How to Be a Food Critic: Requirements for Becoming a Food Critic

If you like the idea of getting paid to eat and write about your experience, you might be interested in a career as a food critic. Read on to learn about the requirements, the pay and the unique challenges of this profession. Schools offering English Reading & Writing degrees can also be found in these popular choices.

Career Overview

Food critics review restaurants and other food vendors for newspapers, magazines, websites and sometimes television. This job may be seen as enviable because food critics are paid to eat and write about it. This chart addresses the educational requirements, potential pay and job outlook for food critics:

Degree Required Bachelor's degree
Education Fields of Study Journalism, English, communications
Job Skills Strong writing and communications skills, expertise in cuisine
Job Growth (2016-26) 8%* (writers and authors)
Median Salary (2017) 61,820* (writers and authors)

Source: *U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics

What are the Educational Requirements?

Most food critics and other working journalists have bachelor's degrees, typically in journalism, English, communications or related majors. Graduate degrees may be a less common but valuable asset in this field. For food writers, some training in the culinary arts or education in a food-related field can be another plus.

What Skills are Needed?

Good food critics are usually good writers. Ideally, they should have a highly discerning palate, broad knowledge related to a variety of cultures' cuisines, and the ability to write about food in an entertaining and informative manner. An influential critic's review can have a major impact on a restaurant's success or failure, so it's a job that requires a certain sense of responsibility.

How Do Food Critics Fulfill Their Jobs?

Traditional food critics strive for anonymity in order to experience a restaurant just like any ordinary diner. Anonymous food critics typically pay their own way, to be reimbursed later by their publishers. Food critics will often visit a restaurant more than once to assess its consistency. For various reasons, some food critics do not operate anonymously. A publisher may be unable to pay for a food critic's meals, and they may be comped by the restaurant. In some cases, food critics are hired to help publicize restaurants by writing positive reviews, which may be labeled ''sponsored content'' to alert the reader that an advertiser paid for the review.

What Ethical Issues are Involved?

Ethical questions arise in this profession over potential conflicts of interest. The code of ethics of the Association of Food Journalists stresses fairness, honesty and transparency, while stating that any sponsorship received must be clearly divulged. Interests related to advertising and all editorial responsibilities must be kept separate. If food journalists accept anything for free, the association says, that should be clearly acknowledged in the review. The code of ethics says that restaurant reviews should be conducted as anonymously as possible and that it's preferable for the critics to pay for the food.

How Much Do Food Critics Make?

The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics does not collect data on food critics specifically or journalists in general. Both are included under ''Writers and authors, '' a group for which the median pay in 2017 was said to be $61,820 per year. Jobs in this field are expected to grow by 8 percent from 2016 to 2026, at roughly the same rate as the overall job market.

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