May 232012

Mark Scarbrough (Photo by Lucy Schaeffer)

I’ve been on a career counseling jag lately. With bloggers asking me how they can “monetize” their blogs at every turn, and established food writers lamenting the lack of work, I’m looking for ways to generate income on all food writers’ behalf.

Ever wanted to become a spokesperson, to supplement your writing? Lots of food writers do it, and some have been very successful. Here’s an interview with two writers who have taken that path.

Mark Scarbrough, with partner Bruce Weinstein, has published 21 cookbooks at six publishing houses with over three-quarters of a million copies in print. They have been national spokespeople and developed recipes for The U. S. Potato Board, JIF, Smucker’s, The National Honey Board, and Bacardi. In 2010, the California Milk Advisory Board sent them on a two-week, ten-city tour to promote their book Real Food Has Curves: How to Get Off Processed Food, Lose Weight, and Love What You Eat.

Amy Sherman is a San Francisco-based writer and recipe developer. The publisher of the award-winning food blog Cooking with Amy, she has also blogged for Epicurious, Glam and writes frequently for Cheers and Gastronomica magazines. She is the author of Williams-Sonoma New Flavors for Appetizers and WinePassport: Portugal. Amy has been a spokesperson three times for two brands.

1. Let’s start with a definition. What is spokesperson work?

Mark: Bruce and I consider ourselves to be spokespersons whenever we Continue reading »

May 222012

Amy Reiley started a wildfire on an IACP blog post recently, when she said hobby food bloggers who don’t test recipes thoroughly and don’t charge enough are sidelining professionals like herself.

Here’s a sample:

“…We, the professional journalists, researchers, home economists, recipe developers, food stylists, and photographers are getting aced out of much needed work in our chosen field by stay-at-home moms and accountants with a cooking hobby.”

Enraged food writers — mostly bloggers — piled on in the comments, which led to closed comments and a new post trying to explain the old one, which led to more irritated comments. In other words, two excellent reads.

But this argument is nothing new. The old guard always competes with newer, hungrier people with less experience who charge less. Reilly thinks it’s not just the old guard that gets hurt, but Continue reading »

May 082012

Jane Goldman doesn’t mince words. When I asked’s head eater whether food writers can make a living, she suggested finding another profession. Ouch!

At least she has a suggestion: Learn video.

Now the vice president and editor-in-chief of CBS Interactive’s Entertainment and Lifestyle division, Goldman was a writer and editor in the past, including for the Industry Standard, New York, Rolling Stone, and Wired. She has also been a screenwriter and producer.

Goldman founded Chow as a print magazine in 2004. CNET acquired it in 2006, along with, and turned it into an online site. CBS Interactive Media acquired both in 2008. There are 3,000 to 5,000 recipes on the site.

I spoke with her about the opportunities for food writers at and beyond:

Q. What are your responsibilities at Chow?

A. I’m the combination publisher and editor, responsible for the budget. Ad sales people do not report to me but I am obviously implicated in the bottom line. I run the operation, engineers, product people, designers, writers, editors, and recipe developers.

Q. What is Chow doing that’s different from other food websites?

A. Our attitude, the demographic and the reason we exist stay the same: to provide an informal, intelligent, irreverent voice in the world of food. It’s about beautiful food but it’s about having fun.

We’re moving very heavy into video series. We have one I love called Continue reading »

Apr 172012

Your career ladder. Do you know what's on the other side?

Recently Amanda Hesser, co-founder of Food52 and a former New York Times food writer, said in Advice for Future Food Writers she could “no longer responsibly recommend that you drop everything to try to become a food writer.”

“Except for a very small group of people (some of whom are clinging to jobs at magazines that pay more than the magazines’ business models can actually afford), it’s nearly impossible to make a living as a food writer, and I think it’s only going to get worse,” Hesser concludes.

To which I would say, for most of us, it has been nearly impossible to make a decent living as a food writer for several decades. But here’s the thing: we’re still at it, enjoying ourselves.

And that’s our dirty little secret. Food writing is fun, no matter how much or whether we’re paid.

Hesser’s article offers lots of good numbers on what food writers make. Now, here are my three tiers of how to categorize ourselves. Recognize yourself in any of these?

Tier 1. Employees at national publications and big web names (5 percent)

These food writers and editors make a high five-to-six-figure living at a few big newspapers and national magazines, with expense accounts and excellent Continue reading »

Apr 042012

Four days of networking, learning and fun in New York at hotels, offices and cooking schools. (Photo by Damian Brandon)

I’m back from a packed schedule of classes, meetings, cooking demos, expos and parties at the International Association of Culinary Professionals annual conference, held in New York.

I taught at a class beforehand, zoomed around the city, saw friends and colleagues, met new people, learned about our industry, ate too much, and laughed with my roomies. Here are my seven takeaways:

1. Yes, you can make money as a food blogger. While the panelists refused to say how much, public relations people and marketing folks said they hire food bloggers and cookbook writers as brand ambassadors, recipe developers, event planners — and to write Continue reading »

Dec 132010

Cookbook author Greg Patent

When people say they want to write about food I’m always making suggestions like:

  • Don’t quit your day job
  • Find a patron
  • Win the lottery
  • Don’t write for free
  • Supplement your income with other food-related jobs like catering and teaching cooking classes.

But I’ve never heard this way to make money as a food writer: Compete as a contestant on the national American game show, Wheel of Fortune.

That’s exactly what cookbook author and freelance writer Greg Patent did on Friday night. A puzzle freak and watcher of the game show since 1975, Patent auditioned when Continue reading »

Oct 052009

Gourmet-MagazineThis morning I was so preoccupied by Gourmet magazine’s closing that I blurted out the news at my 8 a.m. aerobics class. The instructor said she always read it at the dentist’s office,  after People. “Maybe I should have read Gourmet first,” she allowed. Someone in the crowd said Saturn was closing, and the conversation turned. They didn’t know that Twitter and my email were abuzz with the news.

I can’t say I’ve read it forever, but being a journalist, I loved Gourmet as soon as Ruth Reichl became the editor in 1999. I looked forward to how the former newspaperwoman made her mark. I liked the messy photos of half-eaten food, the long literary narratives, the smart farm-to-table conversations, sensuous travel narratives, and the occasional political and green living pieces.

In her editorial this month, she reflects on her first issue 10 years ago,  amazed at the staying power of two new chefs: Thomas Keller and Ferran Adria. How satisfying to be right about their popularity.

Typical of the brutal world of publishing, she didn’t know until today. She tweeted Saturday: “Foggy fall afternoon. Cup of lemon tea. Outside the window a deer is munching on the lawn. About to start the Saturday puzzle. Happy.” Then just now: “Thank you all SO much for this outpouring of support. It means a lot. Sorry not to be posting now, but I’m packing. We’re all stunned, sad.”

While the Gourmet brand of television and its own cookbooks will continue (see Reichl’s letter on Amazon),  this is also a sad day for all the freelance writers who long to be published  in the magazine, in long, beautifully-written narratives they could exclaim over when the magazine hit the newsstand. These days Gourmet wins more awards for the Gourmet website, where the short subject is king and much of the content is repurposed from the magazine.

Reichl has been a cook, restaurant reviewer, memoirist, cookbook editor, website editor and television producer. She’ll certainly survive and thrive. I hope she’ll always be remembered as the editor who tried to make the magazine the New Yorker of food. I think she succeeded.