When I tell people I'm in food writing, this is what I get.
When I tell people I’m a food writer, most respond with the statement: “Oh, you’re a food blogger!” As if *that* were the only option. Sometimes I just nod, sometimes I explain more about how I launched my Cook & Tell newsletter as a digital reboot of the foodletter my mom wrote for 30+ years--all without the internet.
just back from 2 weeks in italy and have spent two full days and nights with Woody doing 11 postings including myriad photos of all the places and food we ate. we gave so many detailed, and I so love to write, i jokingly said to Woody that maybe someone will offer me a job as official restaurant reviewer! but i'm not looking for it. i prefer to write from the heart with no agenda other than sharing the things we loved and not even mentioning those we didn't.
I’m not a restaurant reviewer but constantly experience something similar. When you tell people you’re a professionally trained chef the next thing out of their mouth is what restaurant do you work in. Like there’s no other way to work when you’re a chef. I’ve worked as a personal chef, a private chef, recipe developer, consulted for a spice company. I’ve been a caterer, Ive taught cooking and done demos. For many years, I have been an online content, creator, and Food Photographer. There are so many roles in the food world. Have I worked in a restaurant kitchen? Yes. Being a restaurant chef is not all there is.
I chuckled when I read the subtitle. I'm doing restaurant reviews and am seen locally (Kansas City) as a food critic. I started my blog, Chuck Eats KC (https://chuckeatskc.com/ | https://chuckeatskc.substack.com/) in 2019 partially for reasons you mention. One reason was to give me an outlet to improve my writing, on topics that weren't close to daily work. But the main reason was to provide an independent voice for local restaurant reviews and food writing. I looked around and saw that all reviews were behind corporate walled gardens (Yelp, Facebook, etc.). I've long been active in publishing, journalism, libraries, and promoting alternative media.
I've been involved in online content creation for 30 years. I've worked for big magazines (Science) and was a co-editor of a mid size newsstand magazine. So, I thought I knew what I was getting into. It's been fun, but challenging, especially because of the pandemic. My growth on Substack has been painfully slow, but my blog is growing and I'm writing more and doing multimedia. I'm also a food critic on local public radio. Also, there are more people here doing independent food writing.
I do both - one overtly, one covertly.
I do restaurant listicles because that is what many outlets will find easier to cover. They don't pay a ton, and those are getting more difficult to land as well.
I save my critical notes about a particular restaurant / chef for my editor. Very few are looking for a restaurant critic, because digital platforms are often run through ad revenues, and these are not easy on the eyes of a potential revenue bringing customer, especially if it is a small local business. I wrote a scathing review on Yelp of a restaurant I used to like - and when the owner proceeded to insult me (and other reviewers), I revealed my identity... I wont be dining there ever again, and unfortunately - others wont be either. I love supporting small businesses but expect them to hold up to a standard.
My editors know I wont cover something that I don't like, or in extreme cases - hate. I believe, it is ultimately is the voice that matters.
I know of a restaurant reviewer and travel writer and every time I read their work, I feel it is sponsored content. Would I trust everything they write about? Probably not. Their lifestyle seems glam, but definitely it does more service to the tourism industry than it does to an average diner.
100% of the time I say I'm a food writer, people either say, "What?" as if they didn't hear me or "What's your favorite restaurant?" Now, I was a restaurant reviewer for a daily newspaper in North Carolina for about five years, but the pandemic squashed that job into dust. People absolutely do not understand what a food writer is or does. It's maddening and I often think of telling people I'm a ln insurance agent so they won't ask any more inane questions.
It would be really interesting to hear more of your thoughts on finding out your book was used to train AI. I have no idea if either of mine have - I don't have a subscription to The Atlantic and whilst I obviously support paywalls and the idea that you should pay a fair price for quality journalism, it also does not sit right with me that I should have to part with credit card details to set up a free trial in order to find out if I've been exploited for financial gain or not...
When I tell people I’m a copywriter, I frequently get asked if I’m a lawyer. It’s interesting to hear people’s impressions and understandings of different professions.
Thank you for the shout-out, Dianne. I owe a lot to you, your book, and your cookbook proposal-writing course!