Freelance Focus interview with Carol Godsmark

In this Focus we speak to Carol Godsmark, editor of Savour, the magazine for the Guild of Food Writers. Carol tells us about her work as a freelance columnist, reviewer, interviewer, author and feature writer. You can also see an interview with Clarissa Hyman, the Guild’s Chair, on our sister site,

About your journalism:

What do you write about?
I specialise in restaurant reviewing, chef interviewing and writing profiles of UK food producers. My books also cover restaurants and general catering. As a past chef-restaurateur, I am keen for would-be restaurateurs to gain confidence and knowledge about this specialist business they wish to enter or, if in the business, improve their strategies. Some of my works include How to Start and Run your own Restaurant and Starting and Running a Restaurant for Dummies. My latest book is Planning a Wedding Reception at Home.

Where are we likely to see your work?
I write a somewhat controversial restaurant column for the Portsmouth News (feathers are ruffled), feature work appearing in the Express, Caterer and Hotelkeeper, Time Out, Sublime, Etc magazine and others and also for various guides. I also love editing Savour, the Guild of Food Writers’ magazine, which is now online.

What’s the most memorable work you’ve done?
Interviewing the remarkable, inspirational Alice Waters of California’s Chez Panisse fame and France’s Paul Bocuse, the longest holder of three Michelin stars in one day at Raymond Blanc’s ground-breaking British-Franco-American conference at his Manoir aux Quat’saisons. Heston Blumenthal, on another occasion, just dazzles with his down-to-earth approach to life despite reaching for new culinary heights.

What interview or feature would you love the chance to do?
My prime motivation these days is to get across a love and understanding of food so that more people learn how to cook simple, everyday meals from scratch using good local ingredients, cheaper cuts and possibly produce from their gardens rather than buying expensive ready meals and takeaways laden with additives, unhealthy fats and sugars and too much salt which disguise the poor-quality ingredients. Using lack of time as an excuse won’t wash! Twenty minutes from stove to table is easy, cheaper, healthier and, yes, fun. Fighting obesity via good home cooking practices is another issue I’m interested in as well as families eating together – and talking.

About you and PRs:

Where do you source ideas for articles?
As much of my work is driven by restaurant openings, chef changes or local food innovations, this is what I look out for during my research, the internet of course invaluable.

How can PRs be useful to you?
They are tremendously helpful for appointments for interviews and finding out facts. The calibre of PR staff has improved quite markedly over the past few years. I am impressed!

How and when do you like them to get in touch?
By email preferably.

Do you find press conferences, trips, parties and other events useful or an interruption?
Press trips – well organised ones such as the Beefeater and Shetlands Islands’ ones which I went on recently – are invaluable. It is so important to be able to talk to those who are shaping our food and drink face to face. To see and understand what obstacles or challenges are being overcome through sheer determination to create and market good quality food or drink is vital and pleasurable.

If you could make one change to the way PRs deal with you, what would it be?
Make it clear, make it simple and never try to sell something which has little relevance such as linking an inappropriate product to a date such as Valentine’s or Easter. Quick delete!

About you:

How would you pay the bills if you weren’t a journalist?
Have other strings to your bows if writing is hard to come by! I work as PR to restaurants and food organisations and help run a music summer school. I love all the diversity and the people I meet and enjoy the challenge.

If we gave you £1000, how would you spend it?
I’m involved in a book project, the money would come in very usefully to travel for research purposes to places as far-flung as Mauritius, Brazil and India. I wish!

What books are on your bedside table, magazines in your bag, or blogs on your screen?
I’m one of those people who love taking a cookbook or biography to bed with them as well as diverse novels, Margaret Atwood’s Cats Eyes and William Trevor’s Lucy Gault joining Marwood Yeatman’s The Last Food of England, its past, present and future, a fantastic book which won a prize at the Guild of Food Writers’ Awards in June 2008. Jeremy Paxman’s The English is a defining read for this Canadian to help understand her adopted country and I wouldn’t miss Michael White’s Telegraph blog on music, a real star.
[lnk||_blank|Carol Godsmark on the Freelance Journalist Directory]

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