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How to become a food writer.  

post #1 of 7
Thread Starter 
Andrew & Karen,

Would you mind commenting a bit on how you went about becoming food writers? There are many members in the community that I know of who are interested in becoming food writers but are not sure how to get started. What are some of the pitfalls to avoid? And lastly can you comment a bit on how difficult it can be to get published?

Thanks.
Thanks,

Nicko 
ChefTalk.com Founder
All About Braising: The Art of Uncomplicated Cooking
All About Braising: The Art of Uncomplicated Cooking
Bacon (I made)
(26 photos)
Thanks,

Nicko 
ChefTalk.com Founder
All About Braising: The Art of Uncomplicated Cooking
All About Braising: The Art of Uncomplicated Cooking
Bacon (I made)
(26 photos)
post #2 of 7

Re: How to become a food writer

The best advice we can give for becoming a food writer is the same advice that Chez Panisse chef-owner Alice Waters gave to readers of our book BECOMING A CHEF on becoming a chef:

"Being a really good cook has to do with having a point of view."
--Alice Waters

We would encourage prospective food writers to know themselves, so that they can determine what unique point of view they can bring to the world of food writing. Carving out a niche that you're uniquely qualified to fill will help you to establish a foothold in this very competitive field.

Best of luck to all of you!

Karen & Andrew

Karen Page & Andrew Dornenburg
Co-Authors, BECOMING A CHEF, CULINARY ARTISTRY, DINING OUT, CHEF'S NIGHT OUT, THE NEW AMERICAN CHEF and WHAT TO DRINK WITH WHAT YOU EAT
www.becomingachef.com
post #3 of 7

P.S. One more story about how we got started

P.S. We ran this essay in our complimentary e-newsletter (which goes out to more than 20,000 food-and-wine-loving readers across North America and around the globe; to subscribe, just send your email address to CookbookRave@aol.com) on the 10th anniverary of BECOMING A CHEF's publication in 2005. We thought it might be of interest to any aspiring food writers reading this:

<<On this occasion of the 10th anniversary of the publication of our first book BECOMING A CHEF, we wanted to reflect on the experience of shopping the proposal for this book which was a test of perseverance in the face of rejection.

Our former literary agent Elizabeth, with whom we'd worked on an initial book proposal that went unsold, had received several encouraging letters from editors saying that while they weren't crazy about our initial idea, they'd be interested in seeing other proposals from us. However, when we shortly thereafter came up with the idea to write BECOMING A CHEF, even our agent turned it down (ouch!). She wrote:

"This isn't really the sort of book I feel I could get behind at this time. While I know there is a strong interest in food and cooking schools, etc. (my own interest not to be excluded), I feel that the market for this would be somewhat small."

We decided to take the unorthodox move of submitting our proposal for BECOMING A CHEF ourselves to the editors by whom our initial idea had been rejected. Again, we received a flurry of rejection letters:

"I'm afraid the market is too specialized for us."

"I had the opportunity to show your proposal to our publisher, and we both agree that to our way of thinking, this book, as you envision it, would be very small — in other words, a tough sell to the book-buying audience."

"Thanks for the chance to read your proposal...It's a good idea that is, however, interesting to only a limited number of people. As a trade book, I doubt it would have much commercial success."

On July 8, 1992, one declining editor took the time to suggest, "Have you considered sending it to a publisher that has a stronger professional list than I do? Perhaps Van Nostrand?"

Despite our bruised egos at having been turned down by every publisher we'd contacted previously, we continued to persevere. Our faith never waivered in our idea, nor in our ability to deliver a book that could reach (and help) a lot of people. We weren't familiar with Van Nostrand Reinhold, but that day, we FedExed a copy of our proposal to them. The next morning, we received a call expressing interest in it. A series of meetings ensued, and we signed our first book deal on our two-year wedding anniversary: August 25, 1992.

Ten years ago this month, in May 1995, our book BECOMING A CHEF was published. The book that no one wanted, that no one thought could find a decent audience, went on to be featured on the "Today" show, to win the 1996 James Beard Book Award for Best Writing on Food, and to sell more than 100,000 copies.

