Everyone eats.

It's universal. 

No matter what culture you belong to or what region of the country you are from, you consume food. Food sustains humankind.

This undeniable fact brings together two of Chicago's leading culinary journalists, Amy Cavanaugh, the senior editor at Plate, and Marissa Conrad, the Deputy Food Editor at the Chicago Tribune.

Amy Cavanaugh

Amy Cavanaugh has been covering food, drink and travel for years as a freelance writer and editor for many publications. Born in Holyoke, Massachusetts, Cavanaugh graduated from Mount Holyoke College, where she helped to start a food column as the art and entertainment editor of her campus newspaper.

After going through the University of Maryland's graduate program for English literature, she continued her professional career as an intern at the Washington Blade. In the years before the newspaper folded, Cavanaugh helped to cover food, politics and the arts, since no one else was covering the culinary world.

Despite no direct experience in the food industry, Cavanaugh sought to eat plentifully, travel and teach herself everything to know about food and cooking. 

Moving to Chicago, Cavanaugh began working for Time Out Chicago as the Restaurant and Bar Editor. Additionally, as a freelance writer, Cavanaugh spent five years writing cocktail stories and increasing her familiarity with Chicago's food and drink scene.

 In January of 2017 Cavanaugh moved to Plate to work as the senior editor. At Plate Cavanaugh is responsible for online content, Plate's social media, the daily newsletter sent to subscribers, and articles that appear online and within the magazine. Writing for Chicago chefs, bartenders and professionals, Cavanaugh has learned to write more technically about food and its connections to larger social issues.

Marissa Conrad

Marissa Conrad, a friend of Cavanaugh's, is also breaking ground as a Chicago editor for food and dining. A graduate of Northwestern's Medill School of Journalism, Conrad began her journalism career in Washington D.C.

After interning for the health departments at Glamour and Self Magazine, she began working at the Washingtonian. Conrad soon fell in love with city magazines and "reporting on the life that you're also living outside of work." 

Helping the Washingtonian through the digital push of the latter 2000s, Conrad began to define her career as a food and drink writer as she developed an "addiction" to meeting wonderful and passionate people with stories to tell.

Moving back to the Midwest, Conrad began working for Time Out Chicago. She helped to put together large feature packages about Chicago, the city gradually obtaining more and more attention as a food destination. 

Now the deputy food editor at the Chicago Tribune, Conrad enjoys mentoring other reporters and advising them where to go, who to talk to, and how to better their stories. 

Why Food?

Asked why each of these ladies editors decided to write about food, and why they each have a love for food, they respond with the same answer: "Everyone eats."

"What is so appealing about food is that it's related to everything," Cavanaugh said. "Everyone eats. Everyone has their own food traditions and the things they grew up eating. No matter where you're from, you're eating every day."

For Cavanaugh, food is an instant bond between people, and a subject that possesses the potential to be "extremely political" and have a large national impact.

Conrad, like Cavanaugh, sees the passion of chefs and uses it to inspire her own work. "Chefs are some of the most interesting, best people to interview," she said. "They're always so passionate about what they do. It makes me feel passionate about what I'm doing, and then that comes out onto the page and turns into beautiful journalism

Again, food becomes the uniting force that pulls people together and allows editors like Cavanaugh and Conrad to stand out.

"Food is such a universal topic. Everybody eats. People like to eat different food, at different places, at different price points," Conrad said, "but at the end of the day you're coming together over a meal at the table, and I think that's something everyone can relate to."

With this passion for food, chefs, the ways in which food impacts society, and for quality journalism, Cavanaugh and Conrad bring the subject of food to new heights and meanings.

Women and Food

At Plate, Cavanaugh is proud of her editorial staff, which is entirely female. Looking to the future, Cavanaugh hopes to expand this progressive step forward. "One of my goals is to have more women freelance writing for the site— particularly women of color."

Referring to the example set by the Twitter handle @WritersofColor, Cavanaugh looks forward to more diversity in jobs and the future of all careers, both those related to food and those far from relation to the culinary world.

Conrad also sees the poignancy of being a female editor, but she looks enthusiastically to the day where female chefs and writers are known as chefs and writers who happen to be women, not women chefs or women writers.

"I'm a journalist first, and I happen to be a woman," Conrad says.

Devoted to this identity as a journalist, Conrad hopes that true "boots-on-the-ground journalism" will make a comeback in the years to come, despite the push to quickly write and publish stories. For Conrad, journalism possesses meaning when it means something to the reader, because otherwise, "Why are we doing it?" 

"The best storytelling is done through solid, good reporting and getting that— I call it 'color'— that can go into a story when you have been out in the world somewhere."

Meeting people, making connections and maintaining ambition remain of utmost importance to Conrad. "Never close yourself to an opportunity, and meet as many people as possible," she says.

As female editors in the field of culinary writing, Cavanaugh and Conrad are examples of success to burgeoning writers, and examples that gender and career should reside in separate spheres that invoke achievement over physical traits.

The City by the Lake

Continually drawing inspiration and story ideas from the city in which they live, Cavanaugh and Conrad each have favorite food destinations in the Windy City.

Cavanaugh is a huge fan of the "truly unique" restaurant Fat Rice in Chicago's Logan Square. The Macanese restaurant that combines Chinese and Portuguese cuisine is a "really special restaurant to have in Chicago" for Cavanaugh. "Unless your family is Macanese, you're probably not going to stumble across a Macanese restaurant," she says.

Conrad, on the other hand, expresses a love for BIG and little's "hulking monster of a burrito." She claims that their breakfast burrito is her "favorite dish in all of Chicago," and says it is a staple meal of hers every weekend.

Sugar and Spice Summit

As evident in their writing, both Cavanaugh and Conrad have an immense passion for journalism, and more particularly, food journalism.

Being inspirational editors of prominent culinary publications in Chicago, both women will be speaking on April 1, 2017, at Northwestern University in Evanston, Illinois at the Sugar and Spice Summit. The summit will "bring influential female food industry professionals to Northwestern's campus for a day of panels, breakout sessions, career workshops, and of course, tastings."

Tickets can be purchased here.