7 Ethical Food Writing Tips—From Professionals
Food is a major part of travel because tasting delicacies in a new destination is a satisfying experience. The way a culture’s traditional cuisine is portrayed through media can inspire our travels—and our restaurant reservations. Unfortunately, food is often exploited and diminished by writers who feed into lazy food tropes and clichés.
So, how can we write ethically about food ? To find out, we spoke with five professional food writers of color.
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1 You’ve never “discovered” a dish
No one outside of the culture “discovered” a community’s cuisine—that word has undertones of colonialism. “Just because it’s new to you doesn’t mean it’s new to others. It’s a cuisine that has existed and been enjoyed by others for lifetimes,” says Kae Lani Palmisano , host of WHYY’s Check, Please! Philly .
2 Ethical food writers don’t use these words
Never describe food as bizarre, strange, odd, unusual, abnormal, or weird. Just because a flavor profile is uncommon in Western cuisine doesn’t make it obscure, and having good intentions when using these words doesn’t erase their negative impact.
Chandra Ram, editor of Plate , recommends making a list of these words. “Read what you’ve written to see if you accidentally fell into the habit of using any of them,” she says.
Here are some of the words that food writers told us they’ve banned from their writing:
- Inexpensive ( Just because something is affordable for a foreigner doesn’t make it accessible to locals!)
- Asian, African, Latin, global ( Be specific!)
READ MORE: 17 Overused Food Words and Phrases
3 Dig into the details
Your vernacular won’t be limited without those words. “Great food is an experience and crystallizing that for the reader—the tastes, textures, and smells—is hallmark of great food writing,” says Ruth Evelyn Terry , a freelance writer.
The story behind the food is what makes for an interesting article. “Learn about what gives a plate more depth and your article will be more meaningful,” says Andrea Aliseda, a freelance writer. “ The story behind the dish is what intrigues me. I like to find out what the circumstances are that brought the dish together. It’s an intrinsic part of what ends up on our plate,” she says.
4 Focus on the people behind the plate
“ Food writing isn’t about food,” says Palmisano. “It’s about the people who make the food. Food is reflective of people’s traditions, their histories, and also the lands they come from. Food and identity are deeply connected, so a great story about food finds ways to weave context into the cuisine.
Let’s taco ’bout food writing! 🌮 Meet José R. Ralat, AKA @TacoTrail . He’s a Taco Editor at @TexasMonthly . Yes, that’s a real job—and Jose shares what it took to get there. More #FoodWriting tips here: https://t.co/DqJ4lHcDEk pic.twitter.com/aE9dOmZQyI — Grammarly (@Grammarly) October 26, 2019
Consider who was involved in making the meal and should be included in its story. “Food is under-politicized and under-contextualized. . . Highlight growers, talk about the history of food, and discuss how the food has been erased, colonized, or appropriated,” says Terry.
5 Educate readers through your work
Readers are likely looking for information about the cuisine or seeking inspiration for places to eat. “Educate people about the restaurant, chef, or food that they’re eating. Inspire the audience to try a dish or ingredient,” says Jessica van Dop DeJesus of The Dining Traveler .
A lack of background leads to unethical food writing. “ Food tells a story. When the story is told irresponsibly, it doesn’t honor where it came from, who cooks it, who survives off of it, and whose memories and entangled in it,” says Alisea.
Be aware that misrepresenting food could negatively impact the community who generously shared their cuisine with you. “Stereotypes can feed into how marginalized communities are treated in the food industry. Food media sets the bar with how the conversation about a culture’s cuisine is going to be discussed and has influence over public perception,” says Palmisano.
🔉 SOUND ON 🔉 Meet Elazar Sontag: Assistant Editor at @seriouseats and freelance writer for @washingtonpost and @bonappetit . Hear how he uses food as a lens to tell deeper human stories: https://t.co/0ydFE5tYIZ #FoodWriting pic.twitter.com/t90xrVNQae — Grammarly (@Grammarly) October 24, 2019
6 Avoid accidental racist undertones
Unethical writing about food can be a microaggression—intentionally or not. “Erasing and ignoring major foodways or treating them like exotic novelties, instead of equivalently sophisticated and created gastronomy, is racism,” says Terry.
Food appropriation is when people from outside a culture profit from food traditions. “The terms ‘upgraded’ and ‘elevated’ are used in menu descriptions for street food made by a white guy for white people,” says Ram. Avoid featuring white people who are benefitting from a cuisine that isn’t their own culture.
Food writing sometimes perpetuates racist beliefs. Relegating Mexican, Indian, Chinese, and other cuisines to “cheap eats” takes money from the pockets of cooks, restaurateurs, and other workers in that food chain.
7 Include local commentary
Seek expert commentary from community members. “When in doubt, get some feedback. For example, if I have to write about Vietnamese food, I reach out to a Vietnamese person who can help me with terminology and spelling,” says van Dop DeJesus. Use the real words for food rather than translating and anglicizing them.
Taking the time to do research is essential. Embrace the culture of the food you’re eating. “You can’t love tacos but hate Mexicans. It doesn’t work that way,” says van Dop DeJesus.
It’s especially crucial to use proper descriptors when writing about traditional, medicinal, or ceremonial foods. Research the proper terms to use that honor these dishes with deep cultural significance. Reach out to tourism boards, local chefs, or food historians. “Find restaurants, cookbooks, and grocery stores from the culture; visit them, walk around, and ask questions. Get to know the people, and ask them what terms they prefer,” says Ram.
