1. Space_Goose
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    Space_Goose Member

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    Question about a food writing job

    Discussion in 'The Lounge' started by Space_Goose, May 3, 2011.

    Hello everyone,

    I am a classically trained chef who graduated from a very well known culinary school in the United States Magna Cum Laude, I also went on afterwards and attended advanced training at a very well known culinary school in Europe. I love working with food and writing has always been nothing but a hobby for me. However, lately the stresses of working in a busy kitchen have really been getting to me and have started affecting my health. I have no educational back ground in journalism, writing, or literature but I was thinking about trying to find a job in food outside of the kitchen.

    Being that I don't have any journalism degree or anything like that, what do you think my chances are of being able to get a job as a food writer or as an assistant to a food writer, if there is a such thing?

    I actually am a published author. I use to be a member of a Historical Society and had several articles published in historical compilations and in a few small town newspapers but nothing major and nothing that has been seen or read by a national audience.

    So first of all. Do have a shot of landing a job like this or is it just a pipe dream at this point?

    My second question is, How do you land a job like this? I mean I have never seen one advertised anywhere but I feel sure that my two culinary degrees and my experience working in restaurants would really be an asset to me in the field. I just have no idea how to proceed or if I should even if even have a chance.

    I realize that being a professional food writer is in its self stressful, of that I have no doubt. But I honestly have to get out of the kitchen for health reasons and plus I am starting to get really sick of the hours, something that has never really bothered me until recently.

    Any help or advice would be greatly appreciated.
     
  2. Trilby
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    Trilby Contributing Member Contributor

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    I really don't know the answer to your question.
    But if I was in your place I would approach the newspapers or magazines with ideas of what it is you want to write.

    Here in the UK some of the larger supermarkets have their own free magazine - Why not suggest to one of them that you could do recipes for mag. using their ingredients.
     
  3. chacotaco91
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    chacotaco91 Senior Member

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    I have no personal experience with this, so my info is likely worthless. but anyhoo....

    There are hordes of journalism majors running around; there aren't that many chefs with as much experience as yourself. If I was hiring for a job that involved a taste and experience with cooking and dining, you'd fit the bill. Writing ability would only need to be proved with small credentials; something you seem to have enough for.
     
  4. mammamaia
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    mammamaia nit-picker-in-chief Contributor

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    first of all, you should know that a single 'job' either writing a food column, or as assistant to a columnist is not going to pay enough for you to live on... you'll still need to have a 'day job' to make the rent...

    as for where to look for such a job, first try local newspapers and regional magazines... you'll have to assemble a portfolio of 'clips' to show you can write well enough... they should be paid credits, not freebies, to show that professional publications were willing to pay you for your writings...

    are you thinking of being a restaurant critic?... if so, do up a few sample columns on local places, to add to your portfolio...

    if you want to write a food column, then you'll need to have some original recipes to offer readers...

    and so on...

    if you need some help with any of that, feel free to drop me a line any time... best of luck to you...

    love and hugs, maia
    maia3maia@hotmail.com
     
  5. Space_Goose
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    Space_Goose Member

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    Well if I am not going to be able to make a steady living doing this then it is not really an option. Bottom line is whether I become the author of a food column or a restaurant critic, I am probably going to have to move. I live in a small town right now, so small that it doesn't really have a news paper and the nearest paper doesn't even have a dining and entertainment section. I don't mind moving but I am not going to move to a bigger, more expensive city if this is not going to gain me steady income. Is there anyway I could combine my love of food and writing into a steady income? It doesn't have to make me a millionaire as long as the pay is steady.
     
  6. Cogito
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    Cogito Former Mod, Retired Supporter Contributor

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    The upside is you can start establishing yourself by freelancing food articles for magazines and newspapers while still working as a chef.
     
  7. Space_Goose
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    Space_Goose Member

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    True, but the only thing about is that my doctor has strongly advised me to find other work. I had a panic attack at work you see. My blood pressure is through the roof, I have problems sleeping even while taking sleeping pills, and he said it is starting to affect my heart. He said my heart beat is irregular and high. I don't actually have any irreversible damage yet but the thing is... I am only 28 years old. He said that if i keep this up, I will start having serious problems in my late 30's. I have always considered my self good at handling stress. Guess I wasn't as good as I thought I was. But again, he has advised that I change jobs ASAP.

    Not to mention I'm so stressed that my mind is in bits. I can't actually write at the moment. I have been stuck on Chapter 2 of my novel for the past three or four months. So I am not actually sure if I would be able to write a food article or restaurant review while working as a chef.
     
