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.