Serious Food Business: Interning at The Daily Meal
By Caroline Lange | New York, New York
Ever wondered what it’s like to intern for the food world? Read below to get an inside look at The Daily Mail, a website that covers “all things food and drink,” offering information about restaurants, chefs, food trends, cookbooks, drinks, entertaining, travel, and cooking.
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It’s noon on a Wednesday, so we fold up our chairs and carry them to the lobby, which is the most practical space in the office to accommodate the editorial staff plus us 25 interns. We curve two rows of chairs around the entryway and wait for Colman Andrews to clear his throat.
He’s seated at the helm of the room, perched on a little black couch with a notepad in his lap. A sweet, gray-haired, moccasin-wearing legend of the food world, Colman was the restaurant columnist for Gourmet magazine. He also founded Saveur magazine and The Daily Meal, of which he is the editorial director and where I am interning this summer.
“Now, before we begin,” he says, narrowing his eyes as he scans the room, “remind me, which of you sent me that email about grilled cheese? It’s very important that we talk about it over lunch.” And thus begins the weekly ideas meeting at The Daily Meal.
At the ideas meetings, both editorial staff and interns have the opportunity to dream up and pitch ideas for website content. My editor, Francesca, a New York-accented sparkplug of a woman and the queen of the Entertain channel (there are five channels in total—Cook, Eat/Dine, Drink, Travel, and Entertain), proposes a couple of stories: outrageous ice cream toppings and a slideshow of celebrity wedding cakes. Colman nods approvingly while she speaks. When it finally comes around to me, I’m nervous; Colman is looking me right in the eyes. But he really likes my idea about tips for prepping a party ahead of time, and looks over pointedly at Francesca to indicate that I should pursue the idea. She winks at me when I’ve finished speaking.
“Well,” he says, looking around at us one last time, “back to work!” So we fold up our chairs and move back into the office, a big open room separated into pods by shoulder-height, felted gray walls. We all sit here, channel editors and interns more or less together, which really lets the creative energy flow. It allows for some good eavesdropping, too, like when our Eat/Dine and Cook editors found themselves in an impassioned debate about an upcoming “40 Best Burgers in America” feature.
“Five Guys makes the best burgers,” one said.
“Bullshit!” another shouted back over one of the partitions. And it was only 10 in the morning.
This is the kind of enthusiasm that I have found in every single person I’ve met at The Daily Meal. They’re people who are excited about what they’re doing, who have written and read extensively about food. There isn’t any snobby food talk or bragging about having eaten at Per Se or Daniel or wherever, either; just a lot of sincere, food-centered passion.
It’s interesting—we’re all lovers of food, but we’ve all interpreted our devotion differently. Among the interns, for example, there is a woman who, for health reasons, eats no gluten or sugar. There’s another woman who eats nothing but apples and protein bars. There are burger obsessives, farmer’s market frequenters, Chipotle fans, winos, baking fiends, craft beer guzzlers, and me, a strict vegetarian and lover of coffee under all its forms. Everyone has his or her specialty, and The Daily Meal encourages each of us to pursue it.
We have the opportunity to act on our interests at the ideas meetings every week and through our writing every day. Each morning, once we’ve all arrived to the office, we crowd together at the tables we share and begin to research and write a couple of food-related news briefs of 150-300 words on whatever is current and of interest within our specialized channels. These are the bread and butter of the site, with the team churning out about 50 briefs a day on an enormous variety of topics, from the health benefits of monk fruit to the downfall of Paula Deen.
We spend the afternoons working on larger projects, like slideshows, which involve a fair amount of research. These are usually the projects that make me feel a sort of wonder at what I’m doing, that remind me of just how lucky I am to be interning here, like the day my editor took me aside and asked, “Would you mind spending the rest of the afternoon researching gay wedding cakes?” (Nope, wouldn’t mind at all.)
Everything that we write, from our daily briefs, to the larger slideshows, to our final projects (which we hope to be have picked up by a larger news distributer like Yahoo! or AOL), is attributed to our bylines. I’ve never had a real byline before, especially not at a publication that asks its employees to include in their online profiles “The Best Meal I’ve Ever Eaten,” giving me the opportunity to wax poetic about the first day that really felt like spring, when I found myself standing at a wobbly black table outside Joe’s in the West Village, burning my mouth on a slice of plain cheese pizza folded in half New York-style, and how I followed it up with salted caramel soft-serve goat milk ice cream topped with halvah at Victory Garden. And this kind of dreamy food talk is de rigeur at The Daily Meal; it is entirely normal for one of the staff to stop everything, slamming a hand down as stars drift into her eyes, in order to describe the most recent incredible thing that she’s eaten. •