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"How Did They Do It?" With Los Angeles Times Senior Food Writer, Jenn Harris!

How in the heck do you build a career around eating and writing about food? (says most people) Well, Jenn Harris worked her way all the way up to this renowned position and she's spillin' the tea on how it went down. We actually met many years back at some sceney LA gathering and as I remember our conversation was the best part of the night! We've been friends ever since and I've been lucky enough to nosh on many of the things she's cooked and baked. Such a treat for someone like me who only crock pots in the kitchen- haha!

LA: What is one interesting thing that people may not know about your career?

J: One thing that people may not know about my career is that I started out writing about a lot of things that had nothing to do with food. My first job was at a publishing company that specialized in boating, fishing and maritime news. None of these things interested me but it was good newspaper and magazine experience to have under my belt. Another thing I get asked about is what it’s like to be a food critic. I don’t actually write restaurant reviews. We have two critics who do that. I write news stories and features on all things having to do with food, including chefs, restaurants, food trends, drinks and more. I even wrote about the woman who designed the boba emoji!

LA: During your professional journey, what is one mistake you made that you learned the most from?

J: Doubting myself and worrying too much about what other people think of me is a mistake I’m still learning from. I spent too much time listening to colleagues or bosses who told me I needed to care more about how people perceived me. My work was called “cute” and I wasn’t taken seriously because I’m a woman and dress a certain way (ie favor leopard print). I spent too much time worrying about these comments. Eventually, I realized that doubting myself was a waste of time. I’m me and I’m happy and proud of who I am. And anyone who doesn’t understand that is not worth my time or energy.

LA: What is one thing you did that put you on the right path to be successful in this career?

J: I recognized early on in my journalism career that a big part of my job was going to involve putting myself out there and being uncomfortable, and that I had to be Ok with that. I talk to strangers for a living, spending time with them and asking them personal questions. I also eat for a living and have to be willing to constantly try new things. My ability to not just go outside of my comfort zone, but to thrive there, is something that has helped me immensely. And now, it’s my most favorite thing about my career. Every story I write is a new challenge and a new opportunity to do better.

LA: What are you most proud of at this moment?

J: This is going to sound strange, but I’m most proud of my ability to say no. It is a skill that didn’t come quickly or easily. I’m a people pleaser and for years I felt myself putting my needs last while I said yes to every project and assignment that came my way. Learning the value of my time and prioritizing that time is something I’m immensely proud of. It has allowed me to tackle more meaningful stories and projects at work and to really feel good about the content I’m putting out.

LA: Your go-to beverage after a long week (specifics please!)?

J: My go-to beverage after a long week pre-pandemic was typically a negroni or a cold glass of funky orange wine. I’m a social drinker, so I haven’t been drinking much in quarantine. Now, most nights, I make myself a steaming mug of green tea. My go-to is Maeda-en sencha tea. It’s available at most Asian grocery stores and on Amazon. It has a deep, earthy flavor that I find both delicious and calming.

+Follow Jenn here 

+Los Angeles Time here