Dear Mr. Food Writer . . .

It is amazing to me how accessible food writers are. If you can find their number they’ll answer your call. If you email them they respond. In the case of my favorite food writers, Todd Kliman (Washingtonian magazine) and Jonathan Gold (is he at the LA Times these days? I missed the hooplah), they tweet.

Many food writers run weekly chats with readers. It gives readers a chance to ask personalized questions–my pretentious mother in law that only like $160 plates of clams is coming to town, where do I take her?! I find these valuable in multiple ways. I can ask questions, I can see how the writers respond to readers (and sometimes their rants) and looking through the questions I can get a feel for what people are interested in.

At the Washingtonian, Todd Kliman runs a weekly chat and though I’m not from DC he’s always kind enough to answer my questions. I’ve had a question about food writing that’s been bothering me for ages so I asked him this morning.

Melissa Adele Haskin, UO (GO DUCKS!):Good morning! In your reviews, you tell these wonderful tales of how a restaurant came to be (Mintwood Place for instance). You have lovely details.My question is how do you get those? I presume while you’re tasting/reviewing you remain anonymous. Do you then call up a place and say, “Hey, so, I’m the awesome Todd Kliman. I just reviewed you and I have some questions . . .” And if so, are they usually willing to work with you? Or, do you source your information mainly from their website/a newpaper? Or do I have it completely wrong, and you sit down at a table and say “Yo, yo, yo! Go grab the owner, let’s chat and eat some food.” Thanks in advance. Melissa
Todd Kliman:You are too, too wonderful.

I guess I’d need to know which details you’re referring to exactly. There are some that come from an interview — and in the case of a restaurant review, that interview is always over the phone and almost always comes after I have hit a place a few times.

But then there are the details that come from personal observation. Every time I go to a restaurant, I make it a point to come away with 10 details. They’re not necessarily food-details. They’re more in the vein of telling details — details that I hope will summon up the place for me, later. I try to record these mentally, without resorting to a notebook or phone, and make a mnemonic for that visit. That forces me to really remember them. And then when I return home I write out the mnemonic. By the time I sit down to write a review, I’ll have anywhere from 30-40 details to sift through.

I know from your tweets and retweets that you’re in a program at college studying food writing — grad program or undergrad? But anyway, if you want to talk about any of this, you can always write me at tkliman@washingtonian.com and maybe we can chat by phone sometime …

Thanks again, so much, for all your wonderful enthusiasm …

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One response to “Dear Mr. Food Writer . . .

  1. That’s really awesome. It’s was good to find out that you are at UO, a student in food writing. That wasn’t offered while I was a student there 😦 Your posts are very fun to read. Now that I know your background a bit, they will be even more entertaining. 😀

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