Food critics play an important role in the food service industry. They not only keep diners and food enthusiast updated on the best foods and where they are served, but also help to ensure food establishments offer quality meals. If you are a food enthusiast with great writing skills and an in-depth knowledge of the restaurant industry, this is a job you could enjoy.
1. What Do Food Critics Do?
Their duties include:
- Visiting various restaurants, eateries and other food service establishments to sample their food and drink offerings
- Observing how various meals are prepared and served – This may involve taking photographs of styled dishes
- Interviewing chefs and other food specialists to gather their opinions on various foods
- Writing unbiased articles about the variety, quality, taste and cost of food offered in various establishments
- Giving expert advice to diners (as well as the general public)
- Attending culinary exhibitions to stay abreast of dining and food service trends
2. Work Environment
Many food critics work on a freelance basis, so they have greater freedom over their work schedules.
The job involves regular travelling, since these professionals must explore food establishments in various cities and towns. Critics who cover the whole nation, travel extensively, and may spend some time away from their families.
According to Indeed, food critics in the US earn an average annual salary of $47,000.
4. Entry Requirements
To become a food critic, you need extensive knowledge of the preparation of various foods. The best way to gain this knowledge is to earn a bachelor’s degree in culinary arts or science. The program equips learners with the culinary techniques they need to cook diverse foods, and importantly, the sensory evaluation skills required to objectively assess the quality of meals.
Some of the schools offering the program include:
Upon graduation, you are ready to start your career as a food critic. However, since professional reputation and experience are crucial to being a trusted source of reviews, it is advisable to begin as a chef or caterer. Gain some food preparation/service experience, and then break into food criticism.
5. Important Qualities
The following skills, interests and abilities are crucial to your success as a food critic:
- Food enthusiasm
- Superior communication – both oral and written – skills
- Superior sensory evaluation skills
- Analytical skills
- Time management skills to meet publishing details
- A passion for travelling
- Strong interpersonal skills
- An awareness of restaurant and food quality standards
- The ability to stay objective
- Networking skills to find clients who can offer you jobs
6. Career Advancement
Once you start working as a food critic, you should focus on delivering objective reviews and increasing your readership. Be sure to use social networking platforms to promote your articles.
As your professional reputation grows, readers will be looking out for your reviews. Food establishments may also voluntarily invite you to taste their dishes and offer your criticism (which they can use to improve their meals and drinks).
To enhance your career advancement prospects, you should:
- Join the Association for Food Journalists to access opportunities for networking with other industry professionals. Besides, the AFJ issues guidelines for the practice of food critics
- Pursue a graduate certificate in food writing, like the one offered at the Boston University Metropolitan College
7. Job Opportunities
The potential employers of food critics include:
- Publishers of food magazines
- TV stations
- Restaurants and other food establishments
- Owners of food blogs
With vast experience as a food critic, you could secure in-house critic jobs in high end restaurants, or move into consulting and setup a food consultancy.
Finally, the National Restaurant Association projects that the restaurant industry will create about 1.3 million jobs by 2023. This definitely means all professionals aspiring to work in this industry can expect to have plenty of employment opportunities.
So if you want to eat great food and earn a good income writing about it, you should consider becoming a food critic.