My introduction to the Boston food scene as a writer came when I was asked to review restaurants up and down the coast of New England for sailors who read nautical magazines. My focus was on restaurants you could moor at or easily sail to, grab a snack and get back on the water in record time.
Opportunities in the food review world can come from surprising places, and knowing how to find them and how to frame pitches can open up unexpected opportunities. Here’s a closer look at how to land these in-demand opportunities and build a name for yourself in local or national food publications.
Find the Right Opportunities
Food writing is a prime gig, and you can find opportunities in a wider range of publications than you’d expect. My marine food review columns led me to other food writing, and I’ve gone on to write about food from a business-focused perspective, covering catering for business events and creating city-focused guides for conference attendees.
When you’re thinking about new opportunities, consider:
Newsy pitches to local or regional publications
Business-focused pitches for B2B publications
Trend and cultural pitches for niche publications
Try looking for a food editor or a culture editor and scour the publication to learn their voice, point of view and past coverage. If you want to make a strong pitch, make sure you’re hitting these points:
What’s the story? Go beyond a basic topic and explore what makes it different and interesting.
Why is this timely now? Specifically, why should the publication devote space to it at this time?
Why does their audience care? Show how the topic and story is right for the publication.
Why should you be the person to write it? Just think: A writer who has lived in Mexico or grew up eating authentic, homemade Mexican food is uniquely positioned to comment on the opening of a new Mexican restaurant.
Own Your Niche
Food writing today is largely defined by niches. Some writers cover local newsy events, like a new menu launch or a restaurant opening. Amanda Castleman, primarily a travel writer, digs into the food stories behind destinations and brings them to life. Others primarily cover food within their locations as a beat, staying focused on changing chefs, new openings and other big-ticket events. Food writing really is its own niche — yet there are sub-niches within it that offer plenty of interesting story lines. Discover your niche and own it.
Build a Profile
Building a profile is a critical part of standing out as a food writer and drawing attention to your content. One of the top food reviewers in the Boston food scene, MC Slim JB, has been covering area restaurants for over a decade. In addition to writing for numerous local, regional and national publications, he cultivates a strong social following. On Twitter, he’s got more than 7,000 followers. Building a platform, especially on social channels, can amplify your content and connect you with writing opportunities. Share your stories, curate photos and participate in larger conversations in the city and space.
Find Your Own Path
J.Q. Louise is a Boston-based food writer and photographer who’s forging her own way forward. With a food-focused travel blog that chronicles her forays into Boston’s different neighborhoods, Louise turned her interests into a book project. In Boston Food Crawls: Touring the Neighborhood One Bite and Libation at a Time, Louise takes a unique look at Boston’s food scene by profiling different neighborhoods, interviewing top chefs and photographing everything along the way. She also works as an influencer, crafting content for brands and building relationships with restaurateurs. When you’re charging ahead with a food career, passion is key, says Louise: “Let your passion shine through. I love food, and my words and photography are just a reflection of that.”
There’s no single path to success in the world of food writing today. One look at Boston’s food scene quickly reveals that it’s possible to build a career as a traditional food reviewer, a freelance influencer or a writer who focuses on non-traditional outlets. For foodies and cultural fans alike, this opens up the possibilities of charting your own road to success.