Wednesday, November 25, 2015

So you want to be a food writer


The topic of food must hit upon a fiercely creative sensory nerve, because people who love food can’t say enough about it. Foodies from the self-taught to the five-star chef love to share their knowledge in some way or another.

I imagine your chosen subject matter should flow freely from you. So if you don’t know off the top of your head what you want to write about, dig a little deeper. What’s your go-to takeout meal, spice, or palate adventure? What can you toss together seemingly in your sleep and have it taste delicious? Your best bet is to choose a food topic—say, gluten free baking/vegan/fusion/Southern—and have this represent you. Most likely, it should come from the heart and your experience and quite possibly your upbringing. Find your story about why you chose this particular topic, or, more likely, why it chose you.

Here are more ways to place your stake (steak?) in the food world:

• Study or work in the field of your choice. If you can’t do this full-time, look into part-time or weekend courses that will help you grow as a chef. Do you already work it the field? I imagine this might be an edge. Learn from the people around you. Soak in everything you can.

• Assert yourself as an expert by starting a food blog. Having a presence on the internet is critical. Reach out to others within your community of food bloggers and offer to guest blog but save your best creations for home. Do you have a moist vegan bread? A curry that tastes authentic? Knock the socks off the world and show your stuff.

• The wonderfully creative aspect of food extends into photography. Take a look at how other food bloggers “stage” their shots with eclectic cutlery (flea market finds) and rustic-looking table linens or cotton napkins. Your camera will need to pick up on the textures and the presentation of how the dish is built. In fact, the way we eat our foods, sometimes doused with sauces, won’t present well on camera. Learn a few techniques before you come out of the gate, so that your blog begins its life as smart and savvy. The link here says you don’t need a fancy camera to look good!

• Can you write and test recipes? If not, expand your knowledge. You probably have skills from hours of cooking, but imagine what other techniques you can learn! Plus, it’ll make you that much more confident. There are online courses and probably classes near your home.

• Collect and read all the food magazines. My favorite is Cook’s Illustrated. Food magazines have test kitchens and staff writers. So what should you be doing, if you’re freelance? Querying and being persistent, especially to newspapers, if you’re starting out. Take a look at what food writer Amanda Hesser has to say and take the bull by the horns, as the persistent say.

• Get on social media with your blog creations, preferably (as of press time) Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, and Instagram. Make it easy for readers to share your work.

• Where do you hope to publish beyond your blog? If I were going the food writer route, here’s what I would do: Learn (take courses and grow), establish my food blog, guest blog to get myself out there, go to BlogHer events and a food-related event run by the Association of Food Journalists, write a few articles in smaller publications, and the queen bee: start writing a book. Will this work? I’m going to say it sure will. It did for others—why not me?

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Amy Kierce
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