Food Reporting Syllabus
Platter of Fame:
Distinguished Food and Restaurant Writers
Assignments 31 through 36

Food has been an interesting topic since mankind first recorded fishies and loaves in the Bible. Bill Shakespeare, the ink-and-quill name for a writer named Bacon, many times used public eating troughs for play settings. Gothic novelists have more dining locales than bedrooms in their works. But it took a French chef to put the mixings of ingredients together in a formal recipe. Auguste Escoffier (1846-1935) was described variously as "a French chef, restaurateur and culinary writer. He is credited with making the then civilized world, mostly limited to the swells in Europe and United Kingdom, aware of French cooking methods. Escoffier was extemely difficult to work with, possibly setting the public persona we see on television cooking shows today.

Escoffier's weighty work is said by historians to be his version of dozens of then French chefs. Regardless, he was a working chef in a restaurant of his own, later making his name in the prestigious kitchens of Savoy Hotel (1897) and Paris Ritz (1898). When he couldn't get along with hotel managements in Paris, he moved (1899) to London's new Carlton Hotel. A hundred years ago hotel dining was for high society clientele. Again, Master Chef Escoffier may have inadvertenly set the career practice of moving about. Note the dates of his kitchen tours. He was the ultimate professional, a writer-compiler who. as a legendary figure in such a complete and competitive profession today, deserves a period movie. This website volunteers to script background for such.

We begin by saluting the names, eventually to be scores of food and restaurant writers producing on deadlines. Their dining research and reporting produced a dining-out industry, this nation's largest employer, the restaurant business.

The fame names are many... pending publication of practioneers... past and somewhat recent, start with surnames such as Hines, Richman, Reichl, Okum, Mossmann, Logan, Mariani, Apple, Andrews, Spinazzola, Tait, Carlton, Snow, Heller, French, Powell, Kaplan, Pollack, Sheraton, Brown, Cicero, Cook, Prokop, Izzo, Silfven, Rice, Unterman, Fitzmorris, Viets, Burros, Dwan... and the list expands...

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Seafood As We Like It
by Anthony Spinazzola
and Jean-Jacques Paimblanc
How-to Illustrations by Janet Cummings Good
Foreword by Pierre Franey
The Globe Pequot Press

A Personal Note: This is the only cookbook on my kitchen counter. Three reasons: (1) The writing author was a trade friend who, when we discussed getting legit restaurant reviewers bonded together as a peer group against the then growing list of fake critics disguised as creditable, his solution was to "toast them on a stick." Long ago in the 1980's when more newspapers were assigning real journalists to visit and appraise restaurants, the two of us gabbed in a San Francisco hotel lobby about the Duncan Hines story "before he was a cake mix." That was Spinazzola quote. We agreed Hines could be the platform for what would be something like a "hall of fame" for food and restaurant writers. At the time The New York Times was the big name in the expanding eat-for-pay pack across the nation, already with a starter batch of legitimate food writers. As for my conversational suggestion, a hall of fame, his quick retort, "yeah, but don't call it hall of Boston that would mean you're either a Harvard professor or a street walker..."

(2) My personal grocery shopper-chef-recipe decoder-computer attendant and chauffeur, Margaret Yerkes, is cooking her way through the Spinazolla and Paimblanc recipes. Her recent acclaim: Scallops with green Hollandaise and radishes, page 368. She has totally refused to do anything with salt cod and squid.

(3) It is on her kitchen counter because it weighs 3.1 pounds.


Bonus 49:
The Adventures of a Curious Man
by Mark Kurlansky
© 2012

How, why, when of frozen Birdseye. Content Pending

Bonus 50:
Salt: A World History
by Mark Kurlansky
Penguin Books
© 2003

All about the salt of the earth. Review Pending

American Food Writing:
An Anthology of 250 Years of Great Writing
Edited by Molly O'Neill
Literary Classics of the United States
Distributed to the trade by Penguin Putnam
© 2007

The name alone is sufficient to understand why this endlessly researched work of Molly O'Neill is in this syllabus.

The next best reason is the all-star collection of food writing names in the back of the book, her sources and acknowledgments. Throughout this syllabus are the names of contemporary food and restaurant scribes. To name a few in no particular order; Ruth Reichl, Eric Schlosser, Michael Pollan, Jean Anthelme Brillat-Savarin, Craig Claiborne... well, there are the names that inspired, actually kicked off this study course for beginning writers intending to specialize with food as it relates to restaurant criticism.

