Will Work for Food
Enjoying a meal at a fantastic restaurant is one of life's great pleasures. It's how we celebrate birthdays, catch up with old friends and congratulate ourselves for landing a big promotion.
One way to live the good life is to get paid to do what we love. As a result, one of the all-time coveted jobs is that of food writer, those select few who get paid to eat at the finest restaurants and then offer their opinion.
But food writer Andrea Strong didn't expect to do this for a living; she started as a corporate attorney with hunger pangs. Today, her byline can be found in popular publications such as the New York Times, Real Simple and Metropolitan Home. She also authors the popular blog The Strong Buzz and is the founder of Dining for Darfur.
TheStreet.com caught up with Strong to find out how she made the change and if those hunger pangs have subsided.Allison Fishman: How did you break into food writing? Andrea Strong: I was a lawyer, but I didn't feel the law was giving me what I [expected]. I was working for firms, doing corporate work, and it wasn't fulfilling. I started volunteering for Share Our Strength in addition to being a lawyer; I met a lot of people in the restaurant business and got totally turned on by it. I turned 30, quit the law job, and started working as a hostess at Tribeca Grill. Soon, I realized that I loved the restaurant business, but I didn't love working in restaurants. I think you need a hospitality gene or you start to hate people -- at least I did. But I didn't want to go back to law. I saw an ad in the New York Times about a writing contest sponsored by the Culinary Institute; I sent in an essay and won second place. One of the judges was an editor at Restaurant Business Magazine and she needed an associate food editor. They had me write a couple of short things, and a month later I was writing about food. Before that, I had never written anything other than legal memoranda. It was sort of "jump in and do it" -- writing about food isn't brain surgery. I had a lot of knowledge from working in the business and was open to learning. Did you choose your career, or did your career choose you? Fate intervened and the job picked me ... It was never in the plan to become a food writer. A lot of people who contact me through my Web site write to me about their own [career] struggles. I tell them to keep going in the direction you think you're supposed to go, and you'll get there. What are people asking you? I get a lot of email from lawyers who ask, "How did you change your career? I'm miserable, can you help me? I read your story and feel the same way." I email back every single person who writes to me, and I've spoken on the phone with people who are in need of a little guidance ... I don't have a magic wand. I tell people the only thing to do is to do it, take a class, join a networking group or some sort of industry group. Do something different than you did today. I think that my story is a universal one; there are a lot of people out there in careers that are not satisfying, so it's not surprising that they write to me and want to know how to do it, too. Where does your blog fit in? The Strong Buzz is what I'm known for. It's ... very flattering that people care about what I think and write. It is not a revenue-producing blog. I do it because I like it and I like to be able to share my experiences. The [ultimate] goal is to ... have advertising on the site and make some money, since it does take an enormous amount of time.
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