Learning How To Be a Food Critic
Nowadays, in addition, the critic must blog extensively, answer reader questions, write best-of lists, tweet, and see to other social media concerns, as well as write extensive features that require him to travel quite literally around the globe. Plus spending time with editors, fact checkers, copyeditors, etc., as all this prose is processed into print. Given all this, you can easily see why someone could burn out in two years, and come to the conclusion that all the glamor and good food has to be weighed against a monomaniacal existence in which you don’t have time for family or friends, and life is just one giant Vegas-style buffet. —Village Voice food critic Robert Sietsema
My friend and Washington City Paper food editor Chris Shott (and my former editor) put this quote on his underused tumblr. I watched (and accompanied) Shott as he schlept from bar to restaurant to burger shack to bar to restaurant to bar, all in one night. He then blogged and interviewed chefs and blogged and edited freelancers and wrote and ate and wrote and blogged and ate, all in one day. Oh, and drank coffee. And then when out that night. He repeats this all week.
Being a food writer is not a glamorous job. It’s a totally awesome gig, but it’s really fucking hard. It’s tolling. It’s a lot of food. Food as sport. Food is not really enjoyable because it’s not meant for pleasure. It’s now meant for a story. For a clue to a larger narrative. To a question about ethics or trends or judgement or beauty.
It’s a job like any other with pressure and deadlines. But it’s also part public-service. It’s also an art. Criticism is an art. It’s a whole lot. A whole fucking lot. And I’m just starting to understand the role of a professional food journalist.
Earlier this month I joined Northern Virginia Magazine as its Dining Editor. Because Endless Simmer is seen as a conflit of interest, I won’t be blogging here any longer. Tomorrow will be my last day.
More ranting, love, sadness, joy, regret, excitement and tears tomorrow.