Restaurant reviewers and critics have interested me since the early days when James Beard would dine with friends, at times with five or six and they all would share tastes around the table. Beard wrote about the plated recipes, not the ambience or service. Waiters, many times a crew of table attendants, knew who they was serving.

Duncan Hines, not mentioned in the O'Neill research, was high on my star-studded list. His name was embedded in my psyche because, when I came along, I was reviewing restaurants still posting signs... Recommended by Duncan Hines. Those were days long before he was a cake mix. When I started compiling my Platter of Fame list, it was my small way to honor those with careers I admired. My fame name collection started while passing through San Francisco. I was introduced to an inky Stan Delaplane, actually then a travel writer. But, that is another story. His restaurant writing may have started when he dubbed his favorite bar and grill as The Washbag. With his newspaper's circulation and readership, the Chronicle, he could get away with such. Again, that is another story. Delaplane won a Pulitzer prize in 1942, but for his other writings, not food or travel.

And along the way in my travels I met Josef Mossman. If there was ever a school training reviewers, Mossman was a one-man institution. He liked to discuss his career and opinions. He was my source for one huge definition when it came to defining restaurant criticism. "Understand this, you begin as a reporter. Then, if some editor thinks you understand the steps, you write as a reviewer, using facts as you would as a reporter. Writing as a critic is your graduate level in journalism." Mossman knew his way in the newsroom. He was drama critic for the Detroit News, but made his name as restaurant critic for the Des Moines Register. He created the handle... Grumpy Gourmet.

(NOTE: To expand on the progression, reporter to reviewer to critic, I included a Mossman column, 31 August 1983, from the Des Moines Register, in my syllabus for Newspapers In Education lectures to middle schoolers, high schoolers and upper level hospitality students. A copy of that column will be slow mailed upon request.)

O'Neill's anthology is not limited to newspaper writers. She included scores of familiar names that are linked to food. Example: Ray Kroc. If that name doesn't register with syllabus students, they should choose another career, like welding.

Other examples of note: Edna Ferber. She wrote the 1924 Pulitzer prize winning So Big, a depression-themed novel; Euell Gibbons, best known for Stalking the Wild Asparagus, but must take credit for How To Cook a Carp. Both are worth a read if Amazon can gather up copies.

Every food writer, in all generations, should know (*) Clementine Paddleford. Do an index search and follow up. Do a trivia game using names such as Thomas Wolfe, H. L. Mencken, Herman Melville and Walt Whitman, all O'Neill indexers. She has bound bunches of food related names into 2.6 pounds of interesting night stand reading. Class at 8 in the morning. Multiple choice test at 9.

(*) Not to be confused with a confused radio talk show host who gave that name when taking a call from some confused caller.


Bonus 51:
In My Mother's Kitchen:
25 Writers on Love, Cooking and Family
Contributors: M. F. K. Fisher, Jennifer Appel, Maya Angelou, Nigel Slater
Chamberlain Brothers
© 2007

M. F. K. Fisher is a contributor in a collection of 25 essays matching famed food writers with love and cooking. Cousin, this is a night stand reader, not for cooking in a hot kitchen. But there is good journalism therein.

Bonus 52:
How To Write For Homemakers
by Lou Richardson and Genevieve Callahan
Iowa State Press
© 1962

If ever there was a university with a home economics study course, it is Iowa State in Ames. That home ec program produced many food writers of national note. In this syllabus entry two grads in their later San Francisco careers wrote the book on how to write about food. The cover notes it is for "homemakers," thus assuming housewives could write themselves out of the kitchen with a food-infused potboiler. For a gossipy read...Google Genevieve Callahan for her after years when she was editor of Sunset Magazine. She is given some credit for inventing "modern food writing." Her life could be a movie script in search of a producer with a modest budget.

The Best of Gourmet: Featuring the Flavors of Rome
by Gourmet Magazine Editors
© 2004

Review Pending

Cow Creamer
Feeding a Yen
Savoring Local Specialties, From Kansas City to Cuzco
by Calvin Trillin
Random House
© 2003
"Calvin Trillin is to food writing
what Chaplin was to film acting."
  – BusinessWeek
If it hadn't been for Calvin Trillin writing about bony chicken wings in some dingy Buffalo saloon, there would lots more cheaper cat food today. The man created an entire industry for a bar food called Buffalo wild wings, barbecued appendages served with a bottled hot sauce and celery sticks.

