Mandy Ellis began her writing career as a technical writer at an engineering company. She says it was a good job, but it ultimately was not where she pictured herself in the future.
“When I was told that I was going to be laid off in 2013, I started freelancing, and building my business,” Mandy says. “By mid-2014, I quit my full-time job and became a full-time freelance writer in food and travel.” Mandy says that she’s obsessed with food and recipes, and has traveled a lot in her life, so those niches were a natural fit.
Since then, Mandy has added real estate, health, and insurance, among other topics, to her writing portfolio. She also writes a lot of reported articles, blog posts, content marketing/strategy, and messaging and positioning work. Her work has been seen in AFAR, Condé Nast Traveler, Costco, U.S. News and World Report, Austin Monthly, FSR, QSR, and West Jet Magazine.
Do you believe that being a writer helps you enjoy or appreciate food more?
Yes! The cool thing about being a writer is that we get to describe the food, understand where the ingredients come from and how they’re used, see the process from start to finish, and really see how much hard work goes into each dish. For me, interviewing and meeting chefs who explain their dishes and all the care and techniques that go into it for us to enjoy each bite make me appreciate the dishes. Then, explaining that experience to a reader makes you map out everything, which shows the hard work and makes the meal mean more.
Do you ever write about food and/or travel for food?
Yep! I write for publications and businesses about food, restaurants, and all things food business, equipment, and sometimes, recipes. I also travel for food and travel as part of my freelance work on trips to different places to check out the destination, hotels, and restaurants.
Have you ever grown your own food?
I’ve had an herb garden for a while, and now have my very first tomato. I’m hoping to expand the garden soon.
How much do you focus on healthy food?
I’ve written several pieces about food and health. It’s super important to me to educate both consumers and restaurant owners about creating healthy recipes and menus, and also focusing on sustainable, local ingredients.
Do you strive to purchase local food?
Living in Austin, that’s a bit easier, since the focus on local is strong. But I also love interviewing chefs who have a strong sustainability/local produce focus. For example, if you’re in the grocery store, here we have little tags that say the product or produce is from a local purveyor or that it’s sustainably farmed, and a little bit about the producer.
I’d look for those or check on the food or product itself to see where it’s made and choose something that’s within your city or state. Not only is local produce typically cheaper, but you’re supporting people within your community. And if you can find meat or fish or other products that say on the packaging or with signage nearby that they’re farmed sustainably, by purchasing that product, you’re putting more money toward the producers who are making good choices for farming and the environment.
Do you have any favorite cookbooks or kitchen products?
I can’t live without my KitchenAid stand mixer, and loved Aaron Franklin’s book about barbecue, Franklin Barbecue: A Meat-Smoking Manifesto.
Do you have any favorite food writers or restaurants?
Of course…so many! There are some food writers at Texas Monthly, Bon Appétit, Saveur, Condé Nast Traveler, Travel + Leisure, and other publications that I’ve read for years, and met some of them. I always try to follow other food writers who have incredible writing so I can learn from them. Restaurants, that’s a hard one since there are so many greats, but to whittle it down, I really love eating at Fixe and Valentina’s here in Austin.
Where do you turn for great food or food inspiration?
I’m lucky enough to live in Austin, where there are tons of award-winning chefs and great local meals. Just from reading up on what they’re coming up with or dining at new restaurants, that keeps me inspired and filled up with great food. Pretty much anything you want from comfort food to higher-end dishes to fast-casual with a twist can be found here, and the ideas from chefs are always incredible.
What do you snack when on deadline?
Popcorn. Always. When I’m on deadline and trying to get something done, I’ll take a quick break and make some popcorn. Sometimes, if I’m really stressed about a project or deadline, it’s some kind of cheese poof or chocolate, but popcorn is my go-to.
Anything you’d like to add about being a writer who loves food?
Seriously, best job in the world. Getting to meet all the creative people who cook, learning about where food comes from, all the different techniques and iterations, and being able to experience all the cool things done in restaurants, and with recipes, is the best. Wouldn’t change it for anything, and I’m constantly learning, which I love, so writing about food and falling in love with food at a young age, being a food writer is the best.
Did you like meeting Mandy? We profile three writers per week, so visit often. If you're a writer who loves food, email firstname.lastname@example.org.