How to Become a Food Writer With No Experience

Tips on how to become a food writer even without any previous experience

Tasting different food

Is there anybody out there that doesn’t love food?

No, I guess not. Me neither. So it was a pretty obvious choice to start writing about something I love as well. But of course that alone won’t do it. There are countless of writers that review food, restaurants, new places and talk about how they got into sourdough bread making.

How can you break out as a food writer without any experience?

While I don’t believe you need to have any formal background to start (just the obvious grammar you should have learned at school), there are a few prerequisites that are important to make it in this area.

How I became a food writer

A short preamble story is needed. Feel free to skip it if you just want the meat of how to become a food writer with no experience.

About 7 years ago, I was traveling alone between Montenegro and Croatia. I was in Hvar, one of the countless dalmatian islands and a mecca for club goers of a quite young age. I was going to meet up with my uncle on his catamaran in a few days but he hadn’t reached the island yet (sailing is never a regular way to move…). I was jobless and had to wait a couple of nights for my uncle to come and take me aboard; naturally I opted to stay in a 8 beds dormitory room in an hostel. Mostly British guys and girls that were there to party all night, sleep in the morning and sunbathe all the afternoon.

Hvar by Night

I was not. I spent my day exploring the island on foot (it’s quite walkable) and trying the delicious Croatian food. As my roommates were planning to start drinking at 8pm and then going out at 11, I left the room at 7:30pm and went out to take pictures, eat and wait for them to leave so I could actually sleep a full night, alone and undisturbed.

Yes, I won’t ever win a prize for being the most amicable human being. But I have a regular sleep pattern, at least.

Anyhow, challenged with the task of finding a good restaurant that wouldn’t be super-expensive, I skipped the seafront crowd of konobas and bars and went uphill, looking for little gems that would offer a genuine experience at moderate prices. And I did find one.

Konoba in Hvar

The konoba Menego was tucked in a peripheral street, or more like a stairwell, on the northern part of Hvar town. They offered me a tasting menu that comprised wine, 2 appetizers, a large meat dish and a plate of local desserts. As I had to wait out my roommates' partying at the hostel, I was in no rush. The restaurant was mostly empty so the waiters weren’t either.

I sat and made a point to make the dinner last as long as possible by savouring every dish as it was the most important thing of the day. I tasted every piece of food as in a meditative state, and it dawned on me that I could collect a lot more flavors and undertones of it this way. The more I would focus, the more I enjoyed the food, and the more I understood why some spices were used instead of others and why the wine pairing. Things like that. It was such a focused experience that I gained a great deal of insight just by eating and comparing what I already knew bout the Croatian cuisine with what I was tasting right there.

I spent more than 2 hours eating, completely alone but not lonely at all. The food was exquisite and still a vivid memory to this day. Needless to say, that experience taught me how much I loved food, how much I loved being able to taste it and try new dishes, and how much I would have liked to be able to write about food, professionally.

7 years later and here I am, a food writer through and through.

End of the story. Thanks for having borne with me. Let’s see what are the requirements to make it as a food writer with no experience now.

A background on which to build your experience

And with background I mean something deeper than “I like food”. Because anybody has that, don’t you think?

Firstly, take the food culture of the place you’ve been living most of your life as a basis. It is not necessarily the culture of your family, it can be the one that influenced the most you when you were younger.

What has it taught you? What were the strengths of the local cuisine? What have you attempted cooking and learnt from? What are the typical ingredients that are connected with your territory?

Things like that. You don’t have to be scientific about it all, it’s just a foundation over which you can build your expertise in food writing. It will be your core knowledge that will make you create your relationship with food, and how you tackle it throughout your career. Of course you can change it, and probably you will. That is a good thing. But you have to start somewhere.

As a personal example: I’m Italian and my grandmother used to cook every day, using the local products and keeping the flame of the traditional, southern Italy, cuisine alive. I vividly remember the aromas, the shape of the pots, the lengths at which she went in to cook something for everybody. The true passion that you would expect by your typical Italian nonna. That shaped how I see food nowadays. Patience, great ingredients and respect for the traditions.

Mum Cooking

This is my background in food that allowed me to start into food writing. Being a freelance food writer taught me that everybody has a different angle on writing about food, and none is less respectable. Only ignorance isn’t. Take your past and collect the stories, recipes, ideas, events connected with food and get yourself an opinion, if you haven’t it already.

That will be your background story. That will teach you what type of food writer you can be (not necessarily what you want to be). Build upon it.

Know what kind of food writer you want to be

Think about what kind of articles you want to write. What can become your expertise?

Perhaps you like to discover new recipes, and trying them yourself. Or you like to review new restaurants in town. Or are super-interested in a specific cuisine, its history and developments. Or you like to tell stories of people and how they relate with food.

Anything that enticed you yet?

Personally I love to try new places and review them. Or trying new trendy recipes and attempt them myself. But that’s me, what about you? What do you like especially about food that will be valuable for a company?

A Food Writer Classic Situation

That involves not only what you may know and appreciate, but what type of publications you would like to write for. Think about food magazines, printed or online, food columns on newspapers, general food websites or those who occasionally talk about food. Go search for “food magazine” or “{your food niche} magazine” and see what comes up.

Ask yourself how your knowledge, your background and where you live can help these publications. From that, you will know what kind of food writer you may be.

Don’t forget the fun. Possibly choose something that is also fun to write for you. That may not be always possible and of course if the money are somewhere else, try to learn to be that type of food writer. But don’t forget the fun in food writing. Texts that you genuinely enjoy writing always come out better than those who feel like a drag.

Unsurprisingly.

