28 Jun 2010, Posted by admin
The short version. Yes, really. Might be wise to skip.
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. (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. Usually the overall topic is our food/beverage culture, past and present. But not always. Sometimes, the clowns really do call or the old-time music beckons.
Often the stories have been for the Los Angeles Times, where I’ve had a column on artisan food/beverage businesses and covered cooking/baking (Puerco con chile negro, shortbread, the tasty stuff), our food history icons, and folks like that really fantastic Popsicle stick furniture maker who reconnected with his past through his art. And occasionally, what I have discovered on travels to visit my family in Fort Worth and New Orleans.
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.) I cover farmers, artisans, winemakers, distillers (you get the idea) and serve as the newspaper’s cookbook/book reviewer. Some of that coverage you’ll see posted here (Going green/recycling?)
I also contribute regularly to Los Angeles Magazine, Saveur, Cooking Light 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, what really takes up most of the daylight hours: ghost writing nonfiction lifestyle books and cookbooks. And sure, the occasional diet book (the bonus: Even a basic homemade brownie is killer after months of testing “low-everything” versions). 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.
One other thing. Because folks often ask. How did I end up in this rather niche area of food journalism? That would require a long philosophical conversation under a tree somewhere. Basically, 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 moonlighted baking biscotti for a short-lived online bakery. 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 several years after that first “Yes, Chef,” here I am. Writing about the people I meet and their personal histories. Because we already have enough restaurant/wine/popover critics out there in the blogosphere, don’t we? Well, it logically works somehow in my head.
Am I the foremost expert in any one area of food history study, say rice beer or monkey bread? Nope, though I have accumulated vast amounts of useless yeast-related knowledge in recent years. Actually, brewing, winemaking and baking are very similar, but that’s a story for another time.