Growing up in a kosher home in St. Cloud, Minnesota isn’t exactly the ideal foundation for a professional food reporter, but it wasn’t until I was a teenager, introduced to the “Australian Women’s Home Weekly” series of illustrated Thai and Chinese cookbooks by my Tasmanian sister-in-law, that I realized how wonderful the pleasures of the table could be. In college, at the University of Wisconsin, I continued seeking out everything I couldn’t (or simply wasn’t able to) have as a kid: Turkish kebabs; Thai noodles; falafel, and yes, even pork.
But when I graduated in 1990, yearning to find new flavors and taste new things, there was no such thing as a TV food reporter. All of the food professionals I looked up to – Reichl, Richman, Apple – were in print. So I took my broadcast degree to towns like Escanaba, Michigan and Davenport, Iowa, and learned how to become a general assignment news reporter, always stoking that love of food by cooking out of magazines and making hour-long trips to track down a little Thai joint or Mexican taqueria.
The Tribune’s 24-hour newschannel – CLTV - brought me to Chicago in 1992. I logged a few more years of news reporting, then caught a break in ‘95, when our station launched “Good Eating,” a weekly, 30 minute program mirroring the Tribune’s food section. As Producer and Host, I churned out 52 shows a year for eight years, garnering six James Beard Awards along the way for Best TV Cooking Show. Freelance radio work followed – first with WBEZ, our local NPR affiliate, then with Public Radio International’s “The World,” and six more Beard Awards followed. I’ve also written food features and reviews for publications like The Chicago Reader, CS Magazine and the Chicago Tribune.
In 2003, I moved to ABC 7, Chicago’s #1 news station, where I now file two original reports each week, under the moniker “The Hungry Hound.” I still continue to file stories for PRI’s The World and have become a part-time travel writer, filing stories for the Travel sections in both The Chicago Tribune and The Globe and Mail (Canada’s national paper).
In 2014, Chicago chef/restaurateur Rick Bayless and I launched The Feed Podcast, covering the world of food from our professional perspectives. Every show is full of different segments, some from Chicago and others from far-flung places around the world we both travel to. In its first year, the show won a Beard Award for Best Podcast (that’s #13 if you’re keeping score). More recently, I’ve begun curating and leading highly specialized culinary experiences, including international tours, and am also now consulting on the food and beverage program for The Hotel San Felipe in Panama City, Panama.
I show up as an occasional judge or contributor on “Iron Chef America” and “Unique Eats,” and serve as one of the 27 Regional Academy Chairs for “The World’s 50 Best Restaurants.” I even do some media training outside of Chicago for chefs, sommeliers and mixologists. Best part of the job? Getting paid to eat. Toughest part? Keeping it off. See you at the gym.