28 Jun 2010, Posted by admin
The short version. Yes, really. Might be wise to skip over to jenngarbee.com for the straightforward CV.
I’m a journalist and editor based in Los Angeles. I write about people. Because they’re interesting. Why they do what they do, and how they got there. Sometimes I talk about their stories on NPR, food television shows or on panels. I’ve also been known to babble on, at a rather frightening RPM, about relish and underground restaurants on local radio shows (Off-Ramp) and Cottage Food Laws (Which Way L.A?). I currently serve as a cookbook judge for the James Beard Awards; as for being a judge on The Next Food Network Star… well, we all learn about the realities of reality TV the hard way, don’t we? Sometimes the stories turn into books like Secret Suppers, on the how and why behind the folks running subrosa restaurants. I also write books for other folks on a variety of topics, a substantial weekday diversion these days.
Often the stories are for the Los Angeles Times, where I’ve had a column on artisan businesses (the guys slinging out Mexican candies in an East L.A. factory for 60+ years) and cover our food history icons, farmers, and folks like that really fantastic Popsicle stick furniture maker who reconnected with his past through his art (!). Other times, the clowns really do call and the old-time music beckons.
I contribute regularly to Cooking Light, Los Angeles Magazine, Saveur, US Airways magazine, and Take Part, a great place to mitigate all of this food talk with a little social responsibility. Some years back, I was a columnist for the Tribune wire — a fancy way of saying the stories would occasionally pop up in my hometown paper. (Cue the parents fishing through the recycle bin: “Oh yes, we read it!”) And I’ve been a contributing editor for LA Weekly’s Squid Ink blog since its nascent single page view beginnings; it’s now one of the Village Voice’s most widely read food news blogs. (Ah, the journalism era of blog traffic = all anyone asks about.) Some of that coverage you’ll see posted here. (Going green/recycling?)
I always learn something from the people I write about. Honest. No one paid me to say that (believe me). The best stories just “happen.” No press release required.
And because folks often ask. How did I end up in this rather niche area of journalism? That would require a long philosophical conversation under a tree somewhere. But after all those college theory of relativity debates, I aspired to be a museum directrice (something about merging theory, art, business– who knows) and worked at several fine art museums on both coasts, with a terribly prudent grad school stop in between (oh Austin, how we miss your laid back, BBQ sauce-stained ways).
Somewhere along the way, I started a tiny bakeshop (it sounded like a perfectly logical idea at the time) — unfortunately before the days of shared professional kitchens and California’s Homemade Food Act. Ten years later, I walked away from that practicality (Is working for nonprofits practical?), so I could start from the bottom again. Yay.
Pastry school followed, then an internship at the LA Times Test Kitchen, another on the editorial side, and one on the pastry line at Lucques restaurant. (Surely you are too old to “intern” at some point?) A brief stint as editor of a print magazine that never launched, back to the newspaper as an in-house contract editor/writer for all of a year (oh, the lovely print media demise), and here we are. Writing about people. Well, it logically works somehow in my head.