Everything You Need to Know About Food Writing (tips + jobs + samples)
Do you want to know more about food writing if yes, you are not alone. in recent times, writing about food has grown in popularity. food writers are in high demand and food writing contests award the best entrants with cash prizes..
One thing you need to know as a food writer is that you can build a lucrative career in it. According to the latest statistics , food writers on the average make about $60,000 a year. Those who are new in this genre earn much less than those who have established their authority in the industry.
Perhaps it is for this reason that more people ask “what is food writing?” and “how can one become a food writer?”
In this article, we shall answer these questions and more. You’ll learn everything you need to know on writing about food, including:
- Tips for succeeding in the niche.
- How to land jobs as a food writer.
- What courses can help you succeed?
- And sample essays and stories that might serve as a guide.
What is Food Writing
Food writing is a type of writing that has food as its central theme. It can manifest in different genres of writing, like fiction, nonfiction, or poetry.
Although the writing is about food, it aims to provide readers with an aesthetic experience that goes beyond food.
The rising popularity of this writing genre can be linked to the globalization of the food industry. A growing body of evidence also suggests that more people desire to experience worlds that are different from theirs. One way to accomplish this is to experiment with other cuisines. But some people go beyond eating; they share their culinary experiences with the world.
Earning a living from writing about food is another matter altogether. It requires a lot of expertise and strategic planning. But before we discuss these, let’s explore writing about food in detail.
Types of Food Writing
Food writing is just a subgenre. It can be written as fiction, creative nonfiction/essay and poetry. It is, therefore, very diverse and can take many shapes and forms.
Below are some of the more popular types of food writing.
A food memoir is a type of writing about an author’s autobiographical experiences with food. Food memoirs comprise narratives about food memories from a writer’s perspective. Authors of food memoirs share their food memories and also their respective food cultures and identities.
We can describe a restaurant review as a type of writing that critiques and rates a restaurant on its quality of food, service, and prices.
Food lovers depend on restaurant reviews to make informed decisions on where to have the best food experience.
Restaurant owners also rely on restaurant reviews for information and feedback that will help them improve their food and services.
Restaurant review writing can come in different forms. While some restaurant review writers focus on the food served, others concentrate on the food environment and how the food is presented.
Recipe writing comprises a set of information and instruction on how to prepare a dish, drink, or food. Many people rely on food recipes as a guide to prepare food, dishes, or drinks they are not familiar with.
A recipe contains a recipe name, the ingredients, and instructions on how and when to combine the ingredients.
Some experts advocate that recipe writers should know their audience so they can communicate in a language they will understand.
Those involved in food history writing focus on the cultural, environmental, economic, and sociological impact of food on our lives.
Food history writers believe that issues surrounding food matter and go beyond what happens in the kitchen and at dinner tables. Reading food history writing can reveal much about a society’s cultural norms.
While some food writers have advanced degrees on the subject, others just write about their culinary heritage. One of the most important things to be a successful food writer is to have deep knowledge about what you are writing about.
There are different kinds of food history writing, including foodstuff history, dietary history, culinary history, nutritional history, and dining history.
How to Become a Food Writer
Research of successful food writers will reveal that many took different pathways to launch their writing careers.
However, there are some attributes that every writer needs to break even and become successful as a food writer.
Learn How to Write
The first port of call for anyone who wants to be a successful food writer is to learn and master the art of writing.
If you have great food experiences but do not know how to write, it will be hard to share them with the rest of the world.
Your writings about food must elicit positive emotions in your readers to make them want to experience it with you.
Improving your writing skills will make it easy to express your thoughts to your readers.
There are several ways to improve your writing skills and write eloquently . Many food writers choose to get a degree or certificate from an educational institution. Other writers opt for in-person or online courses. You can also improve your writing by reading and studying the writing styles of different food writers.
But whatever you do, don’t take the easy route of using online AI paraphrasing tools or AI writing tools to help you write better. Yes, they will help you create content faster, but your writing will be bland and you definitely won’t become a better writer by letting AI write for you when you feel stuck.
Study the Food Industry
Learning about the food industry is vital because it exposes a writer to the business, culture, and art of food consumption.
A deep knowledge of the creativity and traditions behind some food cultures and restaurants will set your writing apart.
What they say about being a jack of all trades and master of none is true about food essays and writing.
People who write about food do that from various angles. Although there are several ways to write about food, it is better to focus on the area(s) where you have the strongest passion.
Determining the area or areas you want to focus on depends on where you have a strong comparative advantage. For example, if you have experience in the tourism sector, it will make sense to focus on food tourism.
You can write about your local dish, the various ways to prepare it, and its cultural significance. Experts believe that those with an emotional attachment to a particular food are in the best position to write about it.
There are many advantages when you focus on writing about the food you are familiar with. Writing about the food you know and enjoy gives you an edge over someone who is not familiar with it. Writing of any kind is difficult. Choosing a food niche you are passionate about will keep you writing when the going gets tough.
Employ your Descriptive Skills
One thing that sets successful food writers apart from the rest of the pack is their powerful descriptive skills.
Unlike video content, where the audience can see what is going on, the readers of food essays and writing depend on the writer’s descriptions.
The food experience goes beyond what you can taste with your tongue and includes other sensory organs of touch, smell, and hearing.
Experts believe food writers should focus on the five senses. A writer’s ability to use descriptive adjectives to explain how the senses perceive food makes reading enjoyable.
