Food is an absolutely essential part of life — but for almost everyone, food is more than sustenance. It also represents culture, bonding, history, memories, and exploration. Those writers who have always been “foodies” may dream of building a career as a food writer. In the 21st century, many reputable publications hire food writers, as staffers or as freelancers.
How much does the average food writer earn per year, where are the highest-paying food writer jobs, and how can you become a food writer?
Average Salary for Food Writers
The median salary for writers and authors in the United States is, according to data from the US Bureau of Labor Statistics, $67,120. This data is based on salary information for over 44,000 professionals working in this field.
Those writers and authors whose salaries fall into the lowest 10 percent — meaning they make $35,880 or less per year — are typically either in the early stages of their careers, or perform lower-skill jobs. Those writers who bring in impressive salaries of $133,000 or more will be industry experts, and are more likely to work in highly technical fields.
Where do food writers fit into this picture?
Although the BLS does not maintain data specifically relating to food writers, but for estimates, we can turn to other sources:
- Glassdoor reports that food writers make an average yearly salary of $49,831.
- ZipRecruiter estimates that food writers make, on average, around $49,041, adding that ranges between $17,000 and $94,000 are typical in this industry.
The fact that more information is not available is almost certainly due to the diverse nature of food writing jobs. Some food writers are employed as staff writers by well-known publications such as the New York Times, the New Yorker, and Food & Wine. Others are web content writers who focus on food, and yet others work for local publications.
Keeping this in mind, readers might additionally like to know that:
- Web content writers make an average annual salary of $42,729, according to PayScale.
- Staff writers (journalists and reporters) have median annual earnings of $49,300, the Bureau of Labor Statistics indicates.
Food writers can fit into either of these categories, and the salary they make will in large part depend on the type of publication they work for.
What Do Food Writers Make Per Hour?
ZipRecruiter estimates that food writers make, on average, $24 per hour. Given the fact that the median hourly rate for all writers and authors in the US is $32.27 (as per the BLS), while those in the 25th percentile make $23.70 per hour, this indicates that food writers tend to earn slightly less per hour that writers as a whole.
Salary Based on Experience
No reliable data is available to make any definite claims about the manner in which a food writer’s experience impacts their yearly earning potential. However, it is only logical to assume that a highly-skilled, educated, and experienced food writer will earn more than one who has recently finished college and is new to the field.
For one thing, having a few years of experience under your belt will open up more lucrative job opportunities, as the top employers in this field hire only the best.
Salary Based on Education
Unfortunately, graphs that show how a food writer’s level of education impacts their average salary does not exist. We can make some generalizations, however.
Web publications may hire enthusiastic aspiring food writers who do not have a great deal of background knowledge or a high level of formal education. These types of publications pay, on average, anywhere from $26,000 to $76,000, PayScale says. The less education you have, the lower your earning potential in this field.
Celebrated print publications that hire food writers, such as the New Yorker and New York Times, will typically look not only for candidates who have at least a Bachelor’s degree in a field related to writing, such as journalism or creative writing, but also for food writers who have an exceptional culinary background. If you have studied journalism and attended culinary school, you are in an excellent position to land yourself a job at the higher-paying end of the salary scale.
Top Paying States
ZipRecruiter indicates that the food writing jobs that offer the highest salaries are based in California, Connecticut, Washington State, New York, and Massachusetts. Data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics likewise indicates that the highest-paying writing jobs are found in these states, as well as in DC.
Everyone eats food, and almost everyone would like that food to be as tasty and nutritious as possible. In their quest to enjoy a thrilling culinary ride, almost everyone turns to restaurant reviews and published recipe ideas at least occasionally. Many enjoy reading about food adventures that unfold abroad, even if they’ll never be able to taste the offerings an article describes, or learning more about the history of obscure and famous dishes alike.
It is no surprise that many news publications, which are primarily dedicated to current affairs pertaining to political developments and the economy, now also hire food writers — or that plenty of food websites have sprouted over the years.
The average growth in the job market for all writers is projected to be nine percent in the coming decade, with a note that many writing jobs are moving into the digital realm. Skilled food writers will likely be able to carve out a job for themselves, whether as an employee or freelancer, because food writers are in demand for the simple reason that good food makes everyone’s life better.
What Exactly Does a Food Writer Do?
Food writers have an exciting job that can encompass a wide variety of activities:
- Food writers often sample and review both new and established restaurants, and write background features about these establishments.
- Food writers may research the cultural and historical background of a dish or a variation of a dish, and enlighten readers with full-length features.
- Some food writers get to travel the world to be able to speak about the culinary heritage of a particular culture from personal experience, sampling all the best national dishes.
- Some food writers cook recipes at home and review them, or create their own original recipes.
How to Become a Food Writer?
Successful food writers have extremely strong creative writing skills, but also a solid background in the culinary arts.
There are many paths toward a job as a food writer — some journalists writing for local newspapers may simply get “roped into” doing restaurant reviews and develop skills specific to food writing after that, for instance. Others study culinary arts and journalism or creative writing simultaneously. Some may have an educational background in a writing-related field, but come from a family that owned a restaurant or otherwise greatly valued excellent cuisine.
Those aspiring food writers who are not sure where to start can begin by:
- Writing their own food blogs.
- Doing freelance jobs for publications or websites that need food writers.
- Pitching restaurant review ideas to local newspapers, with the hope of being hired as a staff writer.
Qualifications to Be a Food Writer
Food writers who have a Bachelor’s degree, or higher, in a related field will greatly increase their employment opportunities. These fields include:
- Creative writing
Because excellent creative writing and research skills are not sufficient, however, aspiring food writers will also want to develop a culinary background by taking courses in this area.
Skills to Be a Food Writer
Food writers need some of the same skills that all successful writers depend on:
- Outstanding research skills, both to ensure that their articles are accurate and to uncover new story ideas.
- Curiosity. An insatiable hunger for new experiences and information fuels all the best writers.
- Excellent interpersonal communication skills. Writing about food will require food writers to connect with people from all walks of life, and this means the ability to build rapport wherever you go.
- Strong writing and creative skills; even if you know almost everything there is to know about cuisine, you cannot build a successful career as a food writer without an abundance of creativity and exceptional writing skills.
In addition, food writers need the gift of being able to translate flavors into words. That requires a solid background in the culinary arts, which can be learned during formal courses, or picked up informally over the course of a person’s life.
Can You Be a Food Writer Without a Degree?
Yes. Some food writers become very successful without ever earning a degree. Some who earn Associate’s degrees by attending culinary school can also build very long and profitable careers as food writers. Whether you need a degree largely depends on the type of publication you are seeking to write for.