Learn more about Samantha's work at www.samanthawrites.com.
When did you know that you wanted to work in food?
I am not sure if there was an 'aha' moment. As a kid I was a super picky eater and avoided pretty much anything with flavor. When I studied abroad in London I started experiencing cuisine from everywhere and became more open to new foods. Once I moved to Chicago I became obsessed with the food scene, trying new restaurants when they opened and reading everything I could about what was happening in food.
How did you get your current good food job?
I was an English major working at a health care data company that was more focused on numbers than words and I was looking for a creative outlet. When Eater launched their Chicago site I devoured every word. When a bar by my house was changing ownership, my husband encouraged me to send a note to their "tip" line. I did and the editor responded "thanks." In an uncharacteristic move, I asked him if he needed writers. He had me write some samples and took a chance on me - a completely unknown writer at the time. From there I eventually became associate editor before going freelance on my own.
How did your previous work or life experience prepare you for a good food job?
I think one of the things that is hardest about being a freelancer is that you are essentially running your own business if you want to do it as a career. I think my background in sales and account management allowed me to handle that business part - organizing clients, constantly pitching yourself and ideas.
What was the greatest obstacle you had to overcome in pursuing your Good Food Job dream?
I think the biggest obstacle is that I didn't work on the service or chef side of the industry and I think in a lot of ways that is looked upon as not understanding what happens in the kitchen. I agree in some ways, but I think I've used that as an opportunity to learn as much as I can from each person I interview. I love what I do so I've never considered calling it quits. There are so many stories to be told and I want to be a part of telling them!
Name one positive thing that a former employer taught you that you continue to appreciate?
I was really lucky to start off my food writing career working for a fantastic editor, Ari Bendersky. He took the time to give me feedback on my work and make me a better writer. So many editors don't have the time or patience to give feedback - good and bad - and he really did that. When I am editing other writers, I try to do the same.
What can you identify as the greatest opportunities in food right now?
I think education is a huge opportunity. There are so many people out there with eyes on the latest restaurants, celebrity chefs, that there is opportunity for more education on good food, especially with kids. I am on the planning committee for Pilot Light, an organization started by chefs in Chicago to educate kids about nutrition, where food comes from and how it's sourced. I think it's a huge opportunity to help change the mindset on food.
If you could be compensated for your work with something other than money, what would it be?
Hmmm...good question. Maybe wine and cheese?!