A writer should bring to life and describe to readers all the experiences involved in a particular food culture.
When a food writer captures and describes the food environment, the readers can visualize and partake in that experience.
Readers want to know how the food and the food environment look, smell, feel like, taste, and even sound during preparation. A writer can achieve all these through a careful choice of descriptive words.
Focus on those Behind the Food
Good food essays and writing is about food and those behind it. Therefore, you should not limit your writing to the food itself.
Writing about the people behind the food and the special relationship they have with the processes of making the food is vital.
If a particular restaurant has a chef who has a unique way of preparing a meal, it makes sense to explore and share that with readers.
Writing about food is fascinating when a writer explores the relationship and the personal connection people have with their food.
The worst mistake you can make as a food writer is to misrepresent facts in your writing. Food is an aspect of culture and you cannot afford to offend people in your writing by misrepresenting food facts.
Misrepresenting facts about food is common among writers with little or no experience with a particular food culture.
One thing to do to avoid this error is to research your food subject. The research will reveal facts that may not be obvious to the casual observer.
Another thing you can do to avoid mistakes in your writing is to feature experts familiar with that food subject.
Successful food writers must be knowledgeable about their subject and be abreast of the latest food trends. Misrepresenting food facts can be controversial, especially if you are an outsider.
How to Start Writing About Food
So now you have gained the education and experience and are ready to write about food. Where do you start?
Below are a couple of ways to kick-start your writing career.
Start a Food Blog
Thanks to the liberalization of the internet, writers can freely share their works without the bottlenecks of publishing bureaucracies.
Blogging is the best way for aspiring writers to build their writing resumes. You will have enough materials to show prospective clients and employers when you consistently publish your writings.
Another benefit of blogging is that it provides a platform to connect and interact directly with your readers.
The feedback you get from your readers will give you great insights and help you improve your writing.
Pitch your Writings
Apart from blogging, sending your articles to both online and print food magazines is a great way to build your writing career.
Fortunately, we have a plethora of food-writing magazines constantly searching for new and interesting food articles.
As long as you do not give up after a few pitches, there are food magazines that will take a chance on you.
Food Writing Jobs
If you decide to be a food writer, there is no shortage of job opportunities for you in the food industry.
You can decide to be a freelancer and work at your own pace or pitch your tent with an organization.
Here are some writing jobs to pursue as a career.
- Food Journalist — work for news organizations or agencies and write about food trends in society.
- Food Writing Editor — can work in food publication organizations, and their primary responsibilities are to write, edit and review food articles.
- Food Content Writer — Thanks to the internet, content writing has become a lucrative career for many professionals. Most food content writers are freelancers who write content for websites and food blogs.
- Food Copywriter — Food copywriters specialize in creating persuasive content aimed at eliciting positive emotions about food products and services. The difference between a food content writer and a food copywriter is that the latter focuses on marketing a brand.
Food Writing Examples
A good food writer must use words that elicit a sense of tension and suspense in the reader. Below are some good examples.
The Wind-Up Bird Chronicle By Haruki Murakami
Murakami’s description of the food menu and the cooking process is simple and takes the reader through a mouthwatering reading experience. Below is an excerpt from his book “ The Wind-Up Bird Chronicle ”.
The Girl Who Was Afraid of an Egg By Yemisi Aribisala
In the excerpt below, Aribisala uses fresh metaphors and creative language to help the reader picture the color and perceive the aroma in the process of frying eggs.
I Remember Nothing, and Other Reflections, By Nora Ephron
What sets Ephron’s writing apart is the expertise with which she delicately blends sophistication and creativity. The following is an excerpt from her book “ I Remember Nothing, and Other Reflections”
Swann’s Way By Marcel Proust
Proust’s use of descriptive words to explain the food process can make that experience memorable for the reader. Here’s a paragraph from Proust’s book, “Swann’s Way”.
Few activities bring people, families, and friends together more than when they enjoy food.
Food symbolizes much more than just a biological necessity. It is now part of our social, cultural, religious, and national identity.
If you love food and writing and would love to share your experience with the rest of the world, you can benefit from the tips in this article.
Although it seems daunting, especially for the uninitiated, you can start today by taking those first steps towards building a successful writing career.
All you need is a passion for food and writing and a desire to learn what it takes to succeed in the food writing industry.
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5 Tips on How to Write About Food
- 28th January 2020
Like food? Like writing? Then why not combine the two! Food and drink blogging is bigger than ever. Shops are full of recipe books. And you can even make a living as a restaurant critic if you’re good! But how do you get started? Our top five tips on how to write about food include:
- Think about what kind of food writing your want to do
- Find a unique angle or niche that you want to write about
- Learn to write descriptively and use sensual language
- Avoid overusing generic terms like “delicious” or “tasty”
- Get someone to proofread your food writing to make it professional
Read on below for more information on how to write about food!
1. Types of Food Writing
Possibly the two most common types of food writing are:
- Reviews and criticism of food and places that serve food
- Recipe books, blogs, and columns
But food writing can include many things! Some people write about the history of food and drink . Other mix food writing and autobiography . Or you can write about the food industry from a business perspective.
A good first step, then, is to read as much food writing as possible! This should give you a sense of the different styles and genres that already exist.
