Meet Jenn Harris, the deputy food editor of the LA times and trailblazer for events like Food Bowl and the Taste here in Los Angeles. She is also the former host of the “Forkin’ Amazing” food radio show on TradioV.com, and a happy hour enthusiast on the never-ending quest for her next big bite and stiff cocktail. She’s also written for the Image, Travel and Calendar sections. You can catch her slurping boat noodles in Thai town, at a strip mall restaurant trying to pronounce bagoong in her head, or downing an order of fried chicken the size of her crush on Anthony Bourdain. But before you write her off as the worst eater ever, you should see her massage some kale.
1 | Tell me about your position at L.A. Times… What does your typical day to day look like?
I’m the Deputy Food Editor which means I write and edit stories about food, restaurant trends, chefs and anything in the LA food world. Every day is different, which is one of the reasons I love my job. One day I might be at a Thai town restaurant, then an interview with a chef in Venice, then dumplings in the San Gabriel Valley for dinner. My job takes me all over LA to different restaurants to meet all kinds of people. Some days I’m writing, some days I’m editing and some days I’m doing both. Some of my job is also supporting the various events we have in the Food section like Food Bowl or the Taste, our annual festival over Labor Day weekend.
2 | How long have you been working in your field?
I wrote my own magazine when I was 5. But that probably doesn’t count right? I worked for my college newspaper, a local newspaper after that, then an editorial press agency, then I helped start a digital newspaper in graduate school at USC, then I interned at Los Angeles magazine, then I got a job at the LA Times. So it’s been a working progress my entire life.
3 | What are some challenges you have faced in your position a the Deputy Food Editor? What were the challenges in launching Food Bowl and now returning for a second year?
We face different challenges every day, but one of the main ones is making it to all the great restaurants around town. My list of new spots is long and there just aren’t enough hours in the day to hit them all. For Food Bowl this year, we really wanted to focus on LA restaurants. Having international chefs come and collaborate with our home talent is great, but I really want to make sure our LA chefs are getting the recognition they deserve.
4 | How much has social media impacted your business/career? How has it helped spread the word about Food Bowl?
Social media is a huge part of what we do. I often scroll through Instagram to see what people are eating. What are the hot dishes everyone is talking about right now? Also chefs often post news of new openings on their social media accounts before they send out a release or email directly, so it’s a good way to keep on top of restaurant news as well.
For Food Bowl it’s been tremendously helpful getting the word out. Rather than just us posting to our newspaper audience, we have been able to reach a whole new audience of foodies on social media.
5 | What makes you unique to other professionals in your space?
That I’m me. My palate. No two people are going to feel the exact same about a plate of food, and that’s a very good thing. I like to think I’m pretty open minded about people, places, food etc. Also my background helps inform everything about me. I grew up in my Chinese grandmother’s kitchen and I’m fortunate enough to have parents who believe it’s important to try other people’s cuisines. So I was lucky to have an extensive knowledge of food at a young age.
6 | What advice can you give to millennial women on a similar career path?
I’d say take a chance and just keep at it. Success isn’t going to happen overnight and you might have to work in some jobs that aren’t what you had in mind for a while until you make it. My first job was at a newspaper in Orange County covering maritime news. It wasn’t my first choice but it was a valuable experience and I learned a lot and it helped me get to where I am now. And be open to all opportunities, even if it doesn’t sound amazing right away.
7 | What are you currently working on? Any great stories you can tease for summer?
Right now I’m currently working on a story on all the great fried chicken restaurants in Los Angeles. This really is a fried chicken town and I’m happy to help guide people to the best places. Food Bowl has me pretty busy with events every day/night/weekend. It really is the biggest food festival around and offers a taste of the best the city has to offer. We’re also working on our big Taste Food Festival that happens over Labor Day Weekend at the Paramount Studios offering some of the best food and drinks in the city.
8 | Bossfidence is all about finding your bliss and building your confidence, how did you know that you wanted to be a leader in your field?
I think everyone should aspire to be a leader in whatever field they are in. I have always been a driven person and someone who wants to pave her own way and make her own rules.
9 | Who is your biggest influence or inspiration?
It would be tough to choose just one. I have to say Jonathan Gold for one. What he’s done for food in Los Angeles, and the voice he has given to restaurants and the people behind them is invaluable. He has championed for the hole in the walls and the family restaurants who might not ever get recognized.
Also chefs like Nyesha Arrington, Brooke Williamson, Jazz Singsanong, Mary Sue Miliken and Susan Feniger, Nancy Silverton.. I could go on. All these strong female chefs are inspiring and paving the way for everyone.
10 | What do you hope to achieve that you haven’t yet?
I really hope to lend a voice to the LA culinary scene. This is the greatest food city in the country and I’m honored to be a part of it. Any thing I can do to help bring awareness and shine a spotlight on the amazing talent we have here is a goal. That and a James Beard Award one day would be nice.