Judy Royal | Foodie – Journalist
Five Minutes with Judy Royal, Journalist and Foodie:
“I want to always keep my hand in writing, marketing, and social media for local restaurants. I love the local food scene. You’re always more excited to write about something you are passionate about.“
Surrounded by Great Italian Food
I’ve always loved food. I grew up in an Italian family from Long Island and my mother was always cooking wonderful Italian dishes when I was growing up. She and my dad moved to North Carolina right before I was born. When all of my friends were having Southern dishes at home, we were eating baked ziti and lasagna. That whole Italian upbringing made me love food. Food is family. It’s a big part of celebrations. We would go to Long Island for Thanksgiving when I was growing up. I remember huge platters of food. It was definitely a food household.
Rooting the Foodie Life in Journalism
I went to journalism school at UNC-Chapel Hill. Then I was a journalist for many years, but really didn’t do any food writing. When I started at the StarNews, around ’07, I was covering business and a big part of that was the Wilmington restaurant industry. Eventually, they had me write a column called Food Bites. It was around for awhile; I sought out food deals in the area. That’s when I became involved in the local restaurant community, and got to know a lot of the local chefs. I really enjoyed dining out, and discovering deals, and finding out what was going on in the food scene here. I got to do a bit more personal writing, as I peppered my personal opinion into the news about deals and restaurants. It wasn’t so much writing reviews, as it was recommendations and tips. It was a service to inform people about how to save money and find dining deals.
And it’s… Food for the Win
Around 2012, I started working as an independent contractor, and I had a wonderful opportunity to work with what eventually became Competition Dining. I did their social media and marketing. It was one of my first gigs as a freelancer. They had a battle between chefs, and I did the reviews. I got to know a lot about food.
I had always enjoyed eating food, but I guess my tastes were a bit more simple. When the menu would come out for Competition Dining, I would be Googling the items. A lot of guests didn’t know what these things where either, so I would put it out on social media, “Hey, did you know that roulade is ‘rolled up.'” That really helped me become more than a food lover… I became a foodie. I became familiar with chefs, and techniques, and terminology. Then, I did some food writing for several local publications, including Devour, Encore, Focus on the Coast, and some others.
Eventually, people were calling me to judge food contests. I judged a lot of local events, and then a lot of other smaller events outside of Wilmington – the biggest one out of the area that I judged was the Key West Food and Wine Festival. I’ve been to that several times. It’s really cool. I love when people ask me to judge a cooking competition.
Foodie Stories for Foodies
I did a long-time column in the StarNews as a contractor, called Just a Taste, where I wrote about local food people. For example, I wrote about a really interesting story a guy who started a barbeque sauce company, who I had met at a farmer’s market. I like to find out about local entrepreneurs who start small food products. I enjoy getting to know people, and hearing the story of how they got started. I did another series about restaurant owners who had been in the business for a long time, and found those stories really interesting.
I occasionally miss the journalism side of my career, buy I’m having fun doing freelance marketing and social media for local restaurants. I get my food news online, I love to look at the local reviews, and read what the local publications are saying about restaurants. I like to follow restaurants that do their own social media well. I enjoy getting their news, and I love looking at good photos of food. When you’re a full-time editor, looking at words all day long, it’s hard to get psyched about reading more, even if it’s something – like food – that really interests you.
I have cooked in the past – not a whole lot lately. I don’t like to clean. [laughing] That’s the problem that comes along with cooking. I like to try new recipes. The simpler the better. I leave the complicated things to going out to eat. I eat out a lot, especially for lunch on work days. My mom still enjoys cooking, so I go there often. I really like international foods – Italian, Mexican, and Thai. Those are my favorites. I also enjoy the classics. I love a really good burger. I love fresh, seasonal produce, and during the summer I’ll go to great lengths to find the perfect tomato.
Lots of Love for the Locals
I love Wilmington’s food scene. There are a lot of restaurants here for a town of its size. Especially a lot of independent restaurants. That’s exciting. You see things that you might not expect to see in a town of this size. It’s changing every day , and it’s growing. The general public is becoming more adventuresome. People are branching out and trying new things.
Wilmington has the other elements that draw people here. It has the potential to become a food destination too.
Follow Judy Royal on Twitter @judyroyal