Food writing is definitely NOT one of my strengths. I love to eat good food of course, but eating and casually recommending restaurants to anyone who asks is miles away from actually writing about it. So when The Coffee Bean and Tea Leaf teamed up with Writer’s Block Philippines to offer a food writing workshop featuring, of course, the pretty impressive menu of the 26th St. Bistro by the Coffee Bean and Tea Leaf, I knew I had to go. I’d already attended WBP’s travel writing workshop and I was sure that I was going to have a lot of fun with the food writing workshop, even if it meant being in BGC at 9am on a Saturday.
CBTL offered ten free slots to to those who submitted the best new articles for the Brew Your Best Year website. The articles had to be about career and finance, fulfillment, health and wellness, and discovery. Because work meant that I didn’t have much time to write, I submitted a modified version of this blog post on the non-academic things I learned in grad school. So happy it still got chosen <3
Danes and I had breakfast at Wildflour because it was located next door to the CBTL Bistro. We were supposed to have lunch there instead but Danes suggested breakfast because Wildflour was always full for lunch. I love Wildflour! I’m a convert. I ordered their German pancakes thinking it was a stack of pancakes with their promised fresh mangoes, vanilla yogurt, and strawberry sauce on the side, so it was surprising to get something that’s essentially a giant crepe. It was so good though – there were enough fruits and cream to fill up my tummy – so I didn’t really mind. Danes had her staple Wildflour Breakfast and shakshouka, which I was supposed to share with her. The tangy shakshouka was also excellent, offsetting the fried taste of the crispy potatoes. While a Wildflour breakfast costs more than what I’d normally spend on my first meal of the day, the price was worth it IMHO because of the size and quality of the servings. By the way, their cheesy cranberry walnut bread is just amazing.
We transferred over to CBTL with a few minutes to spare. Even more food greeted us, with sandwiches, cookies (oatmeal raisin!), and coffee and tea galore. I got to meet Nella, the CBTL Marketing person in charge of the event. Nella introduced our teacher for the morning, ClicktheCity.com’s Features Editor Bea Acosta.
Bea packed a lot of information in her two-hour talk. She assumed that the attendees already knew how to write (you just have to in a situation like this) so she was able to focus on what makes food writing different from other types of writing.
Her tips for making a food piece delicious:
1. Interview! Talk to the owner, the chef, the waiters, your fellow diners… everyone!
2. Write better descriptions. Write about your experience through your five senses. Say no to using tired words like “yummy” and “delicious”!
3. Be versatile with your writing style. Different occasions call for different types of articles. There are restaurant features, food purveyor features, food history features, listicles, food travel guides, and much more.
4. Hook your readers with your article title and introduction. (Did I accomplish that for this blog post?)
Assuming that you want to have your food writing published somewhere other than your blog (there’s nothing wrong about that), Bea also shared what she as an editor looks for in a food writer:
1. Good food stories (of course)
3. Personality (it shows in the writing)
4. Good work ethic (submit on time!)
5. Initiative. Be very specific in your article pitch!
6. Well-versed in food media
7. Mouthwatering photography. In this age, a thumbnail image can make or break an article
And the last part of the workshop: hands-on experience in food writing courtesy of the 26th St. Bistro! The staff served four dishes per table: seafood marinara, grilled chicken Caesar salad, cheeseburger with fries, and herb-crusted salmon with lemon risotto and hollandaise sauce. The challenge was to photograph the dishes and come up with the first draft of an article in one hour. An hour! Our group spent a lot of time taking pictures, trying to get the perfect flatlay. I hope I did it correctly.
The angle I took for my article was “Lenten treats at the 26th St. Bistro”, so I focused on the taste and texture of the salmon and seafood marinara. You can check out my finished article.
Nella gave us until March 31st to finish it, with the top 3 articles winning a Php 1,000 CBTL gift certificate. I didn’t win (sadness) but it was still a great exercise and something I look forward to doing in the future.