Amelia Levin says she has always loved to write. She wrote her first "novel" when she was nine years old, and participated in all of the writing contests at school.
She majored in English at the University of Michigan, during which time she waited tables at the Cheesecake Factory and then worked at a law firm. "I hated it and switched to journalism," says Amelia. "I got a job as a breaking news reporter for City News Service (formerly City News Bureau, a 100-year old institution that bred the likes of Mike Royko and Kurt Vonnegut)."
Amelia covered the police and fire beat along with City Hall and federal court trials, since she was a rookie. She worked out of police stations, driving all over Chicago, covering fires, news conferences, and federal court trials downtown. "It was boot camp journalism, but I learned a lot," she says.
By the time CNS closed in 2005, Amelia says she had already been looking for a job in magazines. She applied to Reed Business Information, a major B2B publishing company based in Oak Brook, Illinois.
"I really wanted to write about food," says Amelia. "My mom is a now-retired cookbook author and recipe developer, so I’ve been into cooking and food my whole life."
"I didn’t want to go to New York and even attempt to get into Bon Appetit and all those magazines, so someone suggested looking into Restaurants & Institutions, which was published by Reed," says Amelia. "There were no openings, but there was an opening at Foodservice Equipment & Supplies."
She landed a job as associate editor of Foodservice Equipment & Supplies and worked there for almost five years before the recession of 2008/2009 hit and Reed Business Information closed for good in 2010.
"My editor, along with a former publisher, bought out the title and restarted it, so I went freelance without missing a beat. To this day I contribute heavily to the magazine, and to their sister magazine, restaurant development + design," says Amelia.
For the past 10 years, Amelia has been working and writing for a variety of food industry trade magazines, including a stint as food editor for FSR magazine, and most recently, editor for the American Culinary Federation’s National Culinary Review.
Because she went to culinary school (Kendall College) while working at FES in 2009, she's also worked on and published several cookbooks. "I have either worked on, or fully wrote, about nine cookbooks as of today, with another one in the works," she says. "It’s an amazing job that I don’t take for granted. I'm utterly grateful to be doing what I love (writing) and covering what I love (food, chefs and the foodservice/restaurant industry)."
Do you believe that being a writer helps you enjoy or appreciate food more?
I suppose so, because being a writer means hunting down stories, and stories help others learn more about food, food history and the people who make that food.
Do you ever travel specifically for food?
I used to! I would go to conferences regularly, and that meant scoping out the best restaurants in whatever town I was in. Also, there are plenty of restaurants in Chicago I would go to before Covid.
I’m lucky to have been invited on amazing press trips, media dinners and other gatherings to learn more about different foods and the people behind them.
I have traveled to pastured pig farms, oyster bays, avocado orchards, walnut orchards and have had the honor of dining at some of the best restaurants in the United States (haven’t been around the world as much in the last decade because of having kids).
Do you focus on healthy food in your meal planning?
I'm a certified holistic nutritionist, so I definitely love creating meals that focus on whole, non-processed foods. I also wrote two health cookbooks: Paleo for Every Day and The Complete Pegan Diet for Beginners (released last year).
I used to try diet after diet, but I’m finally in a really great place where I can balance healthy food with luxurious food in moderation and not have any guilt. It was a long journey, but the reward of having zero guilt and just enjoying foods of all kinds is so amazing and has given me so much renewed energy, life and pleasure!
Do you seek out locally-sourced food?
Of course! I used to work for a local grass-fed meat producer at the Green City Market farmer’s market here in Chicago, and I love shopping at farmers markets and supporting local farms and businesses.
Do you have a favorite cookbook?
I love so many cookbooks, it’s hard to say just one. I have a collection of well over 100.
Favorite kitchen products?
I love my Global knives and they have to be SHARP. I also can’t live without my tongs, fish spatula (that I use for non-fish things as well), my cast iron pan and plenty of kitchen towels.
Any favorite food writers, chefs, or food travel destinations?
I loved the late Anthony Bourdain’s writing and TV shows the best. The best food I ever ate was in Italy, Capri, and Mexico.
What do you snack on when you're on deadline?
Raw or roasted/unsalted nuts. No sugar!