  8. mammamaia
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    mammamaia nit-picker-in-chief Contributor

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    i wish i could say 'yes' and give you a list of ways to do that, but the sad fact is that there really isn't...

    unless you're a 'name' chef with a huge following, no one's going to hand you a highly-paid columnist gig in a major publication...

    then, there's that 'stress factor' to contend with... if you think it's stressful being a chef, wait till you're under the gun to turn out publishable writings on deadline!... if you need to de-stress your working environment for health reasons, being either a freelance or a contracted/syndicated writer is definitely not the way to go...

    what about working as a chef in a less stressful kitchen than a restaurant's?... such as in an upscale rest home, or private school?... or perhaps a corporate setting, where the atmosphere would be more relaxed, not so frenetic?
     
  9. hiddennovelist
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    hiddennovelist Contributing Member Contributor

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    That's what I was going to suggest. I know working as a chef can be hectic and stressful, but there have got to be places where it isn't so bad.
     
  10. Space_Goose
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    Space_Goose Member

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    Well I appreciate the honest answer. I am disappointed but at the same time, not really surprised. I am continuing to try to explore ways to eliminate stress from my life. I have thought briefly about opening up my on small restaurant... a gourmet pizza place or something like that... something that allows me to work more laid back and not be such a pressure cooker. But owning your own buisness brings its own stresses to the table. Still, I doubt it if I am going to find a job that is completely stress free. All I can do is try to eliminate as much as possible.
     
  11. mammamaia
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    mammamaia nit-picker-in-chief Contributor

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    running your own restaurant will be many times more stressful than working for the owner of one!... you will not only have the same stresses in the kitchen, but also have the added ones of hiring, overseeing the work of employees, all the money end of the business, keeping the customers satisfied, etc., etc., ad infinitum... sure suicide for one at risk of serious stress-induced health probs!
     
  12. Space_Goose
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    Space_Goose Member

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    You are absolutely right and this fact is something that i have been considering. The problem is.... I am not sure what else I am qualified for. I have been considering what you said earlier, getting a less stressful cooking job and at a private hospital or senior living place. The only thing is, I can't imagine cooking food that I am not proud of and a lot of these places don't have nice food.

    Another thing about this is... jobs don't open at these places everyday. To get one of these jobs I have to be willing to move pretty much anywhere, no matter if I know someone there or have even been there before.

    As I said, I don't think there is a job anywhere that is stress free. I honestly just don't know what else I can do.... Most of anything else that I am qualified to do and would like to do just don't pay enough for me to earn a living. I would love to get in with a technical college with a culinary program and teach...... I think that would be a great job, but again those jobs don't have openings come up everyday.

    So I appreciate the advice but I don't know what I am going to do. Nothing seems to make sense but at the same time, I have to get out of these busy hotel and restaurant kitchens.
     
  13. Porcupine
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    Porcupine Contributing Member

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    Just throwing ideas around here... the only professional cooks I know are a hotel cook from the Maldives who gets extremely seasick whenever he enters a boat (which is somewhat ironic for a Maldivian, I feel), a Lithuanian who stopped cooking to become a physicist and is now on the way to professor, and a Swiss girl that l bumped into years ago in Italy.

    What about becoming private chef to some wealthy individual? Sure, you'd also have to move, but I would suppose that the pay would be good and it would be less stressful than working in a restaurant or hotel, and at first glance for an amateur like me, your qualifications don't seem too bad.

    Do you have any further qualifications, any business experience? I suppose you could potentially work for any big food company that sells pre-cooked or ready-to-eat meals (some of which could do with a really big improvement).

    The advice I'm currently dishing out to all sorts of people who wonder what they should do to get better career opportunities is to try and get a second qualification that complements their first (i.e. something different, but which becomes a killer qualification in combination with their first). Basically, as a chef, you have insights into professional cooking, that is (I guess), store keeping, cooking machinery and utensils, kitchen running, and the mixing of ingredients itself (and p'raps much more, what do I know :p ). I'm not sure what suggests itself here, but if you knew something about engineering (for example) I suppose you could design much better cooking utensils, mixers, stoves and what-not than engineers who prefer to call a pizza delivery service for their lunch. Perhaps some thinking along those lines could help.

    Currently, I'm in the middle of buying a new kitchen for my new flat. Selling kitchens appears to be pretty easy work... and you get to design them too.

    Like I said, I'm just throwing ideas around here, feel free to scoff at them or shoot them down. :rolleyes:

    EDIT: When I say "qualifications" I mean what is known as a "hard skill". Writing I would consider a "soft skill".
     
  14. mammamaia
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    mammamaia nit-picker-in-chief Contributor

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    porcupine has added some other good ideas, sg..

    however... i'm getting the feeling from your posts that your main problem is not being willing to compromise, wanting some miracle job that fits all of your wants/needs to show up magically, and be given to you automatically, without your needing to make any concessions... and that's simply not gonna happen...

    seems to me that the best thing you can do right now is to seek counseling, to help you adapt to your situation and go forward, instead of sitting there listing all the can'ts and won'ts and getting nowhere... there are good therapists around who specialize in career counseling and can hopefully get you moving in a positive direction...
     
