Tips for novice food writer
I'm a student at the University of Utah and I just got a job as the school newspaper's food writer. If there are any professional food critics or writers out there, would you mind passing on some knowledge about your experiences? How to review restaurants, the procedures, the do's and don't's etc...
Thanks so much in advance
The best advice that I can give you is to read, read, read. Read the critics, read the essays, and let your style develop. I don't think there's a manual on how to write restaurant reviews, but you can learn about the format by reading existing reviews.
You might want to avoid using A.A. Gill as a style consultant:)
There are a number of food dictionary's online; a wonderful writing resource for food writers. Just Google, food dictionary. I use the Epi version above sometimes but dozens exist and you'll know what you need by searching on your own.
And, good luck to you!
Don't ever say to yourself "I won't eat that". No (self-imposed) dietary restrictions.
Don't ever use your real name when making a reservation.
Don't do anything while at the restaurant to make yourself memorable to the staff. Act normal.
Do avoid being photographed.
Do start criticizing everything you eat.
Do start writing restaurant reviews. You can start now, just think back to the last time you went out to eat and write it up.
THIS. "Delicious" is an empty word, as are "goodness," "delight," etc. While these words heap a lot of praise, they tell the reader nothing about what makes it so good.
Learn a little bit about proper and classic cooking techniques (French and otherwise), and what all the mother sauces are supposed to taste like. If you learn what a proper hollandaise is supposed to taste like, when a restaurant serves you a "cajun hollandaise" you can pinpoint what makes (or doesn't make) it "cajun."
The bottom line of any dish is: does it taste good? It might look like sh*t on a shingle, or be a completely out of the water deconstruction of chicken and waffles, but when you take a bite of it, does it please you?
Eat everything. And if you're bringing a dining companion, make sure they like to eat everything too.
And it was stated above, but it bears repeating: read, read, read to help develop your voice.
"Learn a little bit about proper and classic cooking techniques (French and otherwise), and what all the mother sauces are supposed to taste like. If you learn what a proper hollandaise is supposed to taste like, when a restaurant serves you a "cajun hollandaise" you can pinpoint what makes (or doesn't make) it "cajun."'
Good advice. Reading a food reviewer who doesn't know anything about cooking technique is like reading a tone-deaf music reviewer. I'm sure there might be an exception or two out there, but any food reviewer who I've found worthwhile struck me as probably being damn good cook in their own right.
On the flip side of that coin, know that there are more cooking styles and techniques out there than you could ever personally learn - it's important to keep an open mind and not be the type of reviewer who disparages something ONLY because you'd have cooked it another way.