During my first assignment, chocolatier and former journalist Ursula Schneider told me that reporting is a lot like cooking. “There are a lot of emotions,” she said.
Honestly, that was the last thing I wanted to hear. I started writing to escape the frantic pace and pressure of the kitchen.
The best moments I had as a chef are still some of the most exciting moments of my professional life — seeing a team of losers cook great food and celebrating the end of a Saturday night shift by dancing wildly (and slightly drunkenly) to cumbia.
But the sleepless nights, filled with adrenaline and excitement, quickly exhausted me. I didn’t know how to ask for help and left the industry after about a year.
I still had a passion for food and was looking for the joy of serving carefully prepared meals, but I had no idea what to do next until I started writing—first on my blog, then as a freelancer, and here at Foodist.
I discovered that writing is about creating a tangible product. Our articles attract the attention of readers in the same way that golden polenta cookies demand the attention of visitors. And it’s great that our work can fill the dining room of the restaurant with interesting customers.
The editorial flow is also reminiscent of the camaraderie and teamwork found in the kitchen. In our open floor plan office, editors and designers ask questions about inches and layout in conversations that prompt a chef flipping a steak while coordinating with a peer tonging a salad. Both environments foster a healthy dose of cynicism and contortion. After all, we’re assembling stories about nasty flowers and circus performers into cohesive packages that resemble a tasting menu of seemingly disparate dishes.
Unfortunately, these two industries also face similar challenges. “Labor shortages” are the buzzwords in restaurant coverage, and local newsrooms continue to shrink.
I used to write endless prep lists in Sharpie where Romanesco had to be shaved and lemons had to be zested by 5pm. Here I am rushing from interviewing one of the world’s only antique slot machine repairers for The Six Fifty to gathering “edible Intel” and “What I’m Eating” in time for a scheduled mailing. Chefs double as dishwashers and bakers, while editors cover the staff who write obituaries and sports stories.
When I went to work as a chef shortly after graduating from college, the support I received was surprisingly overwhelming. I often heard the phrase: “Go for your dreams!” The romantic ideals associated with cooking—creativity and artistry—were supposed to compensate for the meager pay and hard nights on the line.
Schneider hinted that the pros and cons that define restaurant cuisine also apply to journalism, and she was right. Another common characteristic of both professions is that observers focus on their zeniths rather than their demanding natures. The films show newspaper employees exposing unimaginable scandals, not reporters trying to stay awake at late-night city council meetings.
I find the process of writing a story fascinating and still feel a sense of satisfaction when I see my byline, but local journalism, like kitchen work, is service work, work for the benefit of the community. What worries me is that sometimes people don’t see the enormous effort behind the products they enjoy.
Thanks again to the Embarcadero Media team and all of you for reading. If you missed my newsletter where I explained where I’m going, you can read it here.
Stay in touch with me Instagram. I hope to continue writing about food in Los Angeles.
AND apply to be the next Foodist!
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