How to break into food writing
There are a couple of gigs in the writing world that seem to have universal appeal - travel writing and food writing. Getting paid to eat - what could be better, right?
Food writing is now one of my niches, and to be honest, it's easier than many people think it is to break into this area.
How to get into food writing
I kind of fell into food writing - a friend of mine is a pastry chef, and in 2014 I wrote an article about him as he had started baking 'conversations' - a French tart popular in the 1770s. I pitched the article to a well known Australian food publication, and it got commissioned, but it was another couple of years before I thought of pitching another food story.
I'm not sure why there was such a gap - I think I thought to be an Australian food writer you had to be a critic, or a household name. I thought I would have had to do a food writing course. I wasn't interested in critiquing food and I hadn't studied food writing, but I did have a passion for food (and eating) and I was a freelance writer.
So in my build up to full time freelancing, I decided I would pursue food writing as one of my niches.
In 2016 I had 16 food related articles published, and I now have editors approaching me to write food stories for them.
Here are 4 ways you can break into food writing, without needing to do a food writing course or being a critic:
1. Find an intersection
More and more I believe that success in freelance writing comes down to intersections. If you want to be a food writer, think about what else you write about or are interested in, and pitch stories in that sweet spot.
It's an equation that can go something like this: food + travel, food + agriculture, food + innovation, food + your cultural background, food + trends, food + history, food + employment, food + health.
Food is universal, and so whatever your niche, I believe that you can find an intersection that includes food. I know of a blog where the focus is on the food at Disney theme parks, there's a website dedicated solely to breakfast and brunch, and last year I had a conversation with the wonderful Darra Goldstein, who started the food journal Gastronomica and is now the Editor in Chief of Cured Magazine - a magazine about curing and preserving food. So there's plenty of space for us all!
2. Know what kind of food writer you want to be
Think about the type of articles you want to write. Do you want to write round-ups of new restaurants? Do you want to explore food with regard to sustainability? Or maybe you want to look at food tourism.
The benefit of thinking about what kind of food writing you want to do is you can also narrow down the publications you want to send queries to. This means not only thinking about food magazines, newspaper sections or websites that focus predominantly on food, but publications in your other niches. Perhaps you are a keen outdoors enthusiast - you can think about pitching an article about the best foods to take on a multi-day hike.
3. 'New' is one of the easiest way to get published
For me, focusing on trends and openings of cafes or restaurants, was the way I got my foot in the door with food writing. Are there restaurants or cafes near you that are just about to open? Is there someone at your local farmers' market growing a unique variety of vegetable or using new agricultural techniques? Are you spotting any trends when you go out to eat?
I've written most of my stories in a way that has answered editors' 'so what' and 'why should I publish this story now' questions, but which have also satisfied my curiosity or desires in other areas. For example, as a vegetarian, I loved writing an article about how Jackfruit is the new vegan superfood, and as someone who tries to consciously cut down on the amount of food waste I create it was fascinating talking to people who are making a difference in this area and my background as a researcher was put to good use when I wrote an article about the emerging field of mind-gut studies.
Keep your eyes open for new openings or food trends and you'll be on your way.
4. Be aware of your own biases
Food writing has broadened my freelancing horizons - I see food angles almost everywhere I look. But writing about food can be incredibly complex when you consider the cultural implications if you want to write about 'other people's food'. This is a great resource to read and start to get your head around these issues. It comes from a food editor in and blogger in the US.
Do you have ambitions to start writing about food? Or do you already write about food ? Is there anything you want to add?