World-Class Word Chef
She’s Dianne Jacob, a Food Writer’s Best Friend
Although her job revolves around food, Dianne Jacob doesn’t spend her hours mincing and mixing in the kitchen of her lovely Montclair house. Most days find her at the computer in her home office, a cozy room lined with books, two-dozen of which — like a literary mid-wife — she helped usher into the world.
Jacob is a teacher, editor, writing coach and author of Will Write for Food, something of a bible to aspiring and professional food writers. While the term “food writer” might bring to mind a restaurant reviewer or cookbook author, this expanding field offers numerous offshoots for wordsmiths enchanted by edibles. One could pen, for example, the history of a single ingredient such as ketchup or cod, the science of culinary chemical reactions, a personal memoir about another culture’s cuisine or even murder mysteries that feature a chef turned detective. Will Write for Food includes a chapter on each genre with interviews of famous food writers and writing exercises for novices to hone their skills.
Born in Vancouver, Canada, to Iraqi-Jewish parents who grew up in Shanghai, Jacob did not experience an American apple-pie upbringing. Her mother kept a kosher kitchen, while endeavoring to re-create the fare of her own childhood: a combination of Indian, Iraqi and Chinese dishes with a Jewish accent.
After receiving a journalism degree, Jacob worked as an editor of local, national and international magazines from Pittsburgh Magazine to Four Wheeler, geared for the off-road-truck aficionado. She has also written articles and reviews for Sunset Magazine, the East Bay Express, the San Francisco Chronicle and SF Weekly.
What’s your typical day like?
When I’m at my home office, I could be editing a manuscript for a publisher or an individual, preparing to teach, writing a blog post or coaching clients on a book proposal or a blog. I’ve had clients in Europe, Singapore, Japan and Malaysia, and we confer through Skype. I also travel a lot to present at conferences. I love getting out and interacting with people. It’s a great change from working alone.
It seems like there’s an explosion of interest in food blogs. What’s the attraction?
Food blogs circumvent the system, allowing energetic, fresh voices to be heard with fascinating new content that doesn’t fit in traditional magazines. Plus they’re instant; you can publish a piece in 15 minutes.
What’s your favorite part of your job?
Working with writers and witnessing their passion and ambition. It’s exciting and satisfying to help them achieve their goals.
Is Oakland a good place for food-lovers?
Oakland is a food-obsessed town full of riches. Besides the fabulous restaurant scene and vibrant farmers markets, we’re on the cutting edge of nontraditional dining with underground restaurants, pop-up groceries, food swaps and food trucks. Plus we have beekeepers, backyard chickens, classes in curing olives and making cheese, and tons of ethnic restaurants and stores.
Cook Up Your Own Food Blog
1. Whet your appetite by sampling an assortment of tasty food blogs — try David Lebovitz, Chocolate and Zucchini, Café Fernando.
2. Weigh your passions and narrow your focus.
3. Pour into one blogging platform, such as WordPress or Blogger.
4. Add a scrumptious title.
5. Blend in some favorite family recipes, kitchen gadgets, trusted cookbooks or travel adventures.
6. Sprinkle with a few personal stories or nuggets of humor.
7. Combine with fabulous photographs. (Nothing hooks readers faster than drool-inducing close-ups of chocolate-infused sweets.)
8. Garnish with links to other food bloggers to build community.
9. Spread the word about your new venture to family and friends.
10. Repeat two or more times a week and watch your blog grow into a savory and satisfying adventure.
-Anna Mindess(Inspired by Dianne Jacob’s Will Write for Food)
To learn more about Dianne Jacob and food writing, including local classes, go to www.diannej.com.