Q & A with Grant Butler, Food/arts writer for The Oregonian’s Foodday

By: Kathy Kwong

Grant Butler, Food/Arts writer for The Oregonian’s FoodDay, A&E, MIX magazine, vegan and movie critic.

How did you get started as a food writer/critic?

I began writing about food as a part-time restaurant critic for the Statesman Journal in Salem in the 1990s. I continued to write about restaurants after landing at The Oregonian in 1996, and began writing recipe-focused food stories in 2008.

Where does your motivation for your job come from?

Hearing from readers motivates me. Despite all the doom and gloom about journalism, we still have tremendous impact.

What is your favorite part of your job?

I am currently loving learning how to take photos of the food I make. Learning photography and other digital journalism skills is key for the future, and rather than run from it, I’ve chosen to embrace it.

Can you describe “A Day in the Life of Grant Butler…”

It varies almost every day because I write about a wide variety of things. Some days I’m focused on writing. Others, I’m developing recipes, testing recipes from others in our test kitchen, or starring in cooking demonstration videos. I also spend a lot of time out in the community, because that’s where the stories happen.

Do you feel like being a food writer/critic is storytelling?

Yes, if it’s done well.

What’s the most difficult part of your job?

Staff writers are expected to keep feeding our website every day, which has made it more difficult to do more in-depth pieces. I’m a pretty good time manager, but some days it’s hard to focus on the big stories because there still is the online beast that needs to be fed.

Can you detail the process of getting a story?

Stories come about in a lot of ways. Sometimes it’s generated by a reader suggestion or a pitch from a publicist. Sometimes it’s an idea I’ve had percolating around for some time. And often, it’s a result of boots-on-the-ground legwork, spotting trends and new things.

What advice do you have for an aspiring food writer/critic?

Come to terms that there will be a lot of learning as you go along. Even the best food writers don’t know everything, and once upon a time knew next-to-nothing. Every story is an opportunity to make new discoveries.

What does Grant Butler want people and the world to know about Portland/Oregon’s Food scene? About food in general?

There have been books written about Portland’s rich food scene. It’s very rich, and I think that’s built on there being a strong community of people who are passionate about food.

Any final thoughts or suggestions…

Good luck!

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