Take a bite out of food writing

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On the rise

It would be impossible to count the number of food blogs, cookbooks, and food memoirs in existence today, not to mention the magazines devoted to the way we eat, newspaper sections detailing the latest food trends, and websites constantly covering the best breakfast sandwiches, five new takes on nachos, and what we’ll find in Tom Brady’s fridge. It’s pretty safe to say that food has never been trendier.

It’s a trend that’s visible in print and online, in restaurants and on Facebook feeds, even in the classroom. “Enrollment in our program grew quickly starting around 2010 and has held steady for a number of years now,” Barbara Rotger, academic program manager at Boston University’s Gastronomy Program, wrote in an email. Started by acclaimed chefs Jacques Pepin and Julia Child in the ’90s, it was one of the first food studies programs in the country. Today the program offers courses on food marketing, history, and anthropology (Archeology of Food in Ancient Times, anyone?), as well as a popular food writing course, which Rotger says always fills up. And the program isn’t the only kid on the block anymore. The Association for the Study of Food and Society counts 40 food studies programs worldwide on its website.

Breaking in

But just because food journalism is ‘having a moment’ doesn’t mean it’s impossible to do what First did and break in.

‘It’s a fertile time,’ the food editor says. ‘The market is saturated, but at the same time, there’s more demand for the content.’

Courtney Hollands, editor at the bimonthly, cheese-focused Culture magazine, agrees. ‘Today, if you have a special interest or a passion, there’s a publication for that,’ Hollands says. She can easily rattle off a lengthy list of magazine and website titles similarly devoted to niche food trends, from whiskey to beer, breakfast to gluten-free diets. ‘If you just read the headlines, it can be daunting to get into the field,’ she says. ‘But I like to be positive. There are so many different entry points now.’

Her words of advice are to start with the fundamentals: ‘You need a solid foundation in writing and journalism no matter what you’re covering,’ says Hollands, who began her own career covering hard news for the Patriot Ledger in Quincy, Massachusetts, and has done stints in virtually every aspect of media (producing digital news, covering fashion, and working as an editor at Boston magazine). She didn’t land in food journalism until her 30s, when she took the job at Culture. In addition to getting a reporting/writing foundation, Hollands also stresses the importance of networking to anyone hoping to get a foot into the food journalism (or any journalism) world. “Talk to people who have different jobs in the field. Get a sense of where you might be a good fit,” she says. ‘If you have someone whose work you admire, call them and ask to meet for lunch or coffee. Nine times out of 10, they’ll say yes.'”

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