Career Development

How to Become a Food Critic

February 22, 2021

Food critics have a distinguished career that allows them to earn money dining out and writing about their experiences. This is a highly competitive field that requires a great deal of dedication and hard work. Learning about the duties of a food critic and the steps to become one can help you determine if it's the right career for you. In this article, we explore what food critics do and how you can become successful in this career.

What does a food critic do?

A food critic, also often called a food writer or a restaurant critic, is a professional writer who samples and reviews food. Food critics typically travel to different restaurants, order a variety of dishes and write about their experiences. Newspapers, magazines, blogs and websites may all hire food critics. However, not all positions in this field pay well or pay at all. Novice food critics may begin by submitting unpaid reviews simply to get a byline and build their portfolio of published works. Other food critics get their start simply by posting about their food and dining experiences on social media.

Top food critics can travel the world trying new dishes. Some of these professionals have their own television shows. Successful food critics may also publish their work in books. This is a highly coveted career with a limited number of paid openings. Hard work and dedication are critical for those interested in this job.

Read more: How to Build Your Work Portfolio

The average salary for food critics

There is no detailed salary data available for food critics, as this is a very niche career. However, there is information for journalists, reporters, staff writers and content writers, all of which have similar duties to food critics. Many food critics spend only a portion of their time writing about food and work as full-time journalists or reporters covering other topics when they're not writing restaurant reviews.

Here are the salary ranges for each job:

How to become a food critic

There are very few positions for full-time food critics, so most professionals have to work their way into this role either by writing on other topics first or by creating their own food blog. Try the following steps to gain the necessary skills and knowledge to write competitively in this popular area.

  1. Get a bachelor's degree
  2. Write for your school paper
  3. Take culinary courses
  4. Write independently on food topics
  5. Expand your knowledge of food
  6. Apply for writing jobs

1. Get a bachelor's degree

Food critics typically need a minimum of a bachelor's degree in a field such as journalism, communications or English. These areas of study will help you improve your writing and communication skills, which are critical in this field. If available, take electives like food media or food reviewing to help prepare you for this career path.

Related: 16 Top Communications Degree Jobs

2. Write for your school paper

Journalism experience is important for aspiring food critics. Most professionals in this field began writing on other topics and made a lateral move into food writing. Accept any assignments available to you and focus on improving your writing and communication skills.

3. Take culinary courses

Enroll in a cooking class or go through culinary school. Food critics must have an in-depth knowledge of flavor profiles, food preparation methods, ingredient use and various types of cuisine. A culinary education will give you the skills you need to assess whether the dough for a pastry was under mixed or a meat dish was not marinated properly. You will also have a better appreciation for complex dishes and masterful meal preparation when you've spent time in the kitchen yourself.

4. Write independently on food topics

Start your own blog or provide submissions to other food blogs, websites, magazines or newspapers. This is the easiest way to get started writing about food. Work on developing an engaging voice that is entertaining for readers. Though you may not make an income from your writing in the beginning, you can develop a following that will make you an appealing hire for a paid publication in the future.

Read more: Guide to Submitting a Writing Sample

5. Expand your knowledge of food

Dine out as often as you can and try new dishes. Try different flavors at home as well to expand your palette. The more tastes you're familiar with, the better you'll be at making comparisons when you try something new. Speak with the chef and servers when you're dining out and ask about the ingredients and cooking methods used. Read reviews from other food critics and study their tone and style. Evaluate their approach to food writing and consider how you can use their examples to improve your own work.

6. Apply for writing jobs

Food writers often establish themselves as staff journalists working on other topics before they begin working as food critics. Apply for open positions with local newspapers or magazines. You may also try freelance writing for several publications both online and in print. This will help you improve your writing skills, network in the publishing industry and build a portfolio of pieces that feature your byline.

In time, you may be able to get a position writing about food for a publication where you're already established as a regular contributor. Regularly check job postings for the opportunity to apply directly to a position as a food critic.

Frequently Asked Questions

Do food critics pay for their food?

Yes, food critics typically pay for their own food. Some publications will reimburse the critic for their meal when the review is submitted. Restaurants do not give free food to critics. Food critics strive to remain anonymous when they're dining so they will receive the same service as a regular customer and can provide an accurate assessment of the dining experience.

What makes a good critic?

Good critics master the ability to write in a balanced manner about their experiences. Both positive and negative feedback needs substantiation. The writer's style should include descriptive details that help the reader accurately imagine the dishes' taste, smell and texture. A food critic's writing should be engaging, entertaining and informative.

What is a food critic's schedule like?

Food critics have a varying schedule. Many work as freelancers and set their own hours. Depending on the meal that they're reviewing, food critics may have to dine early in the morning or late at night. Critics may put in long hours completing a review before a pending deadline. It's also possible for a food critic to have a lot of downtime between projects depending on the number of submissions they're responsible for.

What challenges do food critics face?

Food critics often receive negative comments if they leave a review that others don't agree with. Restaurant owners, chefs and loyal customers may be upset if a restaurant receives a bad review. Food critics also struggle with getting recognized. Those who are well known are often spotted when dining out, which can result in special treatment at a restaurant. This prevents the reviewer from getting an ordinary dining experience.

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