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How to become a food writer with no experience

By November 26, 2019 9 Comments

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 specialities. And to be honest, it’s easier than many people think it is to break into this area. Here’s how you can break into food writing with no experience.

How to get into food writing with no experience

I kind of fell into food writing – a friend of mine is a pastry chef, and in 2014, just as I was beginning my freelancing career, I wrote an article about him.

My friend had a small patisserie and 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 a food writer you had to be a critic or a household name.

What are the education requirements to be a food writer?

In truth, there aren’t any.

Initially I thought to be a food writer, I would have 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 specialties.

Two years after I had that article published, I had 16 food related articles in print and online.

I now have editors approaching me to write food stories for them.

And you can do the same.

How to become a food and wine writer

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 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 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, there are numerous websites about quirky, curiosity-sparking foods.

So whatever your food bent, 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 narrow down the publications you want to pitch.

This means not only thinking about food magazines, newspaper food sections or food websites, but publications in your other niches.

Perhaps you are a keen outdoors enthusiast – why not 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

I got my foot in the door with food writing by focusing on trends and openings of cafes or restaurants.

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 I’ve also satisfied my curiosity or desires in other areas.

For example, as a vegetarian, I loved writing an article about whether Jackfruit was truly a vegan super food (spoiler: it’s not really).

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.

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 values, biases and beliefs

Food writing has broadened my freelancing horizons – I see food angles almost everywhere I look.

But writing about food can be incredibly complex, especially if you’re someone who thinks that food is not political.

If you are a food writer, especially if you’re writing articles about ‘other people’s food’, I’d really recommend that you check out some podcasts like this one and read articles that delve into the intricacies of the white-dominated mainstream food media.

I’m no expert, and still have a lot to learn in this area, but writing about food is one of the great joys of my writing life.

If you’re looking for places to pitch your food writing – try here and here

What about you?

Do you have ambitions to start writing about food? Or do you already write about food ? 

9 Comments

  • Michaela says:

    This post is making my tummy rumble. Perhaps I should write a piece about eliminating dairy from your diet to see if cow’s milk protein is causing your baby’s cries. Yesterday I tried a dairy free cheese. It wasn’t good. It was just wrong – very wrong!! Great piece, Lindy x

    • Lindy Alexander says:

      There’s your intersection Michaela! I haven’t tried any of those dairy free cheeses yet – I might put it off a little longer after your comments!

  • MacKensie says:

    Thanks for linking to the interesting reading about food appropriation. I’ve wanted to pitch a few food stories from my trips to more out of the way places but was worried about representing my experience in a respectful manner.

    • Lindy Alexander says:

      Hi MacKensie, thanks for your comment. It’s a tough one, but the fact that you are aware and mindful of how you would present food stories from faraway places speaks a lot about your sensitivity to the issue. I tend to think if you thoroughly research a story and avoid making superficial judgements it’s a great start.
      I know there are ‘sensitivity readers’ who can read over your work and comment on it when you are writing about something outside your immediate experience/culture. Perhaps there may be sensitivity readers who could look over any food stories you wanted to submit.

  • Job Merkel says:

    Hey Lindy, great article here. The title definitely drew me in because I have no experience with food writing (nothing published at least). I appreciate the walkthrough and all the links! I’m going to give it a go.

  • Leroy says:

    Great Post Lindy 👍🏽 Just what I needed!

  • Fantastic post. I started my freelance writing journey about eight months ago. My first client was in the food and beverage industry. Now I find myself writing in that niche the most. When I landed my next client (in a different niche) they loved what I’d been writing about so much they asked me to use my experience with food writing as a different focus for their site. It’s only been in the last month that I’ve looked at my portfolio and considered that perhaps I should look at delving into this niche more fully!

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