Did you see the first season of Top Chef? It was hosted by someone widely criticized for not bringing insight to food. That person was quickly replaced by renowned chef Padma Lakshmi.

How to Describe Food Like a Food Network Star

What about Food Network Star? Where contestants compete for their own show judge equally on their cooking and presentation skills?

The host change in Top Chef and the emphasis on descriptive skills on Food Network Star demonstrate how vital it is for these shows to be able to not just make food, but describe it.

The Challenge for Cooking Shows and Writers

Unlike American Idol (where viewers can hear people sing) or Project Runway (where the audience can see the clothes designers create), consumers of cooking shows must rely on their hosts to convey the experience of food through their words.

Words like “delicious,” “divine,” or “tasty” don’t give us enough information to imagine the food on the plate. But “crispy,” “smoky,” or “refreshing” just might.

Perhaps by now you see where I’m going with this?

As writers, we have the same challenge as those cooking show stars. We must convey not just a sense of taste and smell to a reader, but how a scene looks, the sounds in the environment, and everything else. We basically have to be descriptive and precise about everything—which is why it’s a skill worth practicing!

Do you describe the food in your stories? What words do you use? Let us know in the comments.


Taste something. Or, think about the last thing you ate. Now take fifteen minutes to describe it to a reader, as if he or she must make a judgment on the food itself. How does it smell? Does it make any sounds? Share in the comments section, and be sure to leave feedback for your fellow writers!

Monica M. Clark
Monica is a lawyer trying to knock out her first novel. She lives in D.C. but is still a New Yorker. You can follow her on her blog or on Twitter (@monicamclark).
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