Food Critics

45
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Joined Aug 31, 2004
So I am wrapping up reading Mimi Sheraton's memoir, Eating My Words. And I am curious if there any food critics/writers here and if they have suggestions for those possibly interested in starting a mini-career in this field?
 
969
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Joined Jul 3, 2002
I can't answer your question, but I'd love to know what you thought of the book. I haven't read it yet, but have heard a fair amount about it.
 
45
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Joined Aug 31, 2004
phoebe - i've got about 45 pages to go, but i really enjoyed her book. very different perspective as opposed to bourdain's writing. i've also read "American pie" by pascale le draoulet - which was a fun read on a woman's search for the best pie.

i really like mimi's book because it is from a "critic's" perspective, someone who knows the restaurant biz but isn't a chef, per se. The chapter on "what makes a restaurant tick" is great. goes into more detail about what she looks for when reviewing a restaurant. i am so much more interested in critiquing restaurants.
 
969
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Joined Jul 3, 2002
Ah, then you should enjoy the two Ruth Reichl books. She was restaurant critic for the L.A. Times (and we still miss her a lot :( ) and then the New York Times. And, as you probably know, she's now editor in chief for Gourmet.

You might also take a look at Jeffrey Steingarten's books.
 
7,375
69
Joined Aug 11, 2000
I've gone on restaurant reviews, was not the author.....very interesting. One of my best buddies is a reviewer and we dish about restaurants/chefs all the time....he has the best intentions.
I write about chefs, articles on local foods and recipes.....my next project will be compiling the recipes from the farmer's markets for a cookbook....then I want to put together a how to on teaching local foods to kids.
Ask away.....
 
7,375
69
Joined Aug 11, 2000
Guess I should also say that the majority of writers in STL are journalists that write about food....I'm a foodie that writes about food, there is a huge difference. I hire editors to walk me through an article, which questions were missed, what magazines and newspapers are looking for...and of course to clean up any grammatical errors. But, I bring information to the table that they don't have...I know the ins and outs of different restaurants/chefs, where they've worked....their basic history, which brings on specifc questions that make a more indepth article. I can also look at a menu and see what a journalist may not be able to see...
If I don't know something, I know whom to ask....
Good food writing starts with knowledge of food....eat! eat weird shtuff! eat out often....
My restaurant reviewing friends have to eat out 2x a week...many times the food is not great. The first visit to a restaurant will include what they are known for or specialize in....checking to see if the pricing meets the service expectations meets the decor.....does it all match. You are comparing food in that city, not food from the mid-west to food on the coasts.
REviewers and writers have POWER, one bad reiview can tank a restaurant....one of my major beefs with a local writer is that the review is done 4-6 weeks after opening.....basically there is NO room for ironing out problems, you need to open without glitches....I feel strongly that it is too soon for alot of restaurants.
The local press has really supported local growers, which is a huge asset to the growers.
***just got a letter that Food and Wine is printing my recipes in their 2004 Cookbook...now that is cool, getting paid for work that is already done and paid for....YES!!!!
 
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Joined Jan 23, 2002
pumpkingrl,

The best thing you can do if you want to write about food is to network yourself with editors from magazines and newspapers. This is as much a people business as it is a writing business. It may mean starting out locally and working your way up the ladder. The writing style is different for both media and even within the magazine industry each editor has their own style. What Saveur wants in an article is very different from Gourmet and Fine Cooking. This is a very tough business to get into. Sadly, most editors would never accept an article by someone who is unpublished. Buy a copy of each magazine and read them cover to cover. Note all the differences in style. Always query the editor with your ideas and never just send them a completed article. They usually chuck those first. Check out food-writing sources on the internet for starters, learn how to query for each media, buy Writer's Market for contact names. As popular as food and dining have become, trust me, everyone wants to write about it now. Good luck!!
 
958
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Joined Aug 15, 2004
You already received a lot of very good advice, but I just want to say that I did write a published food column in a couple of suburban newspapers in the SW suburban area of the Twin Cities (MN) for about 4 years. These newspapers had a weekly readership of about 56,000. I know people must have been reading them, because people would stop me (they published my mug shot with the column) and tell me about this or that review I did and how they went there because of what I said.

I always felt a slight moment of dread hoping that they had a good experience. Not one time did someone tell me that they had a bad experience, and so after a while, I got pretty relaxed when someone would recognize me. One restaurant in Excelsior, MN, the Mai Tai, actually asked the publisher for permission to blow up my review to 8' x 12' and they posted on the wall of their foyer entrance. Maybe I am being a bit narcisistic, but I did get a thrill everytime I went there to eat after that and saw myself "bigger than life" looking down on me! :)

Suburban newspapers do get read, and I think people tend to trust what they read in these local rags, perhaps a bit more than they do the really big newspapers. That is just a feeling I got anyway.

These type of newpapers are a lot easier to get published in, and you may not get paid for doing it, but the value lies in the experience, and getting your name out in the public domain. They can also serve well on a resume when looking for a full time position.

I think it is important to develop a "voice" when writing. A means by which you create an identifiable style that people learn to recognize.

Good luck to you.

doc
 
2
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Joined Oct 3, 2004
Not only do I love good food and service, I enjoy being in the public eye.

Thanks for the heads up on the book!

Lucy
 

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