2. Find a Food Niche
Since “food writing” is such a broad category, it can help to find a niche. For example, new food writers often focus on one of the following:
- Local food establishments and suppliers in your area
- A specific style of cuisine or type of food they know well
- Writing about food for a specific audience (e.g., cooking on a budget)
- A novel angle or gimmick for writing about food (e.g., tasting weird foods )
Finding a food niche can also work as a “hook” for new readers. Think about what kind of food you love most and how you can make it interesting.
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3. Sensual Language
Whether describing a recipe or reviewing a meal, descriptive writing is vital. And when it comes to food and drink, this means focusing on language related to the senses , especially how it looks, smells, feels, and tastes.
If you can evoke the sensory experience of eating a meal powerfully in your writing, your readers should be salivating in no time.
4. Avoid Generic Terms
We’ve mentioned using descriptive writing above. But the flip side of this is avoiding boring or generic terms. And in food writing, the worst offenders are words like “tasty” and “delicious,” which are too broad to be useful.
It might seem odd to avoid words like these when writing about food. But “delicious” doesn’t help the reader know what something tasted or smelled like. Instead, look for a description that will fire the reader’s imagination!
5. Have Your Writing Proofread
Finally, don’t forget to proofread! Even if you’re just publishing on a personal blog, error-free writing will be easier to read, look more professional, and attract more readers. And if you plan to submit your writing to a magazine or publisher, you need it to be the best it can be!
Proofreading your own writing is never simple, though. So to be sure your work is error free, give our world-beating proofreading services a try.
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5 Top Tips for Writing About Food: Start Your Food Blog Today!
Writing about food can be a lucrative option, but this type of writing has its own style and tone. Check out our guide with tips to get your food writing journey started.
Few things in the world are universally appealing, but food is. Everyone eats, from the smallest child to the most wealthy business tycoon. If you want to write something everyone has a reason to read, consider writing about food.
While it’s true that everyone needs food, not everyone gets to eat or cook good food. Quality cuisine is a delicate art beyond the simple need to feed one’s family. From home cooking to the top restaurants in cities like New York and Los Angeles, food and cooking can be more than just something you do to sustain the people around you. Writing about food is a way to capture people’s love of food and transform it into a venture to make money.
From cookbooks to food blogs and food travel writing, food writers capture people’s love of food and turn it into good writing. They provide practical tips to cook easier or better, and they provide a way to live vicariously through someone else’s culinary experiences. This article will provide five tips that new and experienced food writers can use to make their articles and personal essays as effective as possible.
1. Choosing a Food Topic
2. writing style and tone, 3. structuring your article, 4. adding personal touches, 5. editing and revising, a final word on writing about food.
Before you can start food writing, you must first decide what you’ll write about. This begins with defining your audience. Is your audience home cooks, food critics, foodies or someone not in the food industry who wants to know the best burgers in your town? Carefully define your audience, so you can narrow down your writing to fit.
When you know who you are writing for, you can have a better understanding of what you will write. The most successful food bloggers are those who have a relatively narrow niche that appeals to their specific audience. Some ideas include:
- Writing about a specific type of food, like ethnic cuisine or allergen-friendly food
- Writing about local restaurants, including restaurant reviews
- Writing to a specific audience, such as those interested in cooking for families on tight budgets
- A unique angle for creative writing about food, such as shocking foods from around the globe
Once you know who you’re writing for and what you’re writing about, start researching and gathering information on that topic. Gather enough research to write several articles to launch your blog or column. You’ll need to keep researching to add to it but start with a solid foundation of information. If your research involves personal experiences eating or cooking a dish, make sure you take pictures to document it. You’ll need these later when you publish the piece.
Next, consider the writing style most appropriate for your food audience. Blogging on a certain kind of food or cooking style will require a short, punchy tone, while writing a nonfiction book on food history may allow longer sentences. Blogging requires conversational writing with contractions and slang. Print publications and articles for newspapers may not. What is a conversational tone ? Find out in our guide!
The tone of your writing is very important to make a connection with your reader. Are you writing nonfiction that will inspire change in your readers, like Michael Pollan has done with his books on using food as a form of healthcare? Then you’ll want a serious and authoritative tone. Are you writing a humorous article about unique gastronomy around the globe like Anthony Bourdain? Then a more sarcastic tone is appropriate.
No matter the style and tone, writing about food requires descriptive language. Your writing must show the reader how the food tastes, looks and smells. Similes that draw comparisons between things the reader knows and the unknown food can work well, and sensory words make writing more appealing. Avoid clichés and over-used food words like “delicious” and “tasty” in your writing.
Before you begin writing, make a plan. Create a general outline that will guide your writing. Remember that outlines can change, but they’re a good starting point. In your writing, especially if you’re writing for an online audience, use subheadings to guide the reader through the piece. Subheadings make the piece easier to scan and help readers navigate to the exact part of the article they want to read.
Finally, use pictures to break up text and create visual aids. Eating and enjoying food is an experience that involves most of the senses, including the eyes. Have pictures of the foods you’re discussing to draw in the visual sense while you use words to describe how the food tastes, smells and even sounds.
Eating is a highly personal experience; the best types of food writing bring in personal experiences when possible. A food critic will describe their experience eating a particular food. A food blogger will explain what happened when they attempted a recipe, what went wrong and what they would change next time. A food travel writer will share personal stories of their encounters with exotic foods.
As you share your personal stories, weave in sensory language. The reader should walk away from the piece knowing how the food tastes, sounds, smells and looks. For example, you could say:
“The waiter brought a plate of sizzling meat and vegetables to the table. The steam from the plate wafted up, carrying the pungent scent of chilis and onions. The first bite sent a burst of flavor into my mouth, including the traditional Mexican spices and a hint of lime. The soft texture of the tortilla was a pleasing contrast to the crisp veggies.”
