A Year to the Day

It was a year to the day today when I posted an evening entry on my blog as I was preparing to begin my program at WCI on July 2, 2007. I had all six pieces of my chef's uniform accounted for and looking as crispy white as they could, pressed perfectly and hanging neatly on one of my barstools. Sometimes we spend our days wondering when they'll ever end. Some seem to drag on forever and there are some we would just rather forget. And then there are other times when it seems that with the blink of an eye, an entire year passes us by. But seriously? It's seriously been exactly one year since I dared to take eight months away from the working world to put on chef's whites, black and white checkered pants and black, steel-toed shoes to feel the heat in the kitchens of culinary school? Yeah, look at that. I guess it has been.

So what's the latest? Am I a world famous food writer with book publishers knocking down my door wanting me to write the next great food story so they can turn it into a movie? Well, not exactly, but I'm not complaining. So many of you have been so supportive in following me along the way that I've felt a bit guilty lately realizing that I've left out a few of good things that have happened for me on the writing side.

Back in December I received an email from someone who contacted me via this blog. Her name was Emily and she was an editor for New York publisher, Barnes & Noble. She sent me the sweetest little note that's title read, "Interested in Writing"? Hm. Is this spam, I was thinking to myself? But I opened it and decided to give a few moments of attention to the remaining contents...

Hi Jennifer, I just came across your website and thought you might be perfect for a project I am working on. I'm an editor for a division of Barnes & Noble publishing and we're doing a series of lifestyle guides for adults. These guides aren't books, but what we are calling charts... We are going to be doing a series of ethnic food charts and I am looking for a writer who would be interested in writing the first guide in this series, either French or Italian cooking. The guide would cover the following subject areas:

* History (basic)* Ingredients* Tools * Methods/Preparations?* Recipes

Is this something you might be interested in? If you are interested I can give you more details. I look forward to hearing from you soon.

Thanks so much! Emily

My jaw literally dropped and at the same time my heart jumped. Was this a joke? Come on. An editor at Barnes & Noble found me through the myriad of food blogs out there and was now approaching me to begin their new series in international cuisine? Was I interested in writing? YEAH!

I did respond to Emily the next day and after a few email exchanges and a phone call we had made a deal. I turned in a proposal for the basics of French Cooking in early January and got to work on the piece. I thought it would be simple for me to put the chart together as I had just finished a French culinary program, but I was mistaken. The hardest part for me was just sifting through the abundance of information that is out there on French cuisine and narrowing it down to cover all of the basics within an 8 1/2 x 11 in. six-page, fold-out laminated guide. It's been a great learning experience being involved in writing an outlined project as opposed to an article in terms of the process and the back and forth between writer and editor. We're still finalizing some details, actually, but I was recently given the green light to move forward with the next cuisine in line, Italian. I'm so eager to get the French chart printed, though. The part I'm looking most forward to is that a line on the bottom of the back page will read "Writer: Jennifer Fields".

While I was in school I was approached by a local food writer who, at the time, I was taking a Pilates Reformer classes with. Her name was Susan Hauser and she's a very well known food and travel writer who writes for national publications, but resides in Portland. She's one of those who has the dream career many of us are looking for. Each and every time I speak with her she's jetting off to Hawaii to do a story on hoola lessons, or Florida to write about the cuisine in Miami. How does she do that? Ok, I'll get there, I'll get there. Anyway, Susan, who is the President of the Portland Culinary Alliance, was excited to learn that I was attending culinary school and asked me to join the board of the organization as the group's student liaison to help bring awareness of the program to culinary schools and to get students more involved. A month or two of being part of the board, I also took on a new role as the new Newsletter Editor. Yay, now I can call myself an editor!

A little over a month ago a friend told me I just had to get myself on Twitter. Have you heard of Twitter? Twitter is a social networking site that allows people to "follow" other people and stay in touch via mini updates on what they're doing. When I first joined and logged on it looked to me like it was a slew of instant message conversations happening all on one page. And I thought it was the dumbest thing on the earth. But I've hung in there and now I've learned Twitter today is what blogs were just a few years ago; the new it thing in online networking. If you play Twitter right it can work for you. I'm now connected with foodies, food bloggers, and chefs from all around the world. An editor from Marthat Stewart Everyday Food magazine even started following me! Most recently, well-known Australian celebrity chef Benjamin Christie and I got connected on Twitter. After a couple of converstations back and forth regarding his need for some food bloggers to contribute to his site, he asked me to come on board as a guest blogger! I'm very excited at the opportunity. And a really cool thing is I get to have a picture and a bio on his site, and on the same page as Michael Ruhlman! OMG!

So needless to say I feel like I'm getting there. I'm in the right circles and I'm getting my name out there. It's funny, though, I seem to be having the toughest time in my hometown getting editors in Portland to jump at food article ideas I've been pitching. I now know what people mean when they say don't quit your day job, or marry rich if you want to be a food writer. It really does take time to break into the scene and get published, and of the above activities I have going on, only one is paid, and still not enough to cover my mortgage!

All around everything is going well and I know the big break (or the one that will pay the mortgage) is just around the corner; I can feel it.

Thanks for your continued support. Now back to fun and exciting musings on exploring the culinary world!



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