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How She Got There: Kristen Miglore, Executive Editor at Food52

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Name: Kristen Miglore
Age: 32
Job Title and Description: Executive Editor, Food52
College Name/Major: B.A.: U.C. Santa Barbara/Major: Business Econ, Minor: Professional Writing & Editing. M.A.: NYU / Food Studies
Website: www.food52.com
Twitter Handle: @miglorious

 
What does your current job entail? Is there such a thing as a typical day?

Kristen Miglore: There's sort of a typical week, with occasional curveballs. Mondays are usually full of brainstorming, all-team meetings and getting ready for our Tuesday photo shoots when we cook, photograph and style upcoming recipes and articles all day (I'm usually styling, plus demoing process shots for my column Genius Recipes). The latter half of the week is usually about catching up on our inboxes, editing and writing, planning our columns further ahead and smaller meetings and calls. But sometimes we have an extra photo or video shoot (or two, or three). Or a team event like company snack time. Or Alice Waters comes in to make carrots. Anything could happen!

What is the best part of your job?

KM: Working with a collaborative, supportive, endlessly creative team. In some editorial teams, there can be this constant fear that your ideas will be dismissed—that is the death of creativity. We try to foster an environment where every idea is valid, even if it's obvious or just plain absurd, because it very well might lead to something better. And [I’m on a team] where mistakes are okay—we all make them, and the only way to grow is to own them. The work our team comes up with as a result is original and inspiring. I am consistently in awe, and so proud.

What was your first entry-level job in your field and how did you get it?

KM: My first real job in food media was with Food52 (after starting as an intern), as Assistant Editor. I got the job by preparing myself for it and getting all the experiences that interested me. I did four editorial internships, I staged in a couple restaurants, I went to culinary school and grad school and talked to people and asked for advice. So when one of those people heard a new startup called Food52 was looking for someone with cooking and editorial experience, I was top of mind, and I was ready!

What is one thing you wish you knew about your industry when you first started out that you know now?

KM: I wish I'd realized how much time I'd spend in my inbox (and still wish I could figure out how to spend less). It's nice to always have a record of communications and decisions made at a fast-paced, growing company, but keeping up can become consuming. If anyone out there knows a good email triage strategy, I'd love to hear it!

Who is one person who changed your professional life for the better?

KM: I feel very lucky to have been working with James Ransom, our photographer, for over three years. He's extraordinarily talented and has an amazing eye, but he's also a very generous teacher and collaborator. He doesn't hold back in telling us when something doesn't look right to him and works with us until we're all excited by the shot. That balance of honest feedback and support means we're creating stories that are always improving and evolving.

What words of wisdom do you find most valuable?

KM: “There are going to be mistakes.” That's what my boss—Food52's co-founder and CEO Amanda Hesser—said last fall when I was obsessing over the final proofs for the Genius Recipes cookbook, which is coming out in April. The first print run of a book is deliberately small, she told me, so that you can fix things. In other words, don't be paralyzed by a fear of failing. You're going to fail. Accept it and don't let it stop you from doing great work.

What is one mistake you made along the way and what did you learn from it?

KM: I started out my career analyzing car lease portfolios, which was not a passion of mine, because I was so desperate to get a sensible job straight out of college. And there is value to just doing something, to learn what you like and don't like (Likes: planning dinner; Dislikes: cleaning data, talking about Hondas and sitting in a cubicle). But as soon as you realize you're unhappy and you want something different, start looking. It took me two years to leave.

What has been the most surreal moment of your career thus far?

KM: When Genius Recipes was nominated for the James Beard Award in 2014, our Managing Editor Brette Warshaw was watching the live stream on her laptop and started yelping when it was announced. We were in the middle of a photo shoot and I was so stunned I walked away from a half-buttered cake pan grinning like a deranged prom queen with butter all over her hands.

What do you look for when considering hiring someone?

KM: The ability to write in Food52's voice, which is smart, playful and authoritative without being condescending—like a good friend who wants to share the really cool thing he or she learned through trial and error. A consuming love of food. A let's-do-this, team player attitude. No typos, hopefully.
 
What advice would you give to a 20-something with similar aspirations?

KM: Talk to people. Try things—cooking, writing, baking bread, herding goats—and figure out what you love spending your day doing. Start a blog—nobody has to read it right away, or ever, but you will learn and get better. Study publications' column formats and voice, and send out pitches—if you're making editors’ jobs easier by giving them smart, well-written content that fits right in (and that they haven't already published—do your homework!), they will take you seriously and very likely publish you.

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