Interview with Food & Dining Writer, Lori Fredrich

I had the opportunity to interview Lori Fredrich, a food and dining writer for OnMilwaukee.com. She shared her story of how she found her passion in food writing in her hometown of Milwaukee.

You can listen to the full podcast here . This transcript has been edited and condensed.

So, I noticed you graduated majoring in the Classics, and I was curious how or if it has offered any benefits towards your current career in the food industry?

Lo: Well that’s interesting, yes. I majored in English and classical studies and I studied a lot of Latin. So it was Latin and Greek language. Overall, there were moments when I thought “wow that was very interesting, but useless.” But I will say studying Latin makes you understand the English language a lot better, I would say. Because you learn all the roots to all the words and sometimes a word I makeup, actually exist. For classical studies, there was a lot of history and research, and I would say in large that made me better at getting down and into a topic. I just did a series on bitter liquors. Well I knew a little because I’ve tasted some and I would talk to some bartenders. But I went on a really, pretty deep research escapade because I realized that there was a lot to know about and I wasn’t going to write an article that was kind of scratching the surface. Part of me just didn’t want to look silly and the other part of me was just got really interested. So, the research and background completely helped me.

With you research and writing is there a specific outline you start with for every piece you do or is research different every time?

Lo: Well its different every time. You always have the who, what, when, where, and why kind of thing and you learn to always ask the questions. You know, when I write about a restaurant, you can’t forget to ask them what their hours are, because people want to know that. So there are certain questions I guess that you go back to, time and time again. But I like to treat every story differently because every story is different. Every person has a different story and how I tell it depends. You know the best stories come from the people who are willing to share the most information, so it kind of depends. You know some stories are a little bit more hard line but the people stories are the most fun and the most like you never know which direction it going to go.

That’s very interesting, and I know you also worked at Marquette for about ten years and I was wondering how that transition was going from the assistant director of external relations, and communications and recruitment.

Lo: Yah, I had an obscenely long title.

So I was curious of how that transition went into the passion you found now.

Lo: You know I initially took a job at the university because I didn’t really know what I wanted to do, when I grew up. But the position offered me the opportunity to do some writing, it was kind of in the marketing and communications field. So I was writing a lot of articles about what the college was doing. I kind of maintained a blog for the college of Education. So I did a little bit of writing, but mostly I found people who wanted to do writing. I did a lot of coaching with students who wanted to write for the blog, I was always having to think of creative things. In some ways it capitalized on some of the things I was really really good at. But my job at Marquette, was more of a 9–5 job. Like my job now is like 24/7 and all the time. I found myself, not so much bored, but I had time on my hands and I like being busy. I found other things to do and that’s when all the food stuff kind of came in, outside of work. I was eating at restaurants, I was cooking a lot, and I was doing writing related to those things. Doing it on the side, was like my passion project. I didn’t really realize I could make money doing it until somebody came out of the wood work and said “hey, we love what you’re doing, come write for us.” I was like “whoa,” I then started freelancing and dipped my toes in the water. I was really lucky in that way because I didn’t have this goal for really what I wanted to do. But I was really lucky, some people have always told me I was a good writer but I didn’t know how to channel that, I didn’t know what I wanted to do. It kind of found me, so if you can make that happen for yourself it’s the best.

And you’ve grown up in Milwaukee your whole entire life, right?

Lo: Yah, pretty much I left a little bit for school. I went to the University of Iowa in Iowa City for a while, I lived in Green Bay for a little while. Then I tried to move away for a bunch of years. My husband and I were going to move to Seattle and at the time I think Seattle was probably way cooler than Milwaukee. But at some juncture we were like, it’s kind of getting cool here, maybe we’ll just stay. So we tried less hard to look for jobs in other places and really it was the job market that kept us here, because it was hard to find jobs. No one wanted to fly you out for interviews. It was good, I’m not sad that I ended up staying here.

Right, like you said Milwaukee has been progressing so much and you’ve been able to watch it. I’m curious about the Public Market, and how that’s changed the community around it especially in the food industry.

Lo: Oh gosh, the Public Market is so interesting because when it started, I don’t know, we were all really excited about it. It came here, we were all like, “hmm it’s not as interesting as we thought.” It was kind of a grocery store and there were kind of some stalls and the neighborhood kind of helped, I think. People made demands and they really took a look at what do we really need, our people using this as a grocery destination, kind of like Pikes place market in Seattle or some of the other public markets. What we ended up with now, is kind of a blend. You can come here and I get some groceries and I can pick up a little bit of fresh produce. You know I could come here and collect things that’s enough for dinner. But I could also come here for lunch and eat. Or I can come here if I’m visiting the city and kind of just taste a lot of different things. This place took a while to develop and I think it took a while for Milwaukee to really figure out what they wanted from a public market. I think that the people of the Third Ward association who actually really started the market, did a really good job of listening to both sides.