Food and dining writer Lori Fredrich

Tonight, I had the incredible opportunity to interview established OnMilwaukee.com food and dining writer Lori Fredrich. Lori gave me insight about her start in the food blogging world, the evolving Milwaukee food scene and stories that have impacted her as a writer.

Listen to the full podcast here. This transcript has been edited and condensed.

Sophia Millay and Lori Fredrich

Where do you think your passion for writing about food started?

Lori: When I was a kid I used to make little books, I would take paper and sew it together with yarn and I would tell these stories. I would also get all of these cookbooks out of the library and I would look through them and make the weirdest recipe I could. Most of them were children’s cookbooks so the food didn’t get too weird, but I remember this one time I got this cookbook and cooked the weirdest thing I could find which was a kidney bean salad. I made this salad and it was pretty okay, but for weeks I made people eat this kidney bean salad. So I have been doing all these weird food-writing things forever. Also, in college every time there was an occasion I would throw a party and cook something. For instance, every time there was a blue moon I would throw an annual party, I really just did it so I could make stuff. I also threw another party where my friends and I would write down all the things we hated and burn them; it was like a cleansing your soul party. That year I made fortune cookies from scratch, it took forever and it was really silly. I created all of these unique fortunes for each cookie that were all positive. Then I convinced everybody at the party that if they ate the fortune from the cookie that it would come true, so everybody ate their fortune!

What do you think makes the Milwaukee food scene special compared to other places?

Lori: Right now I think it’s that its not fully developed. So what you’re seeing is a funny growing pain period where we have a lot of cool stuff but we also have a lot of people working to make it better and people experimenting with different concepts. In places like New York and Chicago that are more established you have a lot of competition. Here the other thing that sets us apart is that all of the chefs are collaborative. They like and help each other; some of them even buy food together. That is really different because in different markets there is so much competition that they will tolerate each other but chefs aren’t friends, but here they care about each other. For example, the chef from Daniel Jacob’s was diagnosed with Kennedy’s disease this past year. There was a fundraiser for research and he got together with Bartolotta’s restaurant group who he has never worked for and they organized the party and threw it in their space. They got 30 restaurants from Milwaukee to show up and all of the chefs showed up because they cared. That is really cool stuff that does not happen in every market.

What is your favorite food that you have ever eaten at The Public Market and why?

Milwaukee Public Market

Lori: I’ve been to the east coast and I have eaten lobster rolls and loved them. Lobster is one of those things that I don’t eat terribly often and when I’ve had a bad day and don’t want to cook, sometimes I will tell my husband to get me a lobster roll. It’s one of my favorite things at the Public Market. The lobster roll is comparable to the one’s on the east coast but obviously it’s still here not there, but it’s a good substitute. Definitely a lot cheaper than a plane ticket to fly to the east coast!

How do you decide what you are going to write about?

Lori: I do have days where I don’t know what to write about but those are very seldom. There are probably three ways that I get stories. I get tons of press releases so I sift through thinking about what is going to be the most interesting to the audience that I am writing for and what will people respond to. I also watch social media to see what restaurants are doing and I talk to chefs on a regular basis. A lot of times stories are coming my way and I have too many stories all the time. I often laugh because I tell people that I start tabs in my Google docs for when I think of a new idea and sometimes I will have 20 tabs open at a time. Right now I’m writing a story about places to eat when you have to do jury duty. I have been sitting there studying Google maps in my spare time seeing how long it will take to walk places because you only have an hour for lunch. I have a lot of things in progress but this also means that on a slow news day that I have things I know I can finish.

What is your favorite article you have written?

Lori: I did a piece last year that won a Milwaukee press award and I was really excited because it was a story that I liked and that I felt meant something. It was a story about a chef that came here from Mexico, he was young and he came here and started working in restaurants. Last year, he got citizenship and he was kind enough to share his story, which wasn’t always happy. He came here and because of his English he couldn’t get jobs that he was qualified for because it was hard to communicate what he could do. At one point he was just going to give it all up and move back because it was just too hard. But then he met a girl and fell in love. But it was a great story about somebody who came here and moved up. It also brought in some issues of how people are treated, especially immigrants and chefs from Mexico in the kitchens here. Also, how we can really take advantage of people’s skills, like he’s this great cook and nobody knew it for a while. It was one of my favorite stories because it was about a person and their journey, and even in food those are the best stories.

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