If you read Nation’s Restaurant News (NRN), you’ve been treated to my friend, Pamela “Pam” Parseghian’s marvelously thorough, well researched chronicles of the food industry. But it is her spot on profiles of legendary food figures I want to tell you about.
You see, Pam practices a lost art. When she profiles a famous foodie for publication – which she does often – she follows a detective’s path of inquiry. She does her homework before the interview, and then, once with the subject, listens attentively. Such careful listening is essential to capturing someone’s voice and meaning.
Pam decided early on that she she wanted to be a cook. She enrolled at the Culinary Institute of America (CIA) and then worked at a restaurant in Switzerland for a year. “Gradually,” she revealed, “I began to think about finding a job that was less physically demanding. I became interested in journalism.”
She called several publications after she returned to the United States and ended up writing an article for Cook’s Illustrated magazine. The article was such a hit that Pam was invited to apply for a food editor’s job there that was open at the time. Pam adds that then-editor Judith Hill “interested in me because I had trained in an European restaurant and I had a degree from the CIA”
Eventually Pam applied for a job at NRN. With this job, she was able to travel to many exotic locations to cover the subject of food. However, this wasn’t often the case when profiling famous foodies:
“I don’t usually make a special journey to visit the person who is being profiled. Instead I try to arrange a meeting when they are in New York or we on the phone,” reports Pam. “I spend about a quarter of my time doing research and another quarter doing the interview; the remaining half of the time is spent actually writing and editing. Other people may allocate their time differently. Writing on deadline is the hardest part of the job. Even a seemingly straightforward interview requires more of the writer than the surface result would indicate.”