Google Maps is invaluable

This may sound like a weird point to make. Listen to me.

Think about what most people use Google Maps for: directions and information about places. And what are most places on the map offering?

Yeah, food.

Bars, cafes, restaurants, hotels, clubs. All have food and/or beverages, with plenty of pictures and reviews. Basically it’s a trove of trends, dishes, drinks and cool places for a food writer to know about.

Google Maps review

Whether you are going to use it to become a food guide in your area (perhaps you can write an ebook about your town?) or look for get to know different cuisines and expand your food knowledge or just take inspiration from other food reviewers there, Google Maps is a superb source of information.

I’ve been an active guide there for the last 5 or so years. Besides honing your food reviewing skills, you can see what dishes are the most photographed, how they are photographed and what is liked/disliked the most. As a food writer, all this is huge. And always updated by thousands of guides all around the world.

And free, which never hurts.

Even if you don’t care about contributing and becoming a food guide, Google Maps will give you tons of point of contacts with food businesses in your area and not only. Refresh your pitching templates and get ready to find plenty of new clients!

Develop your own take/taste

This is the trickiest aspect of being a food writer and the one that takes the longest when you are trying to enter the food writing professional field. Developing your own voice and taste in this field is vital and yet there’s no easy way to do it.

Some of you may become food writers because you have a belief or even a mission to follow. Some others will have a well developed taste and will try to reflect it in their writing. You will probably be in the majority and have neither, at first. I also hadn’t neither a mission nor a specific belief nor a super-refined taste. No worries.

Starting from the latter, developing a taste is a long process that may take all your life. To make it quicker, and simpler: taste everything, be open to any new recipe or any modification of one you know already, try to understand why an ingredient has been used in a dish that doesn’t call for it and so on. Be extremely curious and open-minded. The more foods and drinks you’re tasting, the more you’ll know. Your taste buds will only thank you for this.

Wine Tasting

Over time, months, years, even decades, your food writing skills will reflect your developed taste. Especially if you are writing food reviews for a publication or new recipes, the more you know about food and how it tastes like, the more angles you will be able to tackle in your new job. You will multiply the ways you can write as a food writer and give your readers insightful comparisons that others with less refined tastes won’t.

You will provide great value as food writer and that’s what readers and companies are looking for.

To actually develop your taste I will give you a single suggestion: eat slowly. Savour everything, in every way possible. Use smell and sight before your taste buds. Compare whatever you are smelling, seeing and tasting to previous food and ingredients. Make connections in your brain, all the time. The more you try, the more you will understand the difference between sandalwood instead of just wood flavour in coffee or what is “bright acidity” and what is “dull acidity”. Pardon the coffee nomenclature, I’m a coffee writer most of the time now.

That’s about taste. As per your voice, articles and publications about the economics of food, from the farming to the industrial production and the restaurant industry, will give you plenty of views on how food is treated, produced and its, also political, importance. The better you understand what your choices imply on the food chain, the more of an opinionated and insightful food writer you can be.

I’m far from an expert here and still developing my voice. But learning more about food and beverages is one of the most fascinating subjects I can think of, if not just for the sheer importance it has on our daily lives.

Keeping up with trends, statistics and acquisitions in the food industry may be boring, and sometimes downright difficult, but it is a necessary step to develop your take and know where the wind is blowing to. Your food writing skills will greatly benefit if you can give readers an informative take that hasn’t been discussed before, perhaps not in simple terms.

Persistence

As with any freelance writing roles, persistence is key. Rejection is a daily occurrence and one that shouldn’t not demoralize you. Easy to say, hard to do, I know. I have been down due to rejection more times than I am comfortable sharing.

Rejection will happen, a lot, and will happen some more. There’s no way around it. Persisting in believing in your food writing skills is a fundamental trait that any food writer should possess.

If you don’t have it now, no worries. Build upon your little successes every day and create an aura of “if I get rejected it’s their loss, I’m a good at food writing”. Persist in pitching your ideas and writing in your spare time, to hone your writing skills.

Persist in reading too. Obviously magazines in the food industry and books that are associated with your food niche of choice. Personally as a coffee writer I’ve greatly learned by reading James Hoffman’s The World Atlas of Coffee and Kenneth Davids' Espresso, Ultimate Coffee. Your niche will have different authors and books to read.

But don’t stop reading in your area. You’re a writer and your main task is juggling words, using them in the most efficient way to convey what you need to. Do have the persistence in reading a great deal of different authors, in different genres and about a great deal of different topics. There’s no shortage of great writers out there, pick your favorite genre and keep reading. Then expand. Get into the pinnacles of the genre. Learn about its sub-genres. Then the related genres.

Read All the Books

For me, I’ve been reading fantasy for enjoyment since I was a little child. It is a genre completely unrelated to food writing but reading the early Tolkien, Burroughs, Vance and so on made me learn a lot of archaic, weird, fascinating and downright beautiful words that rarely anybody use today. It is not directly effective for my food writer job, but immensely expanded my dictionary. And it was fun doing so.

Then one day in one of your commissioned works you will manage to sneak in a wonderful yet not used much word you read a decade ago, in a 1950s book. And that will repay all your persistence in reading.

Food writing is full of vitality

In the end, freelance writing is an ever-changing job. One day the trends will lead you to write about CBD coffee and another about a well made ragù sauce (true story). Any writing niche is an ever evolving area that will keep you interested and, hopefully, hired for all your career.

What about you? I would love to hear about how you have started in food writing. If you need any advice I’m open to your questions.

Gianluca Fiore
Gianluca Fiore
Content Writer

Content writer, SEO consultant, avid traveler, coffee aficionado and all around nice guy

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