If it hadn't been for Calvin Trillin looking after his home town's most popular brisket sandwich, then-black-owned Arthur Bryant's would have closed decades ago. In truth Trillin created another now-popular smoked beef product sweeping the countryside. Brisket elsewhere tends to be judged by the hickory smoked slices served at Bryant's of old.

Calvin Trillin in the first person may be the most interesting restaurant reviewer in the country. Say you read it here first. When a hall of fame is created for food writers, not just restaurant reporters, reviewers, critics, in that order, Trillin will be the first to be voted in. He has more than two dozen books available through Amazon. Not all are about his food travels. For study purposes in addition to this book, include his American Fried. That may have been his big seller in foodie circles.

The man can create a market for food stuffs as served in public eatries. In feeding his Yen, he may have his first failure... after a brief mention he stopped short of praising a menu item in a Chinese restaurant: Dry Fish Tripe with Pork Sinew. His tweaking research found that in earlier years it had appeared in English as Dry Fish Stomach with Pork Sinus.

Further introduction of Trillin wit, he is the Deadline Poet for The Nation magazine. He's putting world affairs headlines into rhymes...

Cuzco? Amazon the textbook.






Bonus 53:
American Fried: Adventures of a Happy Eater
by Calvin Trillin
© 1974

This is Calvin Trillin between covers. Meet the gent who made a grungy saloon in Buffalo famous for bony chicken wings doused in hot sauce.

Jane Brody's Good Food Book Living the High-Carbohydrate Way
by Jane Brody
© 1985

Review Pending


Bonus 54:
Good Food Gourmet
by Jane Brody
© 1990

Jane Brody is another movie script on a studied professional life that should be produced for repeated journalism classroom study. She is a biochemist originally planning a quiet life as a research chemist. Journalism interests surfaced. Long bio story shortened, Google her and then subscribe to The New York Times. Serious food writing students interested in the nutritional side of grub on a restaurant plate should create their own Brody book shelf. Time magazine called her "The High Priestess of Health."

Charlie Trotter's
(*) After Love There Is Only Cuisine
by Charlie Trotter
Ten Speed Press
© 1994

(*) Note the cover of this heavy book does not add cookbook to the title. There is no subtitle. In 1994 with the exploding fame of Chicago's Charlie Trotter's, the mere mention or notation of his name was sufficient. Charlie Trotter's, the book, needs no titles beyond his name and no asterisks beyond this one... the copy appearing in this syllabus bookcase may be a collector's copy. There appears on the inside title page, this scrawled, blue inked, autographed note: After love there is only cuisine!

Charlie Trotter's opened in 1987 in a Chicago townhouse. It has been a destination since the first week for restaurant reviewers (and critics). Food writers from every major newspaper and magazine continue to swamp the place.

Do not approach this book as collection of his recipes. Properly so, Trotter refers to his 72 favorite dishes, each with wine commentaries. Everyone visiting Charlie Trotter's walks away with a favorite dish in mind. The single memory from eight dinner visits for this study course: Sea scallops with braised turnips, watercress, preserved ginger and beet juice. Page 94. As to why, maybe, the chef himself brought it tableside to explain the earthy sweetness of beet juice. It was not favored service to a reviewer. Trotter visited every table in his small restaurant that evening, each time to comment on the small plate he was bringing from his kitchen.


Bonus 55:
Charlie Trotter's Seafood
by Charlie Trotter
Ten Speed Press
© 1997

As fishermen say when they have a good catch, this is a keeper. The seafood recipes cover every species that should be on a restaurant table. The added attraction... wine notes ad pairings by Joseph Spellman, master sommelier.

Added plus for writers: The guide to seasonal seafood from around the world detailing flavor, texture, cooking methods and seasons available.

What is not in seafood listings: Orange Roughy, a.k.a. trash fish or bottom feeder, scrod, talapia, blow fish, grunion and any frozen fish packs with the label Mrs.Paul's.

A teaser: Page 144, fennel-stuffed Dover sole; page 145, Tim Turner's photograph of fennel-stuffed Dover sole wrapped in a thin black radish wrap.

Bonus 56:
Lessons in Excellence from Charlie Trotter
by Charlie Trotter
Ten Speed Press
© 1997

Review Pending


THIS JUST IN: The New York Times, 2 May 2011, page 1
headline... Another Side of Tilapia, the Ideal Farm Fish

AGUA AZUL, Honduras - A common Bible story says Jesus fed 5,000 people with five loaves of bread and two fish, which scholars surmise were tilapia.