Wrestling with Angels: How an Award-Winning Food Writer Crafts an Essay

You may not have heard of Natalie MacLean.

Yet she has won six Bert Greene Awards for Food Journalism, five awards from the Association of Food Journalists, four James Beard Awards, and two awards for best writer from Les Dames Escoffier and the Louis Roederer International Wine Writing Award.

At the 2003 World Food Media Awards, MacLean beat out 1,000 other writers to win the award. And don’t even get me started on how many awards her first book (Red, White, and Drunk All Over) won, including World’s Best Drink Writer from Le Cordon Bleu World Food Media Awards. (She’s working on a second book of more travel adventures, to be published in 2012.)

Natalie MacLean is the writer to beat. And chances are, you won’t be successful.

Here’s a little background: She studied English literature at Oxford University and earned a Masters in Business Administration in Ontario, Canada. While on maternity leave from a high-tech marketing position, Maclean started writing freelance articles about wine for magazines, and then sent them out as emails, the start of a wine newsletter. Today, her free e-newsletter has a circulation of more than 100,000, and she has written for more than 60 publications.

We met years ago when she endorsed my book, Will Write for Food, on her website. After she won the MFK Fisher Award for Excellence in Culinary Writing from Les Dames Escoffier, I called MacLean at home in Ottawa, Canada, to interview her about food writing technique:

Q: What is it like to write from Ottawa, not exactly known as the food and wine capital of North America? Do you travel all the time, or do you find that you can drink and write just fine from home, thank you?

A: Ottawa is terrific for the work ethic because nothing happens here. There are very few road tours by wine councils and vintners. When they do a cross-country tour, Ottawa is not on their list. I live a [Read more…]