May 142013
 

When the James Beard Foundation awards unfurled recently, I watched the live Twitter stream from home on the other coast in California, just to be part of the excitement. It’s fun to see who won, who lost, and read about the drama (mostly about chefs, because apparently writers aren’t that exciting).

Then I read most of the pieces that won, because I always like to read what judges think is the best writing out there (or at least, the best of what was submitted.)

If you have time, I suggest you do the same. In the old days, we’d have to buy many magazines. Now we can read most of the articles online and learn why they won. I put in the links below, not just to the stories, but sometimes to the writers so you can learn Continue reading »

Apr 102013
 

You’ve thought about entering. You mean to apply. But somehow the deadline goes by and you haven’t sent in your best stuff.

This year will be different, because I’m giving you lots of notice. The deadline to send your best pieces of writing to The Best Food Writing anthology for 2013 is May 1, 2013. Your writing must have been published between June 1, 2012, and May 31, 2013. (If your piece will appear after May 1, email editor Holly Hughes, at best.food@perseusbooks.com to warn her it’s coming.)

So think about it. Sift through your work to see what stands out and what has relevance for a wide audience. Hughes considers book excerpts, articles and blog posts. She has published The Best Food Writing collection since Continue reading »

May 152012
 

By now you’ve seen the announcements for the Oscars of food writing, the James Beard Awards for books, broadcast and journalism.

But have you read the pieces that won over the judges? I thought not.

I tracked down a handful of feature stories and explain why this is food writing at its finest. Here’s what it takes to win an award of this caliber, with links to writers so you can investigate who won as well:

1. Cooking, Recipes, or Instruction: Anna Thomas, Eating Well, for “The Soup for Life”

Here’s a sensuous look at how Thomas concocted recipes for green soups for her most recent cookbook, Love Soup. Her writing is full of action verbs (“a bitter wind was swatting down the last damp leaves”), evocative writing (“onions, slowly sizzling in the skillet, turned the color of Continue reading »

Apr 042011
 

I asked former Gourmet editor Ruth Reichl this very question last week, after a talk she gave at Stanford University.

Turns out that the James Beard awards, the so-called “Oscars of food writing,” launched a new humor category and nominated an anonymous tweeter called Ruth Bourdain.

This fictional character’s rain of raunchy tweets mash up Ruth Reichl and bad boy Anthony Bourdain (That’s Bourdain’s face and Reichl’s hair in the photo), often satirizing Reichl’s lyrical tweets in Bourdain’s sardonic tone. She mimics his humor, shock value and swearing.

There’s been lots of hand-wringing in the press about this nomination, because RuBo is anonymous. Also because the category is for a journalism award. I mean, are tweets journalism?

Reichl said she “loved the idea” of a humorous food writing category, and that Ruth Bourdain “wouldn’t have been possible 10 years ago,” because of Twitter. Both Reichl and Bourdain are rooting for her to win. Reichl said she suspects RuthBourdain is a man. She’s dying to see whether this Continue reading »

Jan 312011
 

Edible Communities founders Tracey Ryder and Carole Topalian head a network of 70 magazines across North America, called the Edible Communities.

Ten years ago, partners Tracey Ryder and Carole Topalian felt unfulfilled, even though their graphic design and marketing firm won many awards. Writing and designing annual reports, logos and producing other corporate communications wasn’t cutting it.

Outside of work, they gravitated towards organic, seasonal gardening and cooking. The two had a boatload of talent. Ryder has degrees in graphic design, journalism and psychology, and graduated from a professional chef school in Los Angeles. Topalian is an acclaimed photographer.

Their answer was to launch Edible Ojai (near Santa Barbara, CA) magazine in 2002. Today they spearhead a network of more than 70 Edible magazines across North America, dedicated to celebrating local food, farms, and seasonal, sustainable eating.

Last weekend, 60 of the publishers gathered in Santa Barbara for an Continue reading »

Oct 202010
 

Last week the James Beard Foundation announced a change in its journalism awards: Anyone who writes a story in print or on the web will now be eligible for its journalism awards.

Before, most of it was restricted to print. Now, whether you blog, publish features on your own website, or write for a group website, you’re eligible. Even the award for the “Best Food Section of a General Interest Publication” includes the web.

Since the announcement, I’ve been mulling over the ramifications of this decision and arguing with myself:

The blogger and online writer in me thinks it’s great. Beard has entered the 21st Century and leveled the playing field. No longer do writers have to get published in a newspaper or magazine to be eligible. A quality story is a quality story, regardless of Continue reading »

May 122010
 

Hank Shaw of Hunter, Angler, Gardener, Cook got a double dip of validation this year: his blog was a finalist for the 2010 best food blog award from both the James Beard Foundation (second year in a row) and the International Association of Culinary Professionals (IACP).

What’s interesting is that the other finalists were not other individual bloggers, but compilation food blogs on large websites. Compilation blogs are defined by the number of people who write for them: usually the editor writes posts, as do staff writers for the website where the blog appears, and then there are freelance contributors who get paid per post.

For the IACP award, the other two finalists were blogs from alternative weekly newspapers: the SF Foodie blog of San Francisco Weekly; and Eating Our Words, the food blog of sister paper Houston Press. The SF blog includes posts from award-wining restaurant reviewer Jonathan Kauffman. The Houston blog includes posts from award-winning restaurant reviewer and author Robb Walsh.

And wouldn’t you know it? Hank won the IACP award, beating out these two compilation blogs, including content from two distringuished writers.

Then it was on to the Beard awards, where Hank competed with Serious Eats and Grub Street New York. Again, both are compilation blogs that are part of large websites. Serious Eats has a staff of seven plus three interns. A large stable of paid contributors includes Mario Batali. Grub Street has a smaller staff: an editor, a senior editor, and an assistant editor. The staff  contributes content and the blog pays for freelance posts. Serious Eats won the Beard award.

Like other bloggers, Hank writes all his own material. A former commercial fisherman, line cook, and newspaperman, he’s a one-man show, writing about hunting, fishing, gardening, and cooking.

So the question comes up: Is it fair for an individual blogger to compete with compilation blogs? Should there be one category for individual blogs and another for compilation blogs? Or will the best writing triumph, regardless of how the blog is structured or staffed?

I’m for two categories. I was on the executive committee of IACP the year we put compilation cookbooks (best recipes compiled by a magazine) into their own category. Now the compilations compete with other compilation books, rather than with individual authors.

Now tell me what you think.

(Thanks to Amy Sherman, who started a Twitter war on this subject, for bringing it up.)

Photo by Elise Bauer, used with permission.