This week in Foodie Friday, meet Tara Fitzpatrick, senior editor at several foodservice publications and foodie extraordinaire.
What is your role in the food industry?
How did you first get involved in the food industry?
Ten years ago, I got the job of associate editor at Food Management magazine in Cleveland after writing for a daily newspaper and then doing marketing at a non-profit. I knew I needed to get back to writing, plus I love food so I was lucky.
What/who inspired your current role in the food industry?
Definitely the people I’ve worked with at this company, past and present.
What food trends are most influential in what you do?
The great thing about trends is that there’s always something new to see. I think that plant-based eating is going to be more enduring, though, because of the science and the reality behind it. Also, since the average customer Instagrams so much, chefs are trying to make food that looks cool, stuff that’s pretty, and we’ve been seeing a ton of pink food. The color is called “Millennial Pink.” And then on the other hand, ugly food—imperfect produce and dishes that aren’t pretty—is having a moment, too. I like the trend towards inclusivity.
What is the most significant change you’ve witnessed in the food industry?
Definitely the plant-forward thing. You used to see chefs put one thing that was labeled “vegetarian” or “vegan” on the menu. Now, the definitions are much more fluid. Your average customer could eat a donut burger one day and then a quinoa bowl later that day. And I’d also have to say the rise of fast casual dining or “fine casual” has been changing the industry a lot.
Describe a food fad/trend you would love to start.
I’m trying to put the spotlight on popsicle cocktails for summer. And I would love to see more artichokes on the menu, they’re so fun to share.
What's your big splurge food item? Any particular brand you're willing to pay more for?
I splurge on everything food related! That’s why I have trouble making a household budget. I’m willing to shell out for good cheese, especially really good Wisconsin cheese and any Cypress Grove cheese from California. Another splurge is crab legs. They’re so easy and quick to make for a weeknight, my child loves them…the only drawback is the price tag! I also splurge on wine, and I have it delivered from Blue Apron’s wine program, where you get half-size bottles and all this information about the different wines. Another splurge would have to be olive oils and vinegars. There’s a place in the Cleveland area called The Olive Scene and the flavors are so on point.
What keeps you going as a food professional?
Just being hungry. Every time you get hungry is a chance to try something new. I have more ideas than I have time to write, that’s for sure. Also, I like the work I’m doing, so as I said, I’m lucky to be able to do what I do professionally.
What do you view as your greatest achievement to-date as a food professional?
I think just showing up and doing what you said you were going to do, day to day, can be everyone’s greatest achievement. And also, I pumped breast milk for the first year of my baby’s life while I worked full time. That wasn’t easy, because at the time the office building didn’t have a dedicated mothers’ room, so I had to do it in a storage closet behind the copy machine. I’m really proud of doing that and I’m a big advocate of breastfeeding.
What’s your favorite food to make at home?
I have a signature mac ‘n cheese that’s Alton Brown’s recipe and that was the first thing I ever made on my own, when I lived alone my last year in college. My friends would break into my house to get the leftovers…that has always made me proud. And I like a lot of long-simmering dishes, especially since we just had six months of winter here in Ohio. I tried Marcella Hazan’s Bolognese recipe a couple months ago and I was in love instantly.
What’s your favorite meal to order in a restaurant?
If there’s a seafood tower, I try to talk my dining companions into it. And oysters. Usually I like appetizers more than the actual meal, so the small plates thing is so good for a girls’ night out especially. Also, I don’t do it too often, but to go to a wine pairing dinner is something I love to do.
What three ingredients could you not live without?
Cheese (any kind)
Tortillas (to make a quesadilla)
Apple cider vinegar (to punch up anything)
Tell us about a memorable meal you’ve had.
I would have to say the first thing that comes to mind is a meal I had at the Five and Ten in Athens, Ga. It was a rainy January day and it was so cozy in there. They have a rack of Pendleton blankets you can bundle up in. And the food. It was ridiculously good. I think I started with oysters, and then there were some of the little jars Hugh Acheson is famous for, boiled peanut hummus…and a lamb dish that featured lamb from a lamb farm I’d been to in Virginia. There was good wine, good company, candlelight in a charming old house…perfect meal!
Who in the food industry do you most admire?
Other working moms who are writing, doing PR, working in restaurant or school or hospital kitchens as a chef or dietitian, showing that you can do a great job at both things. It’s important for all women to lift each other up!
What cookbooks or cooking classes are most important to you and why?
The cookbooks of my life have been the ones that my mom had around the house in the 1980s and 90s: The Silver Palate Cookbook, Laurel’s Kitchen, and weird little hippie cookbooks for kids with stuff like granola. My mom was a real foodie before it was even a thing. We always had artichokes. She would put on a fondue party instead of dinner some nights…when dinner can be something to look forward to, how bad can life be?
Where would you most like to live? Why?
New Orleans. I’m encouraging my daughter to attend Tulane when she chooses a college (she’s in 3rd grade now) so I can get a little condo down there! (Is that weird?) I love the food, the people, the scenery, the bayou, the ghost stories, the voodoo, the energy… everything.
Connect with Tara:
Facebook: Tara York Ellis Fitzpatrick