This excerpt brings in smell, taste and sound. It also brings in some visual elements because the reader can picture the plate coming to the table. Even though it doesn’t say so, the plate is a plate of fajitas.
Here is another expert from a restaurant review published by Hannah Goldfield in The New Yorker . Notice how the writer uses the names of foods and descriptive words like “juicy” and “sweeter” to delicately draw in more senses.
“Juicy chunks of boneless chicken, marinated in saffron and lemon juice. Rice was wonderful mixed with Rejali’s yogurt dips: the thicker, more sour mast mosir, made with Persian shallots and nigella seeds, and the sweeter mast khiar, with cucumber, raisins, sunflower seeds, dried mint, and dried rose petals.”
If it applies to your food experience, include cultural context. This personal touch is particularly important if you’re writing about international food options. Tell the reader why the food is so important to the culture of the people you’re visiting, or explain the cultural elements surrounding the meal. For example, if you’re dining in someone’s home in Asia, and you’re seated on a cushion on the floor rather than at a table and chairs, weave that fact into your narrative.
Now that you’ve written your piece, the work isn’t done. Before you publish it, you need to review and revise it. Start this with some apps, like Grammarly, to check grammar and clarity, but don’t stop there. You’ll also want to read through your piece personally or have someone else review it. Check out our Grammarly review . Even if you don’t find grammar issues, you’ll find something to adjust to make the piece easier to read or understand. Make it clear, concise and powerful by reviewing and revising thoroughly.
Keep in mind that proofreading your work is tough! Consider seeking feedback from others. Hire an editor or a proofreader to read through the piece for you. It’s often easier for someone else who’s not so invested in the piece to see errors or clarity issues. In addition, having a second set of eyes on something can help you pull in more descriptive language or find areas that aren’t quite clear to the reader.
While editing is important no matter where you choose to publish your article if you’re hoping to put it into a magazine or newspaper, the grammar and clarity need to be spot-on. Spend time here, and make sure the final piece is publication worthy.
Writing about food works because everyone eats and everyone enjoys eating. People are naturally curious about how to make the eating and dining experience more interesting. They’re also naturally curious about how other people eat in different parts of the world. This means you have a natural audience when you start writing about food.
Are you ready to get started? Read our guide on how to start a blog ! Share your food experience and stories, and see where your writing could take you. Who knows, maybe your food blog could eventually turn you into the next Anthony Bourdain and transform you into a world-renowned food writer.
Nicole Harms has been writing professionally since 2006. She specializes in education content and real estate writing but enjoys a wide gamut of topics. Her goal is to connect with the reader in an engaging, but informative way. Her work has been featured on USA Today, and she ghostwrites for many high-profile companies. As a former teacher, she is passionate about both research and grammar, giving her clients the quality they demand in today's online marketing world.
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How To Write Good Articles About Food
A well-written article about food is a must for the Write For Us website. It should be engaging and informative, as well as provide a unique perspective on the topic.
F rom food articles to restaurant reviews, content marketing is a must for restaurants. Blogging and social media have become the most popular platforms for these types of content. The article should also provide a unique perspective on the topic.
Some tips to help you write an engaging article about food:
Make sure that the topic is something you are passionate about. Y ou will be able to convey your enthusiasm and knowledge of the subject more effectively if you are interested in it.
- Be creative with your writing style. Avoid using clichés like “delicious” or “tasty.” Instead, use fresh language that’s specific to the topic at hand such as “crispy, crunchy chicken wings”, and others.
- Make sure that your article has a clear structure so that readers can easily find what they’re looking for without getting lost or confused.
- Include images of food in order to make it visually appealing and more interesting for readers.
- Use words like “unique,” “fresh,” “exotic,” “healthy,” and “natural.
The Basics of Writing an Article on Food
Food is an integral part of life . From cooking to dining, food always has a presence in your everyday life. But which type of content should you focus on? Should you write about the nutritional value of your favorite dishes or more about the flavors and how your customers can enjoy them?
An article on food is a great way to engage your audience . It helps you build trust and credibility with your readers and gives them a reason to visit your website again.
Tips for Writing a Good Article About Food
Writing a good article about food is not easy, but it can be done with the right approach. The article should be written in the third person. The reader should feel like they are listening to a story being told. Even if it is being told by an omniscient narrator, the author still needs to use these techniques in order to make their story sound more interesting and believable.
Less is more of course. All details must be relevant, important, and interesting. If not, take out some of them. Every paragraph must have a point or a lesson learned that can be applied to real life.
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In this interview, Writers.com instructor and professional food writer Jennifer Billock shares her most important advice for anyone interested in food writing.
1. Don’t Be a Picky Eater
The first thing is that you’d have to be willing to eat a lot of different things, and sometimes not super-pleasant things. For example, I was just in Vietnam and Cambodia, and I ate tarantulas. They’re street food there. They’re surprisingly good, which was nice—they taste like teriyaki. You have to take the butt end off with the stinger, because that part is supposedly very bitter. It’s fried and all hollow inside. I was concerned it was going to burst out, but it’s hollow and crispy, like when you get teriyaki chicken and there are leftover bits of burnt teriyaki in the pan: it tastes like those. So it’s pretty good. I’ve eaten a lot of bugs in my lifetime.
