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What is a Food Writer?

By B. Miller
Updated Mar 02, 2024
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A food writer typically writes reviews of food, wine, and restaurants for a publication such as a magazine or newspaper. One who writes recipes or cookbooks is not often referred to as a food writer. Most food writers will review many different types of foods in addition to visiting restaurants; for instance, fine chocolate, Champagne, wine, or even olive oil are just some of the things that a food writer may review. In addition to publishing reviews and critiques, a food writer may function as a reporter, writing about special food events such as festivals, or interesting articles about food trends, new wines, or different kinds of produce.

A food writer functioning as a food critic will typically visit a restaurant and order a number of different things on the menu, then write about each one in terms of preparation, presentation, restaurant environment, taste, and other issues related to the dining and eating experience. Food writers often have backgrounds in the food industry as well as in journalism, and may have attended culinary school or completed a cooking program in addition to professional writing classes. Attending culinary school is an excellent way to make contacts in the food and restaurant industry.

To get started, a potential food writer will likely need to work as a freelancer for awhile and build up a portfolio of published clips. It is important to know the rules of the publishing industry as well as having an excellent background in food; it will be necessary to frequently query editors of magazines and newspapers to determine whether they will publish an article. After building up a portfolio, it may be possible to obtain a staff position at a publication.

Some food writers also find success keeping a personal website or blog, and publishing reviews of various food experiences online. Though the pay may be low or nonexistent, it is an excellent way to build a portfolio and increase expertise. Food writers need to be adventurous, always willing to try new foods and to rate them objectively. It is also necessary for a food critic to keep a low profile while out at a restaurant; this way, he or she will receive the same treatment as the average customer, and will be able to rate the restaurant accordingly.

There are many different ways to become a successful food writer. It is not necessary to become a food critic, though this is one of the more common avenues. Anyone interested in food writing should try to become an expert in their chosen field, as well as to find a particular niche in which to write; this will make one much more marketable.

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Discussion Comments

By anon1004645 — On Mar 21, 2021

I was lucky because my cousin was a restaurant critic so I asked her how she got her start. She pointed me to a book she read a few years back (How to Write about Food: How to Become a Published Restaurant Critic, Food Journalist, Cookbook Author, and Food Blogger by S.J. Sebellin-Ross) and said it told her everything she needed. She’s been working for the paper for three years so that worked. I bought the book for my Kindle last month and it’s an easy read so cross fingers I’m going to quit this dead end job and become a food writer!

By MrsPramm — On May 11, 2014

@irontoenail - I won't deny that luck is a part of it, but I think you have to think of these things in terms of probability. If you don't throw the dice at all, your probability of getting a good number is very near zero. It can only happen by accident.

But if you throw the dice repeatedly, eventually you will get the number you want.

And it's so easy to throw the dice these days. You can write and share with everyone in the world by publishing it online. Look at that girl who went through the Julia Child cookbook on her blog and ended up with her own movie.

A freelance food writer is going to have to start small, but I think the most important word there is to start. Until you do that, you won't improve and your chances are going to be near zero.

By irontoenail — On May 11, 2014

@KoiwiGal - I have noticed that being good at talking about something doesn't always translate into being good about writing about something, though. It takes a lot of practice.

There are so many people who fancy becoming a food critic or writer that it must be a tough field to actually break into. I think it probably comes down to luck as much as anything else. Although, first you would have to have talent, or that lucky break won't translate into getting a food writer job.

By KoiwiGal — On May 10, 2014

I think being passionate about food will trump almost anything else. I had a friend once who was always ecstatic over good food and would describe it the way other people might describe their best friend or even their lover. It was captivating, even though food itself isn't that interesting to me.

I always thought she should have become a food writer, but she was an artist, so maybe that was just as well. She might have single-handedly increased the obesity epidemic!

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