How to break into food writing

Food: we all eat it, and for those of us who obsessively blog, read, write, and talk about it, it’s one of the high points of existence. For writers who are food lovers (the f-word—the one that rhymes with “moody”—is not allowed here), being a food writer may be a dream job. The question is how to turn this from an in-your-dreams job to a reality. Here are some insights from successful food writers about how to break into the field.

Blogger and Austin-American Statesman food writer Addie Broyles advised, “Start a blog and stick with it. Doesn’t necessarily have to be about food, but it shows your skills as a website designer, a writer, an editor, a photographer and a marketer—all important things to be in the industry these days.”

San Francisco Chronicle Food and Wine Editorial Assistant Amanda Gold stated, “Hone your skills in all different areas. These days, you can’t just write—you have to know how to cook, film your own cooking videos, tweet, blog, et cetera.

Jodi Bart, creator of the Tasty Touring blog, recommended, “Start a blog to showcase your work, and then network with folks so they know you and your blog. Ways to network online include joining Twitter, Facebook and food blogging groups, like the Austin Food Bloggers Alliance, where I am a board member. Network offline by volunteering at food events, going to in-person meet-ups of online groups and maybe introducing yourself to people who are doing the kind of writing you would like to do and offering to buy them lunch in exchange for talking with you about the steps they took to build their career.”

Broyles also highlighted networking: “Be an active, responsible member of the food and writing communities by reading other people’s writing (be it in newspapers, magazines or blogs), leaving comments and engaging both your readers and fellow writers on social media.”

Food writer and Texas Monthly executive editor Patricia Sharpe urged, “Eat at the best restaurants in the biggest cities you can afford to visit. You have to have tasted the best in order to distinguish it from the good and the mediocre.”

Gold also mentioned the importance of eating locally: “Go out to eat as much as possible, for small interesting bites as well as more formal meals—it’s hugely important to be familiar with your food scene.”

Sharpe recommended that food writers approach their meals with an analytical mind. “Deconstruct dishes as you eat them. Think about each component, including ingredients, textures, flavor dynamics and how it all works—or doesn’t work—together.” Sharpe also noted the need to develop one’s vocabulary: “The words that directly describe food—like juicy, succulent, dry, crisp—will be used up after you’ve written five reviews. Draw on other fields for your adjectives. Read the best reviewers you can.

Broyles advised writers to get out of their comfort zones: “They say write what you know, which is true, but you also need to write about what you don’t know, otherwise you’re just writing the same story over and over and over again.”

Food author and creator of the blog Living the Sweet Life in Paris, David Lebovitz, said to know the market you’re pitching. “Don’t pitch Vegetarian Times an article about how to make pâté.”

Once you make the pitch, Lebovitz advised keeping it brief. “A concise, well-written pitch with perhaps a sample is sufficient. Anything too long will make editors think you’ll need excessive editing in future assignments.”

Are you a food writer? How did you break into the field?

Allison Floyd documents the experience of being a newly minted Austinite at Her sinister alter ego documents being a misanthropist in the kitchen at Her poetry and short fiction have appeared in flashquake, The Iconoclast, and the Berkeley Daily Planet, among others.

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