Not everyone with a culinary arts degree wants to spend all their time in a hot kitchen. In fact, many culinary schools are now adding addition classes and specialized certifications that include not only the business side of cooking, but also concentrations in recipe development and writing, authoring, online publication and even food styling and photography. Degrees in Food Media Studies and Food Writing are becoming more widely accepted and utilized.
But food writing is more than just eating lunch and telling everyone about it. A degree in Culinary Arts will give you a significant background and enable you to write on a wide variety of topics that include food production, methods, restaurants and more. A combined degree with English, writing and /or business skills will enable you to develop your own business and brand as an author, editor and entrepreneur.
Writing courses generally fall into a subdivision of classes called ‘Cooking Media’. They usually encompass not only writing, but the business of writing, marketing and advertising, photography, illustration and more. These skills will help you hone your communication skills, no matter what your ability level. Classes are available at culinary institutions, community colleges and universities, as well as online. In some cases, classes are offered by adult ed programs and cooperative extensions.
It’s helpful to reverse engineer your goal. Decide where you want to be ultimately, and work backwards. Determine what it will take to get you there; the education you need, the skills and the connections. What equipment do you need to be an amazing food photographer? Start purchasing it now, a piece at a time if necessary. Maybe you need some training in usage of social media? Often community adult education programs offer basic training. Writing skills can be brushed up on or learned at local colleges and universities – many online.
CA Writers have jobs at magazines, newspapers, blogs, PR and marketing agencies and more. Many food writers specialize in specific areas of Culinaria – such as critiques of restaurants, marketing, or even blogging about school lunch programs. Choose a focus that you enjoy or are passionate about, and you won’t consider it ‘work’ most days.
Becoming a food writer requires skill as a writer and a dedication to continually improving your craft. Typically writers begin by writing about other topics, and migrate to culinary arts out of a passion or love of food. Successful writers practice daily, and have become adept at putting together words in such a way as to create an interpreted interest. Many food writers have a wide range of topics they write about, and are not limited to one specific subject matter. Branching out slightly will ensure regular work, especially when freelancing. Being too spread out can mean you don’t have enough knowledge about any one topic to be considered for a job.
The challenge with food writing is that foods, but their very nature, are visual and olfactory. It’s a challenge to incorporate the comforting smell of yeast rolls baking or the crackling sizzle of a freshly seared steak to a reader – enough that they want to keep reading (as in a blog, magazine or article) and potentially purchase (such as in the case of a cookbook or recipe). Food writers know how to describe ingredients, foods and processes accurately and in eloquent detail. A good writer will enable you to see, smell and hear the foods. Your mouth will water and you’ll envision the process in your head.
With the influx of home bloggers in the past ten years, it has become important for professional writers to diversify. It’s not simply enough to be a good writer. You need to have many skills; skills that include a deep knowledge base, editing, photography,and even newer content management systems. Print jobs are falling by the wayside, so it’s important to have a thorough understand of media platforms and how you can make them work for you and your goals. It’s also incredibly important for food writers to have marketing skills that translate across multiple programs and tenets. It doesn’t matter how good your writing is if you can’t sell it.
Persistence is key. Plan ahead and be smart. Broaden your skills and experience. Know your weaknesses and address them regularly. Find companies you admire (locally and nationally) and see how they do it. But don’t just replicate their successes – put your own spin on things and make it your own; make it unique. Ask people to teach you skills you need or to answer questions you might have. Interview them for an article. Be the epitome of professional and memorable, right down to a hand-written (and courteous) thank you note afterward.
Remember, food writing is like any other job – it takes hard work, skill and dedication to be successful.