It’s important to know if you’re going to be a food writer that you can’t be super-picky about what you’re going to eat, because that limits what you’re going to write about and what you have to say.
Jennifer's Upcoming Courses
Food Writing: Meals And Manuscripts
January 10th, 2024
Do you love cookbooks, cooking, or reading anything about food? This food writing course is for you. With award winning writer Jennifer Billock.
2. Look for Lyrical and Multi-Sensory Ways of Writing About Food
When you’re writing, try to be creative with what you’re saying. Instead of saying something “tastes good” or “has a robust flavor,” try to say it in a different way. I like to tell my students not to use the words “taste” or “flavor” and explain it some way that’s more lyrical.
The goal is to make your writing interesting to read, and also to impart to the reader what their experience will be like. If you can really engage all your senses—smell, sight, touch, sound, mouth feel as well as taste—and try to make comparisons in your mind about what you’re eating, you can turn that into something that will give the reader a better idea of what they’re going to eat.
The best piece of food writing advice I’ve gotten is to engage all your senses—not solely with the food, but also with the atmosphere of where you are. If you’re at an event, note what all is going out of the room. At a food event I covered, I was there just to have the food, but because I was engaged with my surroundings, I noticed a woman completely smash a table of glasses on accident during a mojito demonstration. That’s something that you should probably include in your writing.
3. Don’t Expect to Only Write Food Reviews
Don’t expect to just write food reviews if you’re a food writer. There are too many food writers, and not enough restaurants, and food writing encompasses so many other things: writing recipes, editing recipes, writing articles about chefs, writing articles about the history of a certain cuisine. So there’s a whole range of different styles of food writing.
One of my favorites is food memoir, which is pulling out a special moment about food in your life and crafting a personal story about food around it, which always ends up being really touching. One of my students once wrote about eating tomatoes on cereal as a foreign exchange student. It was a really interesting story about two different cultures coming together, and brought out the point that food is universal, whether it’s the type of cuisine that you enjoy or that other people enjoy. It’s one of my all-time pieces of food writing.
4. Develop Your Analytical Ability—Without Getting Jaded
I also remember when I first started out having to do an article on “the twelve best burgers” in some city. By the third burger that day, I was just so annoyed that I was still eating burgers. But that was one of the first food articles I wrote, and the more experience you get with it, the more you’re able to separate your emotions from what the food experience is. The more you eat and write about it, the more you learn what certain things should taste like and how they should be prepared, so you can start looking at it from an analytical viewpoint instead of only emotionally.
However, you shouldn’t get jaded and less able to fully experience food. You have to watch that. One way to get around it is that if you find you’re not enjoying food anymore, or you’re not having as good a culinary experience, then try writing about food in a different way for a while. Give yourself a self-imposed break, and start writing chef profiles or pieces on unique food producers instead of going out to restaurants and eating and saying “Okay, I’ve eaten another meal.”
5. Chart Your Own Path
If you want to get started, there are a couple of different routes you can take. You could go the blogging route, start your own thing, and work on it as much as you can until it’s got a good readership, lots of views, advertising, and things like that, and then branch out from there. Or you could try and get an internship with a food publication, which could be difficult if you don’t already have writing experience or aren’t in school for writing.
My undergraduate degree is in journalism, and I always wanted to write about food because I love to eat. I’d emailed a few local food publications in Chicago, where I was going to school, and asked if they needed writers, and one of them came back and said yes. I started writing event coverage and restaurant reviews there. After that, I went to grad school, also in Chicago, and got an internship with a food and tourism magazine there, so I was able to write more food articles that way.
Realistically, the best way to start is just to start writing. Go out with your friends, have a dinner, come home, write about it in a journal or something, and see what comes up. There’s writing a ton of stuff to hone your craft, and then pounding the pavement digitally to find editors’ names and emailing them to pitch them stories. My advice for everyone who wants to write as a career is to just go for it. If that’s your passion, then do it—and don’t go into it with a mindset that you’re going to be struggling forever and you’re never going to make any money, because the instant you do that you’re giving yourself an out. Have faith in yourself and go for it.
Food reviewers and food writers come from various backgrounds. Some of them have gone to culinary school, some of them are trained journalists, and some of them have just written and eaten so much that they’re able to speak about it in an interesting way. You don’t need to be an established journalist to start writing. You don’t need a ton of clips or credits to your name. You just need to have the drive to do it, and the ability to convince an editor to let you write about it—charisma, maybe. If you can craft a good piece about food, and you can prove that, even in your query to an editor, then you’ll get work.
Read Jennifer’s piece, “ The Dark Side of the Spoon: What Astronauts Eat in Space ,” which she mentioned as a favorite piece of food writing she’s written.
Hi I would like to ask: 1- Was Jenifer ever a Cook, or a Chef? Sorry for me they are not the same, though they can be. . 2- Does she write reviews without telling the restaurant owner, after she has eaten? I hope not before…
3- I believe that she asks the chef and staff questions. How is she received generally? is there a special approach/method for that.
4- Finallly (and especially) what makes writers think, they have the knowledge/the sensorial ability (something that grows with the person) to write about other Peoples/Cultures/Ethnicities, cuisines?
I never read one of Jenifer’s reviews, but I have read some others, writing about foods that I know well and I am absolutely gobsmacked. In parts they are completely out of wack.
Your answers/comment would be very much appreciated.
Syd, BACW Undergraduate.
Hi Syd! To answer your questions:
-I was a pastry chef.
