Are you passionate about food and restaurant dining?
Are you a capable writer who enjoys putting pen to paper?
If this describes you, what better way to earn a living than becoming a food critic.
It sounds like a dream job to many. Getting paid to eat in restaurants and writing about the experience. Being a mover and shaker in the dining scene and helping to shape the culinary world around you. But how do you go about turning this dream into a reality?
Well, there are many steps you can learn in How To Become a Food Critic. And I’ll explore every one of them in this article, offering advice and tips along the way, so let’s get started with the…
- Educational Requirements
- Gaining Experience
- A Few Extra Ideas To Consider
- For The Love Of The “Delish”!
- Final Thoughts
There are no formal qualifications or courses you can take to specifically become a food critic, but as the career is fundamentally writing-based, a good grounding in English and creative writing skills will take you a long way.
Get your high school diploma
If you want to take a relevant degree to help you get work as a writer, you’ll need to finish high school first.
Master your writing skills in college
You don’t need a bachelor’s degree to become a food critic, but it will certainly help to develop your skills as a writer if you complete a degree in English or journalism. Most freelance or regularly employed food critics have a bachelor’s degree.
Maybe your college offers a minor in culinary arts. This will look good alongside any writing qualifications you’ve attained. While at college, write for campus magazines or websites. They may not have a food critic section, and maybe you can suggest starting one. Even if you’re not writing about food, any published writing experience will look good on your resume.
Experience in the food industry will also provide invaluable knowledge. The culinary arts school is a good place to start, and many food critics started this way. Developing a passion for food through hands-on experience will give you a good idea of how the industry works.
It will also help develop your knowledge of different cuisines from around the world and increase your culinary vocabulary. Pretty important if you’re going to write about food.
Publications sometimes offer writing internships. If you can get one with an established food critic or restaurant reviewer, great. If not, regardless of the subject, this is a great way to add to your portfolio, and you’ll get the chance to learn and seek advice from a pro.
Study successful food critics
Examine the writing of those who have already made it as food critics. What do they do that makes them stand out from the crowd? Read as many of their reviews as possible. This will help you understand what writing styles work and help you develop your own.
Expand your culinary horizons
To be a successful food critic, you will need to understand food of all styles and flavors. Be adventurous when you eat out. Choose a dish you’ve never tried before. Go to restaurants that specialize in specific national cuisines. Maybe you’ve never tried Korean or Lebanese food before. Now’s the time to get tasting. Anthony Bourdain didn’t achieve his success by being picky.
Also, don’t be shy to talk to chefs and ask any questions you may have about a particular dish. Become as good a home chef as you can. Experiment with how different flavors complement one other, using as many different cooking techniques as possible. The more you practically know about food, the better.
Take any writing experience you can get
The world of the professional food critic is a highly competitive one, especially if we’re talking about writing for a major publication or website. When looking for your first writing job, don’t be disappointed if it’s not directly related to the food industry. Not many people walk straight into a job as a food critic.
Be prepared to accept writing positions that will help you build your reputation and expand your portfolio as you work towards your ultimate goal.
Practice writing food and restaurant critiques
Do this even if they are unlikely to get published. Practice can only help you hone your technique and style. Remember too that although the food should be the main focus of your review, there are many other aspects to restaurant dining that people will want to know about. Décor and ambiance, and the quality of the service all have their place in a well-rounded critique.
Try and remain as honest and objective as possible without being too critical or too generous. People want an accurate portrayal rather than an unnecessary exaggeration.
Pitch to small publications first
When first offering your services as a food critic, pitch to smaller publications. Local magazines and newspapers are a good place to start. Sure, they may not pay very well, if anything at all, but it’s all valuable experience, and you’ve got to start somewhere.
Send them samples of critiques you are most proud of, and if they’re up to scratch, you may well find yourself with a regular gig. This is probably the best way of getting on the first rung of the ladder.
Start looking for full-time positions
As your review portfolio starts to grow and your experience increases, it’s time to start testing the water by applying for full-time positions at bigger publications or online media companies.
Don’t rush it, though. The more freelance work you’ve done, the more you will have to show prospective employers. You never know; maybe your visibility has grown to such an extent that they’re aware of your work already.
A Few Extra Ideas To Consider
Create a food blog
You’d be surprised at how many people have made a platform for themselves by writing a blog. Here you can post all your restaurant reviews if you have no other outlet. Don’t just restrict your posts to reviews. Include anything food-related that you think will help build your reputation as a foodie.
If the quality is good enough, your readership will increase naturally, maybe even to the point of being able to monetize the blog through advertising. Create a big enough subscriber base, and you might even get picked up by a mainstream publication to become their full-time critic.
Informing restaurants on arrival that you are here to critique their food and performance is extremely bad form for a food critic. If they know you are here in a professional capacity, the experience is unlikely to be the same as if you remain anonymous.
Befriend other food critics
The world of the food critic is a competitive one. Try to avoid being overly critical of other writers’ reviews. In fact, actively seek relationships with people in the industry, especially when you are first starting. You could even consider collaborations if you feel that would benefit your career.
Develop a thick skin
You are inevitably going to get kickback throughout your career as a food critic. Whether it’s restaurant owners, offended chefs, restaurant regulars, or other critics. Maintain decorum by staying away from slanging matches, and don’t take rude comments personally. As long as you’ve been honest in your writing, you shouldn’t have anything to worry about.
Read more: Food Lion Hours
For The Love Of The “Delish”!
Being a food critic is definitely not your average office job…I get to eat for work and then voice my opinion on it after? Well, that’s my dream job in a nutshell!
So, let’s start with my favorite guide on How to Write about Food: How to Become a Published Restaurant Critic, Food Journalist, Cookbook Author, and Food Blogger, or perhaps How to be a savvy restaurant reviewer: The secrets of a restaurant critic, the intriguing Garlic and Sapphires: The Secret Life of a Critic in Disguise, and the Women on Food: Charlotte Druckman and 115 Writers, Chefs, Critics, Television Stars, and Eaters.
Read up on some great advice with Anthony Bourdain’s guides such as the Kitchen Confidential Updated Edition: Adventures in the Culinary Underbelly, the In the Weeds: Around the World and Behind the Scenes with Anthony Bourdain, the Medium Raw: A Bloody Valentine to the World of Food and the People Who Cook and Anthony Bourdain’s Hungry Ghosts to learn about the man and his ‘insatiable’ passion!
Make sure you do the job right with your very own Restaurant Review-Journal Log Book: Food Critic Notebook For Restaurant, Café, Eatery Review, Food Critic Journal For Food Writers, Bloggers And Foodies, and The Ultimate Food Critic Notebook: Excellent Restaurant Review-Journal, Food Critic Journal For Food Writers, And Food Blogger all available online in 2023.
Of course, for the self-proclaimed food critic, why not try reading Everyone’s A Food Critic 52 Week Restaurant Challenge: For Gastronomes, Connoisseurs, Foodies and Casual Diners – Eat, Rate & Critique Your Dining, which sounds like an amazing idea and experience.
So now we know the different ways of becoming a food critic. It’s certainly not easy, and very few people can make a full-time career in such a niche industry.
But for those who make it, being able to indulge their twin passions for writing and good food can make for an extremely satisfying career.
What more can we say except… ‘Bon Appetit’!