2 Day Food Styling, Writing, and Photography Class

In this hands-on, multipart, one-and-half-day workshop, Sheryl Julian and Sally Vargas will guide participants through what it takes to style, shoot, and write about food in a compelling and successful way.

Former food editor for the Boston Globe, Julian is a cookbook author, food stylist, and writer with over thirty years of experience in food media. Vargas is a professional cook, writer, and photographer and the author of several books, including and the newly published The Cranberry Cookbook.

Day 1

In part one, the class discusses social media, blogs, books, and cameras, as well as what makes an effective and successful shot (with hands-on practice), a slide show of a dish photographed from start to finish, photo critique, and more. All photos are shot with available light, so you can reproduce at home what you learn in the workshop.

Day 2

In part two, focus turns to photographing and blogging, as students rotate between shooting a main course dish and undertaking a blog or writing critique. Students and instructors will sit together and dine on the photo food with a discussion during lunch. All levels are welcome, whether you use your phone to shoot for social media or have invested in a camera to produce photos for a blog.


The class will meet at the BU College of Fine Arts Photography Studio from noon – 5 PM on April 20th and 10 AM – 5 PM on April 21st. The cost of the class is $650. You can register for the class here.

New Instructor: Corby Kummer

The Gastronomy program is pleased to welcome our newest instructor, Corby Kummer.

Heralded by the San Francisco Examiner as “the dean among food writers in America,” Kummer is a welcome addition to our program. He is Senior editor at The Atlantic, where he has worked for over three decades, as well as the restaurant critic at Boston Magazine. Author of two books, The Joy of Coffee and The Pleasures of Slow Food, Kummer boasts five James Beard Journalism awards. Most recently, he has begun writing a monthly column on the intersection of food and culture for The New Republic.

In his course, Food Writing for Media, Kummer will guide students through the fundamentals of food journalism. Topics include journalistic ethics, advertising, recipe writing, and food criticism. In keeping with the interdisciplinary nature of the program, this course will take scientific, technological, anthropological, and historical approaches to writing about food.

Welcome, Mr. Kummer. We are excited to have you!

How to Be an Academic Food Writer

By Anna Nguyen

I am a failed food writer. For many, many years, I have tried to write publishable food narratives, but with no real success. And yet, oddly enough, I read quite obsessively. Though not all of my reading materials revolve around food or food culture, many of my favorite reads are food-focused: essays by George Orwell; Steven Shapin’s recent efforts on wine and food histories; Haruki Murakami’s pieces about his cooking practices and eating preferences. I am keen on reading any memoir by chefs or food personalities. The list goes on. People say reading is an indicator of good writing, but I am proof that this sentiment does not hold true. The only reason I write so uncharitably of my forays in food writing is because I lack the ability to write sensorially; that is, I have not yet trained myself to write sentimentally about food using any other senses than the visual.

How does one write about taste in a way that evokes anything but just visual inventory? How does one successfully translate a fleeting, visceral moment into words shared with others? These were — and still are — questions that I always ask myself as I attempt to write. I am perhaps thinking too much about the words in use. That is, I find it extraordinarily difficult to put into words what I’ve just tasted. I try and try and try, and I still find the end result unsatisfying. There are days that I’ve come to terms with my reductionist perspective. Some days, terse paragraphs are sufficient; other days, many other days, I’m like Thomas at the end of Michelangelo Antonioni’s Blowup. I leave many unfinished and untitled essays on food on Google Drive because I cannot muster any profound words to write what I intend to say.

Perhaps the most enjoyable aspect of my failed career aspirations is that I’ve found focused research interests in the Gastronomy program. As I am planning my thesis, I intend to address the problem of food writing and the limitations of the language of food. In particular, I intend to try to understand the meanings of words in use — what is the inarticulate trying to articulate, and how language and epistemologies are constructed and shared.

IMG_20151217_143056My interests were shaped during my first year as a graduate student. While attending classes, I found myself growing fond of discourse analysis, textual analysis, phenomenology, and social theory — all things that I had at one point during my undergraduate years hated and tried to avoid. But to know theory is to be able to use and criticize what is lacking. Merely suggesting that language and knowledge are social constructs are non-answers that do not address the problems that I’m interested in, problems like the vagueness of food policies and laws, and food literacy. Nor does the concept of “social construction” add anything meaningful to ongoing academic conversations. If I am thankful for anything about my time as a graduate student in the Gastronomy program, it’s for the reason that I am able to intelligibly articulate what I don’t like with more force.

I’m still writing, though my writing has shifted focus. I tend to write with a more academic tone, but it’s probably not as academic as one imagines. Allusions to my literary background and journalistic experience are still present, though I’ve tried to dismiss unnecessary imagery. Great scholars like Arjun Appadurai, Gary Alan Fine, and Steven Shapin have written about food and culture without adhering to a strict academic template, and that’s something I wish to emulate. Perhaps it’s something I’ll attempt in my proposed thesis.