-All my reviews are anonymous – the restaurants don’t know I’m coming unless there’s a specific reason they need to know.
-Asking the staff and chef questions is generally well received. No special approach; I just try to have a casual conversation or, if the situation calls for it, a formal interview. People in the food industry generally love to talk about food. 🙂
-This is an interesting question. It’s important to remember that every person has a different experience and different tastes, plus some things can only be honed with experience and the writer may have a background you’re unaware of. Otherwise, when a writer is first starting out and they’re going to write about another culture’s food, they need to put in the due diligence to research it before submitting their work (which often can and should include a diversity review or a read-through by someone who is more experienced in that culture’s food). Food writing is a continual learning experience, and a writer needs to accommodate for that in their prep and research. It’s also important to remember that someone’s food story is not necessarily yours to tell – sometimes there are better equipped writers for the job, especially when the story deals with a specific cultural experience of a specific type of food.
Thanks for asking such thoughtful questions. I hope I was able to help. Jen
It’s interesting to know that food writers would have to gain more experiences first to separate the emotion from the actual food experience. I hope I can find blogs with content like that, since it would help me find where to eat with my family every weekend. My goal is to go to various restaurants every Sunday and try good food with them as our bonding time.
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- Food Industry
So You Want to Pitch a Food Article? What to Do (and Avoid)
What does a food editor look for when you pitch an article? And what's the etiquette for following up?
Do Your Research
- Prove Your Story's Relevance
Demonstrate Your Expertise
Make your pitch as compelling as your writing, specifics to include, what not to include, following up, how to pitch serious eats.
Step into my inbox.
But jump over the Korean spam mailers for foot lotion and dodge the publicist who just doesn't get that I'm not covering National Pancake Day. Turn left at the tower of Emails To Respond To and there you'll find it: the slush pile.
In the publishing world, "slush" refers to unsolicited pitches—that is, story ideas—from the general public, and for editors, they're a blessing and a curse. Every editor has a story of their diamond in the rough, the gleaming submission from an untested new writer that glows with promise and passion and properly placed commas, the new writer that they, through the noble, poorly-paid work of publishing, got to show the world and turn into a star.
Then there's everything else.
While responsible editors do indeed plow through our slush piles in search of those gems, we have to do so quickly (to save time to continue Not Responding To Emails), and most pitches rarely get more than a few seconds of attention. Here are some guidelines to help you stand out from the pack and get your story read.
(But first, a quick note. Every editor and publication is different and has their own interests and process. Always check a publication's submission guidelines for the best pitching advice.)
Good food writing requires good research, and your first step is knowing about the publication and editor you're pitching. Does a publication have submission guidelines? Follow them to the letter. (If they don't have guidelines, don't waste time emailing and asking for them, as they probably don't exist in email-able form; just send a smart pitch.) We editors, like wildebeests, are creatures of habit and don't appreciate startling new formats of information.
Doing this advance work will let you anticipate an editor's questions before she thinks to ask them, and I'll be frank, there's nothing more attractive than a writer who already knows what an editor wants. So if you need to provide your own images, have photo samples ready. If you can estimate a research budget for your story, do so.
Research means knowing what topics a publication covers, how it covers them, and what they've done on the subject already. For instance, Serious Eats writes about, among other things, hot dogs , Chinese food , and ice cream . Dog food and nutrition? Not so much. Keep your topic relevant.
Also explore a publication's voice and approach. Do they run long, detail-oriented articles or shorter, snappier, action-oriented text? What are their story formats? Is your voice a good match for theirs? Find out and adjust your pitch accordingly.
"The more your idea can fit in with a publication you're pitching, the more attractive it'll be."
It's important to know how your pitch fits into a publication's previous content. That means you should make sure we haven't done your story before, and if we haven't, it's not because we never cover topics like your pitch. Think about niches you're knowledgeable in that a publication is missing but ought to be covering, then go for them. When an editor reads your pitch, they're indexing it against everything in that publication's archive and what's currently on the web. The more your idea can fit in with a publication you're pitching, the more attractive it'll be.
Good research also means knowing my name, and checking that my name is in fact mine, not my counterpart's at some rival publication (this happens more than you'd think). If you're pitching a specific editor, read up on the types of stories they produce. For instance, our senior editor Maggie notes in her bio that she helms our beer, wine, and spirits coverage. She'd be a more receptive target for your wine story than I would.
Prove Your Story's Relevance
"You need to prove why your story is relevant, and why it's urgent someone read it now."
As a writer, your job, above all else, is to tell me a story that matters. I don't care if you're writing a 4,000-word profile of a Cambodian rice farmer or a guide to Mexican markets in LA. You need to prove why your story is relevant, and why it's urgent someone read it now . (Perhaps that farmer's just started selling rice outside Cambodia, and the world needs to know!) Developing and maintaining a sense of urgency—the feeling that we have to keep reading—is a critical part of most writing, but especially food.
Many writers fall into the "because it exists" trap. They find news or a topic that they feel qualified to report on, but they don't ask why the idea deserves reporting. Is a chef opening a new restaurant? Is there a new immigrant food hitting the streets for the first time? Do you know the history of some kitchen appliance? All these ideas make fine cocktail-party fodder, and they're interesting topics, but they're not stories in and of themselves.
Great writing turns an interesting topic into a must-read story, one that makes a unique claim or argument matter to readers. If a publication reaches a national audience like Serious Eats does, then that writing also has to transcend its local interest and matter to people a thousand miles away. So put your story in context and ask yourself, "why does this matter?" Even if you know the answer, the line you tell yourself should probably make its way into your pitch.
