My mouth is wide open, I’m flat on my back and two pairs of hands are inside my mouth. One of those hands is holding a drill. “So,” my dentist asks nonchalantly, “How’d you get that job?”
He’s referring to the food critic part of my multi-pronged culinary career. Unlike him, I need multiple streams of income to add up to a viable career.
Food writing doesn’t pay much. Neither does cookbook authoring, most chef positions and pretty much any singular focused culinary skill. But add them all up, and I can cobble together a decent paycheck. And generally a full tummy.
After my mouth is safe from prying hands, drills and syringes filled with lidocaine, I answer his question: The same way you got your job — I went to school, studied hard, got a degree, and started applying my craft. Duh!
OK, I didn’t say it that directly (I do have to go back to see him, after all) but it struck me as funny that my highly skilled dentist (and he is a specialist, not a general practitioner) was asking me how I scored the enviable job of eating for a living.
Truth is, it’s a legitimate question. Most people want to know how the heck you get a food critic position. And the reality is that in these times, anyone can become a food critic. There are TONS of blogs written by people who say they are food critics. (Although, I’m not sure about the guy who wrote “I ate here once and never will return.”)
Professional critics don’t have the luxury of passing up the second and third visits, no matter how terrible the first visit was. But there is room for all of us — the professional, the lay person, the kid (did you see the NY Times article about the 12-year old critic?)
Seriously…. we’re not talking brain surgery, rocket science or solving world peace. We’re talking about food. If you want to write about food (and get paid for it), start by writing. A blog. An article that you submit to your local publications with a letter of introduction. Just start writing. Oh, and eating. Actually, it’s eating, then writing.