I can’t quite remember how I met James Beard Broadcast Media Award Winner Sue Zelickson. Maybe it was an IACP (International Association of Culinary Professionals) conference of which we both have long been active members. But she has been a gracious and dear friend.
In fact, she has invited me to be part of the 15th Annual Minnesota Monthly Food & Wine Experience in Minneapolis this weekend. I can’t wait to see her.
Through the years, we have shared stories and triumphs as well an occasional drop of gin. We may have been having a noggin when I asked her how she became a food radio host and how she has continued to succeed. In her velvety radio voice, Sue Z began:
“To be part of the food universe as a radio reporter requires you to look at things fairly yet form your own opinions and be aware that your words can influence the decisions made by others. A food reporter must have an extensive knowledge of and interest in food as well as a genuine curiosity about the people who are involved in producing it.
Radio reporting is easier than being a TV reporter, as you don’t need to worry about looking like a fashion model. You do need a good voice, though, and you must be prepared to do your homework, checking facts and the background of guests. Having quick recall is essential and it is important to have a solid grounding on the subject in which you are reporting. You must enjoy eating all kinds of foods and preferably not have allergies, aversions, dietary restrictions, strong dislikes, or prejudices. Also, you must not argue with your guests about their views on controversial issues.
I learned how to be a radio host while on the job at WCCO AM/CBS Radio in Minneapolis, Minnesota, where I work with a program director and producer. We plan the programs together, deciding which guests to interview and preparing a list of questions.
Many guests want to promote their cookbooks or their product and arrive at the radio station with a prepared list of questions for the radio host to ask. I prefer to ask my own questions so I don’t get a canned answer. To keep the guest on his or her toes, it is important to develop your own style and separate yourself from all the other radio programs. The listeners want information that they can use, not just a lot of idle chatter.
After 20 years as a food reporter, I have learned to talk slowly, chew my food quietly, and choose my words carefully, while enjoying every bite and every experience along the way.”
After she was finished, I looked at her and smiled sweetly, then boldly asked if she could now write all this down. I wanted to share it in FOOD JOBS. She just laughed. Thankfully, Sue is not good at saying “no.”