  15. Space_Goose
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    Space_Goose Member

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    I am sorry for giving the wrong impression but reading back over my comments, I can fully see how you came to that conclusion but all this is just hard for me to wrap my mind around. There was one big thing that made me decide to become a chef... I did not want to end up like my parents.. dragging myself to some old repetitive job that I despised day after day. Take the stress out of the equation and I am have very happy, very fulfilled. I love the little town I live in, I love my house, the people that I work with, I am even satisfied with the money. Now I have been told that I probably need to seek something else. The only thing I am really not willing to compromise on is the fulfillment. I still at the end of the day want to have that feeling of satisfaction and fulfillment. I still am determined not to be like my parents. I don't want to get some old job at an office building doing the same repetitive tasks day in and day out. That in my opinion would be a quick ticket to suicide.

    Career Counseling is a good idea, one that I have yet to consider. I will have to check and see if my insurance coves it. I doubt it does honestly.

    I am just confused. My whole world has been turned upside down. I have been given the option of giving up a job that I like and possibly adding years to my life. Or keeping a job that I like and possibly losing years off of my life, I mean I may not live to be 40 according to my doctor. That is just a lot to wrap your head around... it was all put on my at once. I had no idea what the doctor was going to tell me when I went in after my panic attach but I never expected he would advise me to change jobs.

    I am just lost right now which is why I sound like I am looking for something perfect. I am at cross roads, many paths lay in front of me and none of the paths look completely safe. It’s just which one can I take... what should I do. Should I stay at my current job and take my chances with my health?

    Going back to school is something that I am also considering.. getting a very generic degree like business which can get you any number of jobs. It still brings up the fear that I'll end up like my parents.... but I guess at least both of my parents are still living.... so maybe there is something to be said for the kind of jobs they have had.
     
  16. Porcupine
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    Porcupine Contributing Member

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    They never are.

    I've just recently completely switched career paths myself. It doesn't really matter what path you take, if you are looking for one without risk, you will never find one. I think you should switch to the opposite view, and ask yourself "which path is absolutely and definitely wrong?". Once you've excluded those, you'll most likely be left with a choice of options that are all quite reasonable.

    That's what I did during my career change. I was left to choose between two different jobs, both of which were very exciting. Both carried risks, pretty big ones. But I knew before I made the choice, that choosing either was "correct" in the sense that it certainly wasn't bad.

    When you are left in that position, then any choice you make is right.

    Hope I'm making sense here. :rolleyes:
     
  17. mammamaia
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    mammamaia nit-picker-in-chief Contributor

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    it may, since the need for counseling is directly connected to a serious health issue and being allowed to seek counseling can save the insurance company money, as opposed to paying out a death claim...

    another bit of advice i hope you will follow is to get a second opinion... another specialist may come to a different conclusion than the one who predicts an early death if you don't change careers...
     
  18. HotfireLegend
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    I suggest trying to take a holiday off work if you can, and to seek some job guidance.
    What you could do is apply to a smaller restaraunt near your home. You could also try seeing if Pubs have any vacancies, as I find the food in Restaraunts has to be cooked to perfection, Pubs, cafes and smaller buisnesses may not have this so strictly.
    Also, free beer if lucky :D

    - Seek a second opinion also
    - Definitely take a holiday if possible
    - What culinary buisnesses are there nearby?
     
  19. Space_Goose
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    Space_Goose Member

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    Thanks for the advise, I will seek a second opinion... there is one more doctor near by that is covered under my insurance so I will schedual an appointment with him/her.

    The problem as well is the economy. There are a lot of smaller lower tech restaurants near by but with the economy, all the restaurants have been downsizing. Even these pubs and other restaurants that are not upscale, expect 2 chefs to the job that they use to have 5 or 6 hired to do. That is when I started getting really stressed. When I started at the restaurant I am at now... We had 6 chefs on staff. With the down sizing, that was knocked in half down to three yet we still do the same number of covers... they just expect more out of us. It wasn't until we went to three chefs that I started having problems. It's just too much. Even a pub that does simple food, you have one or two people cooking for a pub full of people, it can still get very stressful. Most of the pubs around her that do lunch and dinner do about 100 covers a night with two chefs. That is just insane... The problem is that I don't think this will change once the economy improves because now restaurant owners have seen that they can get away with it. It is insanity.

    I worked at one fo the local pubs here once. They called me in because I knew the owner and they were having a group of 75 people come to dine in VIP room they had out back and plus were expecting about 100 covers that night in the pub. They had one chef in there for that... when I cam in, there were too of us. Pure insanity!!!!! I never went back... it was just rediculous. The owner asked me to come back again and I told them no. When they asked me why, I told them that it rediculous to expect two chefs let alone one to do all that on their on. He said he knew it was tight but that is how they had to operate because of the economy. I am convinced that a lot of buisnesses are using the economy as an excuss to cut back hours and pocket more money. But that is a rant for another day.
     

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