Persevering to receive that one crucial "yes" led to our writing a half-dozen books and signing an exciting book deal recently with Bulfinch Press, the prestigious division of AOL Time Warner's Little Brown, which will publish our next book on food and beverage pairing next year.

"Not for would-be chefs only...Contains tidbits of wisdom for all business warriors."
— Judith Dobrzynski, The New York Times' Business section


* HELP US CELEBRATE: Please join us in celebrating BECOMING A CHEF's 10th anniversary by sharing the gift of this book with your favorite food lover or enjoying it yourself! You'll not only read the heart-warming stories of how some of America's top chefs (from Mario Batali to Daniel Boulud to Alice Waters) got to be where they are today, but you'll also enjoy dozens of mouth-watering recipes that inspired them along their journeys everything from the Chocolate Pecan Pie that Rick Bayless can't take off his menu at Frontera Grill to Todd English's grandmother's Gnocchi to Emeril Lagasse's Portuguese Kale Soup!

We're including a link so you can purchase BECOMING A CHEF here. >>

Andrew Dornenburg and Karen Page
Co-Authors, BECOMING A CHEF, CULINARY ARTISTRY, DINING OUT, CHEF'S NIGHT OUT, THE NEW AMERICAN CHEF, and WHAT TO DRINK WITH WHAT YOU EAT
www.becomingachef.com
post #4 of 7
Who would you say has most influenced your writing style? And how do you manage writing together?
Emily

______________________

"If you are not killing plants, you are not really stretching yourself as a gardener." -- J. C. Raulston, American Horticulturist
Emily

______________________

"If you are not killing plants, you are not really stretching yourself as a gardener." -- J. C. Raulston, American Horticulturist
post #5 of 7

Re: Influences and logistics

Influences: Karen's greatest influence is not a "who" as much as a "what." Karen not only studied journalism as an undergraduate at Northwestern University's Medill School of Journalism, but she also has a master's degree in business administration and worked as a strategy consultant to Fortune 500 companies. The former made her a stickler for researching the facts, while the latter opened her eyes to new ways of presenting information. Both experiences developed her listening skills, which she considers to be one of her greatest strengths as a writer.

As for Andrew's greatest writing influences, he's still scratching his head....The only writer who comes to mind is chef Fernand Point (Ma Gastronomie), who was a master storyteller and not wedded to recipes in their traditional forms.

Writing Together: It's definitely more of an art than a science -- and being married probably helps, since it can be such a frustrating process at times that it's nice to have some extra glue to keep us together! ; ) Andrew provides invaluable in-the-trenches experience (i.e. the details!), having worked in the front and back of the house, and Karen provides an outsider's perspective that helps to put the profession in a larger context (i.e. the big picture!).

Cheers,
Andrew & Karen

Andrew Dornenburg & Karen Page
Co-Authors, BECOMING A CHEF, CULINARY ARTISTRY, DINING OUT, CHEF'S NIGHT OUT, THE NEW AMERICAN CHEF and WHAT TO DRINK WITH WHAT YOU EAT
www.becomingachef.com
post #6 of 7
Your second response may be the single greatest commentary on writing that I have ever read. Wannabes like myself often find it hard to imagine that successful writers ever get rejected. So perserverance, belief in your product and a little ability can take you a long way.... well said, and thanks for saying it, and congratulations! :beer:
My latest musical venture!
http://myspace.com/nikandtheniceguys
 
Also
http://www.myspace.com/popshowband "I'm at the age when food has taken the place of sex in my life. In fact I've just had a mirror put over my kitchen table." Rodney Dangerfield RIP
My latest musical venture!
http://myspace.com/nikandtheniceguys
 
Also
http://www.myspace.com/popshowband "I'm at the age when food has taken the place of sex in my life. In fact I've just had a mirror put over my kitchen table." Rodney Dangerfield RIP
post #7 of 7

Re: How to become a food writer

Thank you. :blush:

By the way, this marks our first-ever use of an animated emoticon in a posting -- you've just made history!

Cheers,
Andrew & Karen

Andrew Dornenburg & Karen Page
Co-Authors, WHAT TO DRINK WITH WHAT YOU EAT
http://www.whattodrinkwithwhatyoueat.com
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