How to Become a Food Writer
Growth Trends for Related Jobs
Before the Internet, the majority of food writers worked for newspapers and magazines. Although the first restaurant review in the New York Times appeared in 1859, the industry didn't grow until the 1960s. Blogs, online-only publications and a multitude of food-related websites grant many opportunities to write about food. Developing a sound background in English or communications -- and a good palate -- are the best ways to start writing about food.
Develop writing skills. Obtain a degree in communication -- specifically journalism -- or English. Focus on creative and critical writing skills. Take continuing education writing courses, either in person or online, if a college degree isn't an option.
Learn about food. Get a culinary arts degree or take adult education courses at a local college. Attend local seminars offered by chefs or watch food-related TV shows. Learn the basics of food, such as the various cuts of meat, different types of fish, cooking methods, sanitation skills and cooking temperatures.
Become an expert. Learn the differences in food, such as what makes one pepper hotter than another, what foods pair well, how alcohol and other drinks match with food, and recipe construction. Develop the palate to sense the nuances in food. Try tasting food in a blind taste test to focus on the senses of taste, smell and touch. Gain more knowledge through cookbooks, cooking magazines, television and radio programs and websites.
Go out to restaurants as often as possible and try many dishes. Look for coupons and other deals from local eateries. Attend cultural food festivals to get familiar with other cuisines. Always try foods out of the comfort zone. Walk the aisles at world cuisine grocery stores and learn about the ingredients. Talk to chefs at seminars to learn about the craft. Arrange for one-on-one interviews during slow periods at the restaurant, if possible.
Become a good home cook. Stock the library with various cookbooks. Follow recipes to develop an understanding about food composition and what makes a dish successful. Start with basic, everyday comfort foods, then attempt more complicated dishes. Learn from mistakes and don't be afraid of errors. Develop recipes by making slight changes in the existing recipes to see what works and what doesn't.
Look for writing opportunities. Consider writing articles through jobs listed on freelance job websites. Start a food blog and write continuously about food to develop a voice. For example, as ingredients are substituted in recipes, write about the experiences. Comment on food-related forums to develop critical writing skills.
- Kottke.org; First NY Times restaurant review, circa 1859?; Jason Kottke
- "The Secret Life of a Restaurant Critic"; Boston Globe; Alison Arnett; October 9, 2005
- Inside Scoop SF; Questions to Ask in Evaluating Restaurants; Michael Bauer; 2006
- Eating Las Vegas; How To Be A Restaurant Critic; John Curtas; June 28, 2009
- Take classes. Take a writing class and learn to set yourself apart through your writing. Wine-pairing workshops and basic cooking courses will improve your food writing.
Based in Virginia Beach, Mark S. Baker has been working in editorial for more than 20 years. He has served as a writer and editor for publications such as the "Houston Post," "Boca Raton News" and "Interactive Week," among others. Baker also has a culinary arts degree from Johnson & Wales University and has his own catering business.