When I first started out food writing almost a decade ago, my dream was to be the next Jeffrey Steingarten, Anthony Bourdain, or any of the other famous writers who had no dietary restrictions. However, a few years into food writing professionally, I decided to cut meat out of my diet. I feared this decision would deter some editors from hiring me, but I was determined to continue being successful in my chosen career. Thankfully, I didn't skip a beat once I stopped eating meat (yay rhymes!). It wasn't until I was a vegetarian/occasional pescatarian that I was able to leave the corporate world and pursue food writing, blogging, and cooking full-time.
So, why am I telling you all of this? I thought it would be valuable to share my experience with others out there - whether you're vegetarian, vegan, gluten-free, whatever. The point is, if you want to be a food writer, blogger, or even a cook, do not let your food choices deter you from going after what you love.
Here are some things that have made me successful so far in the food writing and blogging professions:
Be persistent. Even omnivores need to email, call, and/or stalk editors multiple times over several days/weeks/months in order to get a reply. Most times, it's a no - they don't want your story - but sometimes, you get a yes, and that yes goes a long, long way in the writing world.
Find your niche. I still struggle with this sometimes. This tip is more relevant to blogging than food writing, but it's extremely important if you want to stand out in the blogging world. There are hundreds of thousands of vegetarian and vegan food blogs out there already - focus on what makes you different, and what value you can bring to your audience.
No shame. I've been to numerous dinners with editors, publishers, and fellow writers who are initially shocked that I don't eat meat. Every time they pass me a plate of those steak tips, charcuterie, or duck breast, I kindly decline. I know they'll realize I'm a credible food writer when they read my work; I don't need to choke down a piece of meat in front of them to prove that.
Don't hide anything. I make it clear on my blog, and even in my resume, that I am vegetarian. I want potential editors to know this before they hire me and send me to a steakhouse to review. Making my vegetarianism obvious has never jeopardized a potential working relationship, or a writing job. And if that was a reason why someone wouldn't hire me, I wouldn't want to work with them anyway.
Be open-minded. Preaching to your readers why eating your way is the best way will not make anyone want to read your work, nor will it encourage an editor to run your story. When I go out to eat for restaurant reviews, I tend to bring along an omnivore friend or colleague to get their opinions on that chicken and waffle dish the restaurant is known for. This way, my readers are getting an idea of what the restaurant has to offer, without me only mentioning the vegetarian-friendly dishes (although, on this blog, I tend to stick to the vegetarian dishes...because it's my blog).
Most importantly, you need to know how to write to be a published a food writer. And if you can write - and you can write well - few editors are going to care what your dietary restrictions are.