As I prepare the initial stages of thesis writing, I’m reminded that food writing existed long before food studies was birthed. During my first meeting with Walter Hopp, my thesis advisor, he heralded the chowder description in Moby Dick as being great food writing. I’ve been so buried in theory and academic texts that I’ve forgotten about literature. Perhaps on some much-needed breaks from the exhausting writings of Peter Singer and Michael Pollan, I should look back at the food writings of George Orwell and Virginia Woolf. And maybe it’s finally time to read about that damn whale.

Hungry For Words

By Rachel DeSimone

In the second grade, I wrote an elaborate “scary story,” complete with colorful illustrations and as much suspense-filled detail as a seven-year-old could muster up. My family praised my work on high, fulfilling their parental duties, and it was set—I was going to be a writer. After about six more imaginary career changes between the ages of 10 and 23, I have come full circle back to pen and paper (I do still write things out on paper). This time, however, the topic isn’t ghouls and monsters, it’s savories and confections.

Photo 2In my junior year at Boston University, I applied to be a writer for the new chapter of Spoon University at BU. Spoon University is a national food publication written by college students for college students sharing their love of food; the site has gained much recognition over the past year. Little did I know that I would become the Editor-in-Chief of the BU operation just three months after sending in my application and crossing my fingers that I’d be taken aboard. Although I was skeptical at first about my ability to handle the weight of this position, soon enough it all came naturally, and I found myself filling the Editor-in-Chief shoes with ease.

This was my first experience in a structured editorial environment, and I had just hoped to dip my toe into the buttercream. Consequently, it became the jumping off point for my future in food writing and becoming a grad student in BU’s Gastronomy program. I faced some challenges trying to popularize the BU Spoon University chapter and influence such a large student body with fast-paced schedules and widely-varying interests. With seven members to start, our team rapidly expanded to 20, then 50, people. We became a familiar name on campus and shot up from the 39th-ranked chapter within the Spoon University college network to number two.

Over the full year that I spent as Editor-in-Chief, I learned not only about Version 2food in the Boston area, but also how to manage a large team of people, maintain a website with up-to-date and captivating food content, and create a fun and positive work environment. I also learned that the food writing field is where I need to be. As I realized this, I was simultaneously applying to the Gastronomy program. After watching my best friend and co-leader of Spoon University BU, Laurel Greenfield, go through her first year as a Gastronomy student, I awaited my own acceptance. Upon receiving the exhilarating news that I got into the program, I knew that there was nothing better I could do for my future food writing career.

I am currently taking two core classes this semester, the first being Introduction to Gastronomy: Theory & Methodology with Karen Metheny. It which covers an array of disciplines related to the field of gastronomy, along with giving students a solid understanding of what gastronomy actually is. The second class I am taking is History of Food with Kyri Claflin, where students gain an understanding of historical method while exercising it through class work and a culminating final project. I plunged right into things as I often do with these two courses, which both demand a high quantity of work, but I have found myself advancing each week. Class readings and discussions have elevated my way of thinking when it comes to a piece of theoretical or academic writing, and I have learned to critically dissect these works while drawing parallels between them.

Taking these two classes together has been an eye-opening experience, allowing me to understand what the gastronomy program and grad school in general are all about. I have found that it is about digging deeper than you thought you had to, or thought you could, into your work, and as a result, being able to draw your own conclusions and form your own opinions with certainty. In terms of writing, I have begun to find my academic voice, and I know that further classes with help me hone in on that skill. I am looking forward to taking the Food Writing class with Corby Kummer in the spring and having the opportunity to bring some focus to my writing. I hope to inform my food writing and create a foundation for myself to move forward in the editorial field in a meaningful and scrumptious way. Each day I wake up I am hungry for words (and ice cream).



A New Generation of Boston Globe Food Writers

by Carlos C. Olaechea

CapturePerhaps one of the most popular courses offered in the Boston University Gastronomy program, especially for those interested in applying food studies to the communications fields, is Sheryl Julian’s Food Writing for Print Media offered every spring. Julian, who is the dining editor for the Boston Globe, guides students through every form of food writing so that by the end of the semester they are ready to start submitting pieces to newspapers, magazines, websites, and blogs.

If you need any proof as to just how well Julian’s class prepares its students, you only need to read through the Boston Globe’s Food & dining section where every week you’re almost guaranteed to find published recipes, interviews, reviews, and other food-related articles by BU Gastronomy students and alumni, alike. The wave of new Boston Globe food writers from our program has been so impactful that it has caught the attention of Metropolitan College, which recently mentioned on its website how the Gastronomy program is “stirring up a new generation of Globe food and wine correspondents.”

Many students have been published in the Globe as soon as a few months after having taken Julian’s course. A few, like recent graduate Jaclyn Fishman, have become regular contributors to the newspaper, and others have begun contributing to national food publications like Saveur magazine. Besides giving students the practical skill sets to become better food writers, Julian instills a confidence in them to leave the class and start getting their story ideas out there. It’s just one way in which the Gastronomy program at Boston University helps students achieve their professional goals.