Paul King wrote his first short story in 8th grade, as a class assignment. "My classmates liked it so much that a couple of them came to me and asked me to critique and edit their stories before they turned them in," he says. "That was the moment I became hooked."
Paul says that, ironically, he has yet to publish a work of fiction. Instead, he chose to go into journalism, spending his professional career in daily newspapers and foodservice trade magazines. Most recently, he was the editor of FoodService Director magazine. "I became a full-time freelance writer in 2015, working for various food industry clients," he says.
Paul recently moved to northern Vermont with his wife Karen, publishing his first book, a history of his hometown titled: Iconic Pittsburgh: The City’s 30 Most Memorable People, Places & Things. (The History Press, 2020). "I'm currently researching a book with the working title, Cheesesteaks and Chipped Ham: 100 Foods That Define Pennsylvania," says Paul.
Do you ever travel for food?
Interesting question. I never traveled for food per se, but as a writer working for foodservice magazines, food has always been an integral part of my work. Over the years I have interacted with a number of chefs from all segments of the industry and from all ethnicities. So, while writing about management, marketing, menus and design, I’ve also received a culinary education by osmosis.
Do you like to grow your own food?
When I was a kid, I had my own garden plot, but as an adult I rarely lived anywhere where we had enough space for a garden. But with the growth of the locavore movement and community gardens, I have become a gentleman farmer once again. We grow tomatoes, cucumbers, beets, onions, peppers, radishes, and zucchini every year. But we also pick a couple of vegetables to experiment with. This year, it’s cabbage, Brussels sprouts and acorn squash. Cabbage was a success; the jury’s still out on the sprouts and squash.
How do you feel about focusing on healthy food?
I believe in eating everything in moderation, so I’m not a health food nut. But, especially during the summer months, we eat a lot of fresh fruits and vegetables, both raw and cooked. I cook a lot, so I do have more control over what goes into my meals than people who eat out frequently. I avoid excessive salt and sugar whenever possible, but I have a weakness for high-quality pastries. Life is a balance.
Do you try to support local food efforts?
Besides being part of a community garden for the past decade, I love going to farmers markets; I advocate supporting local businesses as much as possible. We also donate excess produce from our garden to our local food shelf.
Do you have any favorite kitchen products?
I’m not big on gadgetry. As long as my knives are sharp and my pots are clean, I’m happy.
Are there any chefs that you admire?
Over the years, I have become acquainted with a number of chefs. Some of those chefs that I admire are Jet Tila, Virginia Willis, John Ash, Steve Petusevsky, Joanne Weir, Barton Seaver, Ileana de la Vega and John Noble Masi. Of the “celebrity” chefs I’ve never met, I think no one deserves recognition and admiration more than Jose Andres.
Any favorite restaurants?
I tend not to play favorites, because I always like to open myself to new possibilities. That being said, I have never met anyone whose restaurants embody the complete culinary experience quite like Danny Meyer. When I’m in New York for any length of time, I have to have at least one meal in a Danny Meyer restaurant.
What do you snack on when you're on deadline?
Nothing. Because I’m a procrastinator, I run up against deadlines a lot. When I know something has to be completed, my brain and fingers click into overdrive, and food becomes the last thing on my mind. Coffee? That’s another matter entirely.
Anything else you would like to add about being a writer who loves food, or being a writer in general?
The most valuable thing a writer can do is read. It doesn’t matter whether it is fiction or non-fiction. What is important is to absorb and appreciate different writing styles and to learn new things. A writer who doesn’t read is like a chef who eats only in his own restaurant.
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