The truth about being a food journalist


Photography by Alejandro Pinto, used under Creative Commons licence 2.0

I’ve been a food journalist for nearly four years now, and most people I talk to seem to think it’s really glamorous, imagining that I’m off to glittering restaurant launches or eating out every night, before dashing off a review in a cafe the next morning.

I’m sorry to crush your dreams, but it’s not really like that. Here are a few interesting truths about being a food journalist:

1. There’s not much free food

To be honest, I don’t actually eat out that often as I only write one review a month, and there’s not much in the way of free food. Sometimes PR companies might send samples to the office, but they’re not always things you’d actually want to eat – we’ve had everything from black garlic to raw bread and chocolates made from goat’s milk.

The oddest sample was probably some tablets from Japan which claimed to make sour food taste sweet. No one wanted to try them, as it didn’t seem like a sensible idea to take unsolicited pills which arrived in the post.

2. We don’t spend all our time writing

I’d love to spend more time writing, but journalism isn’t like that. If I’m writing a feature, the majority of time is spent researching, interviewing people and trying to source images. Sometimes finding a good image can be the trickiest part of the job, because people often don’t have their images in the right format.

If I had to break the time I spent working on a feature down into percentages, it’d probably look like this:

Time spent writing a feature

3. We’re not out at events all the time

Yes, we do sometimes go to launches – however, being based in Devon means that going to a launch means travelling a long way. I’m sure urban food writers go to more events than we do, but I can’t speak for them.

4. We’re not food snobs

I still eat all of the things I ate before I became a food journalist and love a home-cooked meal. Fine dining has its place, but I don’t critique every meal I eat.

5. We spend a lot of time on social media

There are many advantages to being active on social media. It’s not just about promoting our work, it’s also a good way to keep in touch with the chefs and follow their career moves (chefs move around a lot). It keeps us in touch with our readers and their interests too.

6. We spend a lot of time on the phone

We’re always on the phone, chasing down information, trying to speak to people or handling enquiries.

7. We drink LOADS of tea/coffee

Journalists drink a ridiculous amount of tea and coffee. A journalist with a hot drink is a happy one. Give them a biscuit and they’ll be even happier.

8. We’re grammar nazis

We’ve had discussions in the office about whether we should write goat’s cheese or goats’ cheese (for the record, we decided on goat’s cheese).

That’s all I can think of for now, if you have any questions for me please post them in the comments below and I’ll add the answers.

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