"I'm going to New Orleans and I hear they have nice oysters." "I just moved to Houston and want to explore the brunch scene."
These are classic examples of the "amateur interest" trap, in which a writer hopes a publication will pay them to explore an idea, even though they just admitted they don't know much about the topic and have no clear argument or story angle in mind. Now in one sense, this is how all reporting works: you use your skills as a researcher and storyteller to learn about a topic, then report on it.
"Tell me enough about yourself in your pitch so I can see why you're the best person to write this story."
But when I hire writers, I look for experts: people smarter than me who can address a particular facet of a topic with more depth, experience, and intelligence than I can. One of the "why this pitch" questions I ask myself is, "why is this writer the most qualified to do this story?" Does the writer have experience with the topic? Is she a cocktail expert pitching a piece on shrubs? Is he a skilled reporter who knows how to dig into a story and sound like an expert? Tell me enough about yourself in your pitch so I can see why you're the best person to write this story.
That means including relevant clips from previous work. And it means telling me enough about your life or work experience so I can see you know your stuff. I don't need a resume (please, no resumes!), but if you're reporting on some revolutionary new variety of apple, now would be a great time to mention that time you spent learning about plant genetics from a science-minded farmer.
Don't have any published work to your name? That's okay—send me anything: a Yelp review you're proud of or a short piece you wrote but never published. Show me something to help me trust your intelligence and writing ability. Editors love taking risks on promising writers, but they need a show of good faith to do so.
Your pitch is your audition tape. It's you, and your story, in miniature. That means it should read as compelling as the rest of your writing. It should communicate your expertise. It should make me care about what you have to say from the very first paragraph. And it should be grammatically correct.
"Rambling narratives, poor spelling or grammar, and the absence of a clear central story concept all signal to me that a writer isn't ready."
All of which is to say: put time into your pitch. Make it an honest reflection of your work. Do you know how to write a concise and captivating main argument? Do you know how to frame a question within relevant context? Then show me. Because when I read a pitch, I'm not just scanning your idea—I'm evaluating how well you write about it. Rambling narratives, poor spelling or grammar, and the absence of a clear central story concept all signal to me that a writer isn't ready. But a well crafted pitch is a thing of beauty.
Every publication has its own pitching guidelines, and if you can find those guidelines, follow them to the letter. But here's the basics of what an editor—including me—wants to see.
- A clear story idea that has a point beyond describing a topic. What's the one-sentence version of your pitch?
- Brief background to show your familiarity with the topic and your expertise backing up whatever argument you make.
- A plan of attack: how do you intend to write the story? Have sources agreed to work with you? Do you have preliminary research? If your answers to these questions are "no" or "I'm not sure yet," your pitch needs more work.
- Clips of any relevant work, including links to photo samples if you're supplying your own images. But don't send me a link to your blog's homepage; I'd rather see specific links to pieces you're proud of that demonstrate the polish we look for in finished work.
Keep your pitch concise. 150 to 200 words is all you should need to nail everything above.
And here are some pitfalls of the slush pile to avoid:
- A resume. No one reads 'em. Just skip it.
- Attachments. The contents of a word doc can be copied and pasted into an email. Photos can be links to an online folder. Large attachments clog inboxes and slow down an editor's workflow.
- A rambling introduction broadly describing your interest in a topic—this causes editors' eyes to glaze over. The main point of your pitch should be in one of the first sentences.
- More talk about your general topic than your specific story. Always stay close to your angle to keep it unique.
Let's fast forward a bit. You've done your research, tailored your argument and battle plan, and made sure your pitch follows a publication's guidelines. You've sent it to the right inbox and... now you're waiting.
A week goes by. Two. Four. And you don't hear a thing.
Writers ask me all the time when it's okay to check in with an editor about an earlier pitch that doesn't get a reply. The sad truth is many editors don't have time to personally reply to every unsolicited pitch. But sometimes—rarely, but sometimes—pitches really do get lost in an editor's inbox, and your story hasn't been rejected at all; it was just never noticed.
"sending a polite follow-up two weeks after submitting a pitch isn't unreasonable"
Check-in etiquette can vary by editor and publication, but sending a polite follow-up two weeks after submitting a pitch isn't unreasonable, especially if your story is timely. Just be sure to keep it positive and not apologetic: Hi TK, I was wondering if you had a chance to consider the story idea below. I'm happy to provide any additional information you need.
What you don't want to do is badger an editor who's decided not to pursue a relationship with you. It takes a lot for an editor to blacklist a writer, but clogging one's inbox is a surefire way to get on their bad side.
"In short: we want obsessives, writers ready to show us all the food that matters."
If you're looking to pitch Serious Eats, well, you've just read our pitching guidelines! What are we looking for? Smart, savvy writers who can tell us—with authority—about the most delicious things where they live, who can make regional food come alive and relevant to a national audience. Experts with opinions and the ability to craft inspiring prose. Curious thinkers who pose the non-obvious questions about how food works and why it's important. In short: we want obsessives, writers ready to show us all the food that matters.
Read up on the topics we cover and the way we cover them. Familiarize yourself with our house style and voice (read up on our list of banned words , too). Then check out our masthead to meet our editors.
You can send your pitch to a specific editor on that masthead or to our general editor inbox, [email protected] .
More Serious Eats Recipes
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