Some time ago, I had indicated that I wanted to be a food writer. That still holds true to this day. I’m intent on becoming a food writer once I leave the CIA. However, I’ve gotten questions regarding why I would have to go to culinary school for such a career. I will say this, it’s true that I didn’t have to come here for that career, however, it does nothing to hinder my ultimate goal. In fact, it will help it in the long run.
Food journalism, and food writing in general, is a fast-growing aspect of the food industry. In fact, food journalism has taken a major upswing in recent years. What was once a small and often overlooked aspect of both the journalism field and food industry, is now a major part of modern pop culture. Magazines, newspapers, online publications and even blogs all have expanded food journalism to brand new heights. However, just because you like to cook or eat doesn’t mean you can just grab a job at the local newspaper as a freelance writer nor can you become employed at one of the many food magazines that populate the newsstands of the world’s cities. You actually need a working knowledge of the food industry, as well as a grasp of what the latest food trends are, where the hottest new restaurants are located, etc. In short: You need to know what you’re talking about. It also helps to know what, exactly, you’re getting into.
The term “Food Writing” is a broad term encompassing many different aspects of Food Journalism. Different careers in this field include; Restaurant Reviewer, Food Critic, Food Editor, Cookbook Author, Food Columnist and, most recently, Food Blogger. Critics and reviewers rely on their straight-forward and unbiased writings to critique different foods and restaurants. Editors head the whole operation. Cookbook authors take what they’ve learned and share it with a grateful public. Columnists and Bloggers are more opinion-based than reviewers and critics are, but still seek to deliver news about the food industry, restaurants, etc. Each aspect requires that you do certain amounts of work to fulfill each task. Whether it be going to eat at a newly opened restaurant or traveling abroad to sample the fare of a distant country, the assignments are always diverse and interesting. Potential employers such as newspapers, magazines and online journals and other resources, will always have a myriad of assignments and other interesting topics to write about, including interviews with chefs or other food industry “bigwigs.” As a result, it is important to exhibit good interpersonal skills, such as good listening skills, interaction with superiors and peers alike, good public speaking skills, as well as just being confident in your own speaking and writing abilities. Educational requirements for a food journalism profession include degrees in English as well as Journalism. A degree from a culinary college isn’t necessarily required, but it is encouraged by many newspapers and/or magazines, because it’s important for writers to know exactly what they’ll be writing about. Finally, the average yearly salary of food journalists in the US is around $43,000.
It’s most interesting to observe the evolution of food journalism over the years. In its earliest stage, it was nothing more than a short part of a newspaper, mostly read by housewives. Jokingly, it became known as “The Housewife’s Sport’s Page.” Today, food journalism accounts for a growing percentage of all publications across the country, encompassing countless magazines, online blogs and a growing section of newspapers across the country. This rapid expanse isn’t just limited to newsprint. With the growing popularity of shows like Iron Chef America, Top Chef and other shows like them, Networks like Bravo and the Food Network thrive on showing either a majority of, or predominantly culinary-based programming. It’s plain to see that food journalism, and food writing in particular, are on the fast-track of rapid growth. With an industry as rapidly changing as the food industry, it’s clear to see that food writers and journalists will be at a premium for some time to come.