“I came to food journalism to fill in the gaps” – highlights from Fi2W’s Telling Immigrant Food Stories workshop

Workshop participants Harsha Nahata (left) and Andria Antoniades (right). Photo: Rachael Bongiorno

Serena Maria Daniels launched Tostada, an online food magazine focused on metro Detroit, out of frustration over the way immigrants and food were being written about in the mainstream media. Dismayed by those who would fly into Detroit to report on the city’s ‘food renaissance’ Daniels decided to cover the topic from a different perspective. “My audience is really my people and other communities that also desire to be represented and seen in the media,” she said.

Daniels shared her story during our recent workshop: Telling Immigrant Food Stories. Held as part of the Allied Media Conference in Detroit, the workshop brought together journalists from across the country to build skills in food journalism including story pitching, publishing and distributing on social media.


Finding your voice in food journalism

Listen to the panel 

Hali Bey Ramdene, editor of The Kitchn, Zahir Janmohamed co-host of the Racist Sandwich podcast, Von Diaz, writer and radio producer, and NPR’s “Here and Now” resident chef, Kathy Gunst discuss the elements of food journalism and how can it be used as an effective tool to tell immigrant stories.  The panel moderator was Fi2W executive producer John Rudolph.


I came to food journalism to fill in the gaps. Look for the story that’s not being told, and fill it with your voice.” – Von Diaz, freelance producer and former Fi2W fellow and editor 


Kathy Gunst and Zahir Janmohamed. Photo: Rachael Bongiorno

There are some things that we have to say that are uncomfortable…I do feel that food brings people together but as an Indian American I do have really painful experiences of people making fun of my food. I have a lot of shame about food.” – Zahir Janmohamed, co-host, Racist Sandwich podcast 


Perfecting your pitch 

Listen to the panel 


Jocelyn Gonzales. executive producer of PRI’s Studio 360 and Feet in 2 Worlds’ technical director, and Aaron Leaf, managing editor of OkayAfrica shared tips on how to craft a story pitch. Listen to their advice on what editors are looking for and how to make your pitch stand out from the crowd.

The discussion was moderated by Martina Guzmán, a freelancer reporter and the current Race & Justice Journalism Fellow at the Damon Keith Center for Civil Rights at Wayne State University in Detroit. Martina is a former Fi2W fellow and the chair of the Fi2W Advisory Board.


From left to right: Martina Guzman, Aaron Leaf and Jocelyn Gonzales. Photo: Rachael Bongiorno

Perspectives on storytelling

Listen to the panel 


Von Diaz, Kathy Gunst, Zahir Janmohamed and Serena Maria Daniels talked about stories they produced – from concept to realization – and how they tailored the story to their chosen medium and audience. 


Serena Maria Daniels, founder of Tostada magazine. Photo: Rachael Bongiorno

A Moroccan Feast

Two years ago Layla Outita started the Detroit-based pop-up catering company, Taste of Marrakech. She shared with us her ‘grandma’s chicken’ with figs and almonds as well as fresh mint tea and the most delectable walnut and almond cookies.

Born and raised in Marrakech, Morocco, Layla spent most of her childhood in her grandparents’ kitchen, where her grandmother used to cook for her and her family. Layla says that one of the most important lessons she learned from her grandma was that food is a universal language.


Layla Outita, chef of Detroit-based Taste of Marrakech. Photos: Rachael Bongiorno

Pitch that story…

At the end of the day, participants mustered up their courage to pitch story ideas to a panel of editors from NPR, The Kitchn, WDET, Michigan Radio, and Eating Well.  Keep an eye out for their #foodin2worlds stories!

Special thanks to Maria Godoy — editor of NPR’s, The Salt, Hali Bey Ramdene  — editorial director of food at The Kitchn, Amanda LeClaire host of WDET’s CultureShift, Sarah Hulett, senior editor at Michigan Public Radio, and Jim Romanoff, food editor at EatingWell.

Pitch Panel. From left to right, Amanda LeClaire, Sarah Hulett, Maria Godoy, Jim Romanoff and Hali Bey Ramdene

Juan Carlos Dueweke-Perez pitching his story.









Presenters and workshop participants. Photos: Rachael Bongiorno

Funding for the workshop comes from The John S. and James L. Knight Foundation,  Allied Media ProjectsThe International Association of Culinary Professionals’ Foundation, The Culinary Trust, and its Growing Leaders Food Writing program. The Food Writing Program is funded with the support of the Boston Foundation.

Fi2W is supported by the David and Katherine Moore Family Foundation, the Ralph E. Odgen Foundation, the J.M. Kaplan Fund, an anonymous donor and readers like you.

AboutRachael Bongiorno
Rachael Bongiorno is a New York City based multimedia journalist and media educator from Melbourne, Australia. Her work has been broadcast on NPR, WNYC, ABC Australia’s Radio National, Deutsche Welle, Democracy Now!, SBS Australia, Free Speech Radio News (FSRN), and 3CR Radio. She holds a BA with postgraduate Honours from The University of Melbourne and an MA in media studies from The New School. Her stories and projects are available at www.rachaelbongiorno.com