Gastronomy Course Spotlight: Food Writing for the Media

Being able to take a writing course with the food editor of the Boston Globe is surely one of the biggest draws of the Gastronomy program. Obviously, I wasn’t going to leave Boston University without getting to experience it for myself.

sheryl julianThe instructor, Sheryl Julian, is a classy, well-accomplished woman, with lots of experience in the food world. (Julia Child hand-picked her for her first Boston food editing gig, after all.) Her matter-of-fact teaching style and obvious success command respect, and I would be lying if I said I wasn’t slightly intimidated. Like most writers, she is a gifted storyteller, keeping our class on the edge of our seats each week. It also doesn’t hurt that she has the best voice. I could listen to her read the phone book!

We turned in all kinds of food writing over the course of the semester, each week with a new theme. Assignments included Q&A pieces, product comparisons, restaurant and cookbook reviews, memoirs, blogs, and more. Sheryl is an excellent editor and her insight made my writing stronger each week. But the best part of the class was that Sheryl connected us with other successful writers and food professionals, so that we could learn from them as well.

Debra Samuels, who writes the “Tasting Table” column for the Boston Globe, held a cream of tomato soup tasting with us to teach the class how to conduct a product comparison and write about it. Beatrice Peltre, the blogger and cookbook author behind La Tartine Gourmande, visited our class to speak about how to build a successful food blog, and what it’s like to write a cookbook. But my favorite class of all had to be when we visited Nina Gallant’s food photography studio, and did a hands-on food styling and food photography lesson.

Processed with VSCOcam with c1 presetRequired reading for this course was also a treat. Rather than textbooks, our reading consisted of photocopied articles from newspapers and food magazines. Food Writing for the Media is taught exclusively in the spring semester, and Sheryl only accepts about 13 students into her class (a writing sample is required first). Many of Sheryl’s former students go on to do freelance work for her after they complete the course, which is all the more reason to do a good job throughout the semester.

– Kelly

image of Sheryl via Boston Globe

Field trip to a food photography studio

Farm to Table

For students that clamor over the latest issues of Edible Boston and weigh their dinner choices on “how it will look on the blog”, a field trip to a food photography studio is pretty much a dream come true. The trip last week was put on for my food writing class, where photographer Nina Gallant and her food stylist partner, Meridith Byrne, taught us the tools of the trade. They offered nuggets of wisdom on how to style food (tweezers and small dishes are a must), how to find food that is out of season and ripe (shop at Russo’s!), and how to get the best photograph (it’s all about the lighting).

Field trip to Nina Gallant's food photography studio

Our class split up into teams of three. Each group was given a tray of food and a concept to portray (ours was “Farm to Table”), reflective of the type of project that a professional food photographer might get assigned. We then worked together to style the food and compose the shots. Nina has photographed for cookbooks, food packages, and everything in between, so the advice that she and Meridith offered as they floated from group to group was indispensable.

So, what’s the secret to getting the perfect shot? Take several photos! As Nina likes to say, “Pixels are free”.

Food styling

Want to learn more? Nina Gallant is giving a food photography class here in Boston that meets four times this April and May. For details and pricing, see here.

– Kelly