivals, and restaurant openings in the area. Buredo (burrito sized-sushi) recently opened up and I know that the first people going there are tweeting and blogging about this delicious occasion. Don’t be shy! Exchange e-mails, meet up for coffee, and learn by listening.
5.) Learn and be social on social media. A great segue from connecting with foodies on social media is to also pick up on trends. Download a Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and even Snapchat apps. Perform a Google search on local and on national food bloggers, youtubers, and celebrities like Rachel Ray and Giada De Laurentis, and follow them through these apps. Often times these foodies are posting content on current food trends. Also follow esteemed food journalists, publications, and photographers too if you want to get article ideas or even partner up on a new venture. When you click on food-related hashtags and follow up on conversation you will instantly get fresh information you can use for your articles.If you want to engage further, subscribe to food threads on quora, reddit and on Linkedin. Provide value by giving information or articles to readers that are of interest. Lastly, If you want to pay it forward (great movie, by the way) offer to write up a review for a new restaurant or help a new food company out with a product review. Newer establishments often post on social media and this is also a great way for you to get your foot in the door.
6.) Subscription magazines are not dead. As you see above, I have a subscription to Food and Wine. I am really excited about this since this is the premier magazine for recipes, food trends, and information on getting the best of the best. I also recommend getting a subscription to Saveur, Bon Apetit, and Fine Cooking. If money is tight, than you can also fatten up your RSS feed by subscribing to notable food bloggers. Try using these keywords “food bloggers AND foodies AND List” into Google. Peruse some of these lists and select food bloggers that you trust. Not all food bloggers are credible so pay close to attention to what they write, how factual it is, and if they fit your own niche.
7.) Cook until your finger nails are encrusted with flour. My fingers are still caked with flour but I do know that they have no regrets. When you are hands-on in the cooking process you learn more about what it takes to craft a fine dish. If you are a novice in the kitchen start out with simpler recipes. Type “Easy buzzfeed recipes” into Google and peruse those links. I can attest that these recipes are easy to use. I made a five ingredient spaghetti carbonera from Buzzfeed and I was able to impress a full house.
8.) Eat at unique or new restaurants. I happily live in a food mecca. Washington D.C, Maryland, Virginia, Pennsylvania and New York have diverse cuisines from all over the globe. Just recently a new Phillapeno restaurant called Bad Saint opened up on 11th street in D.C and I am just hankering to go. I get that it can be pricey to eat out often so I highly advice that you eat with good friends, and share appetizers. Groupon is good to an extent, however, several restaurants are demanding customers pay extra since they proclaim they don’t make enough through the Groupons, alone. In order for me to keep track of food trends for future articles, I take a picture of the menu, images, and people. I jot down notes on the taste, visual, and experience too. I also take it a step further and look up certain dishes, their cultural ties, and even on how an amateur chef could possibly concoct this at home. Great writers ask questions and dig further for more information.
9.) Be Padma Lakshmi. So I am not telling you to go into modeling or to be a host of a tv show. When I say be Padma Lakshmi I mean take the food industry by storm. Be fearless and take a risk. Say you want to write for “Food and Wine” but you are scared of rejection. Just do it. Say you really want to learn how to make a souffle but you are scared of failing at it. Just do it. Lakshmi braved the modeling field and smartly grasped the food industry by being the premier host for Top Chef, writing books (Love, Loss and What We Ate: A Memoir), and by immersing herself into different culinary cuisines. She has also branded herself as a fierce food writer as well through social media, networking opportunities and through self-growth.
I’ve taken my own advice from going to trade shows into being Padma Lakshmi, and have grown a lot over the years as a food writer. What I learned about food writing is that food writers are not only writers but social media mavens, networkers, chefs, artists, risk-takers, and also food scientists. Food writers are the Jack’s (or Jackie’s) of all trade and that’s what we do. We do everything.
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