Gail Leicht started her career in film and television production, working on such art house classics as Three Men & A Baby, Weekend at Bernie’s, and The Dream Team.
Though her ultimate dream to write soap operas has yet to be fulfilled, she continues to work as a freelance writer, spending most of her time developing her line of compact city guide books The Skinny on…
She writes for various magazines, newspapers, and business websites, and is also working on a couple of books for middle schoolers. She is passionate about food, wine, travel, film, boating, tennis, walking, and reading.
Do you ever travel for food?
Yes, restaurant research is a big part of the work I do to put together Skinny Guides. I’ve also been known to travel to a particular location solely to try a particular restaurant or food.
Does being a writer help you enjoy or appreciate food more?
Writers have unique ways of looking at things that don’t always follow convention. We are more likely to be curious, critical, and incisive by nature, “out of the box” thinkers, and we appreciate nuance maybe more than most.
We are also constantly formulating in our minds how to articulate what we are experiencing. We think everything we do matters because it could be fodder later. So we pay attention on a whole other level. Even when we’re eating, we’re analyzing and narrating the meal in our heads.
As a travel writer, I've learned that the best food and restaurant experiences are not at the high-end/upscale restaurants (which tend to feel the same no matter what city in the world you’re experiencing them), but at the restaurants that are unique to that geographical location.
If you have only one night in Chicago, are you going to go a high-end “latest and greatest” haute cuisine restaurant, or are you going to try authentic deep dish pizza? I’d suggest that you’d have a more fun and a delicious and memorable experience at the latter (if you choose right).
What are your favorite food books/cookbooks or kitchen products?
The Hali’iMaile General Store Cookbook by Beverly Gannon. And every kitchen should have Mark Bittman’s How To Cook Everything.
Beyond cookbooks, I have a read a million food-focused books (autobiographies and fiction) too many to mention and all good, but no particular stand-outs. Maybe Alice, Let’s Eat, by Calvin Trillin.
I think a lot of kitchen gadgets are silly, but I do have a few favorites…
My siphon coffee maker – it’s a bit more time-consuming than my drip coffee maker, but on weekends is a real treat (truly superior coffee).
My genius kitchen designer made a built-in cabinet for me with a pop-up for my stand mixer. It takes up no counter space, and I don’t have to worry about moving a heavy object on and off my counter each time I bake and/or do cleanup.
The Krups egg cooker is great for guaranteeing perfect soft-boiled eggs every time.
I can’t live without my zester.
Great knives sure beat not-great knives.
Do you have any favorite food writers, chefs, food TV shows, movies, restaurants, food travel destinations, etc.?
I love the way Pete Wells (restaurant critic for the New York Times) writes. However, I read his reviews more for enjoyment and admiration than for his recommendations. I also enjoy Jamie Oliver, Ina Garten, Bobby Flay.
I enjoy watching Chef’s Table on Netflix and there are so many great food movies! I like The Hundred-Foot Journey and Ratatouille.
A recent food destination “surprise discovery” for me was Moscow. Yes, Moscow, Russia. I couldn’t believe how well I ate there. From traditional cuisine to modern hipster-type fare (artisanal pizzas, cocktails, etc.) to uber-modern molecular gastronomy – all of it fantastic. I was also surprised how much I loved the eating scene in Ireland.
Where do you turn for great food or food inspiration?
I tend to turn to locals. Sometimes Yelp or TripAdvisor helps, though I also read a ton of newspaper and magazine articles and blogs.
Anything you’d like to add about being a writer who loves food?
I am a writer who writes about food, but I would not peg myself as a food critic per se. When I research and write about restaurants, I look for consensus from the locals – the tried and true places they describe as a “no miss” or “hidden gem” or “restaurants every local has been to at least once” and “always want to take visitors."
And while I’m traveling and researching for Skinny Guide, it's not unusual for me to eat at five to six restaurants per day. A lot of work goes into paring down recommendations. I vet every suggestion and will only include the best of the best.
Did you enjoy reading about Gail and how she eats like a writer? We'll be profiling three writers per week, so stick around and visit often. If you're a writer who loves food, email us!