The Interview: Hanna Raskin, Food Critic for the Post and Courier
There is a new (serious) foodie in town and for all of us in the industry, it is an exciting welcome. After years of having her plate full, Teresa Taylor, features editor at the Post and Courier, was able to hire a much needed writer to the team. And not just any writer, Hanna Raskin, a veteran food writer, critic and blogger. Raskin moved to Charleston just days ago and is already working furiously to cover the city’s exploding culinary industry. Her goal is to stay on top of it and write a daily column entitled “Raskin Around”, write reviews every other week and feature stories that capture the essence of what is taking place in the city in terms of food and beverage.
We recently had a chance to welcome Hanna to Charleston and got to find out a little more about her background and vision for the new role.
Daily Meal: Tell us a little about your background and what got you into food writing?
Hanna Raskin: It was definitely something that oddly came about. My undergraduate degree was in politics and American history but I spent my college years working at the school newspaper. It was there where I discovered that I liked to write. After graduation, I left Ohio and ventured to Columbus, Mississippi.
DM: Wait where?
HR: (Laughing), Yes, their marketing slogan was “just two hours from anywhere you wanted to be.”
DM: Of course. Continue…
HR: So then I traveled to Tucson, AZ where I worked for the daily paper and then decided to go to grad school. The school I chose was the Cooperstown Graduate Program, a museum studies program at the State University of New York in Cooperstown, NY.
DM: Why a museum studies program?
HR: I always loved museums and thought I wanted to work in one. I quickly realized what I love about them was storytelling and loving museums is different than working in one. The school was cool though; one of the first of their kind. You would do things like examine a chair for hours and think about who sat in the chair—the history of the chair. I liked that.
I am also obsessed with the off the wall tiny museums you find in the middle of nowhere and have visited one in all 50 states. You don’t want to go on a road trip with me…I make people stop in places like the Herbert Hoover Library & Museum in Iowa and the National Mustard Museum in Wisconsin. Just ask Bill Addison (food editor of Atlanta magazine). He and I have been on many BBQ trips when I demand we go to a place like the Country Doctor museum. One of my favorites is the Braille Museum in Louisville where I first learn about pornography for the blind.
Back to how I got into food writing. For my thesis for school, I wrote one of the first stories on the relationship between Jews and Chinese food. I learned so much about food, especially from a historical level and from there I was hooked.
Hanna traveled to Asheville, NC on a mountain bike trip and fell in love. She worked for the Mountain Xpress and covered food. And it just continued from there. She was recruited by the Village Voice Media to work at Dallas Observer and then later to Seattle Observer both as the restaurant critic. She spent over two years there until the company was sold and her position was eliminated.
DM: Talk about your connection to the South?
HR: Over my years and writing, I met people like John T. Edge, director of the Southern Foodways Alliance (SFA) and they always peeked my interest on southern cuisine and traditions. I got involved in organizations like the SFA while living in Ashville and helped plan one of their field trips. It was a great way to learn a lot about the south and I always knew I wanted to move back to the South at some point. So when I got a call from the Post and Courier, the rest is history.
DM: So what exactly are you doing for the paper?
HR: I am excited to be working on a variety of things. First is my new column “Raskin Around” which will be an online blog that I will try to update daily if possible. I will also write reviews every other week alongside existing reviewer Deidre Schipani and then covering food and beverage related stories for the food section and paper in general.
Hanna means business. She has established policies in place for working with public relations, chefs and the like. Her goal is to remain as anonymous as she can and does not meet in-person with publicists. She does not attend media events and does not accept food or drink.
HR: I do like to be kept abreast of such events, even if I cannot attend. And don’t get me wrong, I am not trying to be aloof, but the readers are my first priority and serving them in a fair and accurate manner.
Even though she has these rules, she is extremely friendly and very well respected in the industry. With awards by the Association of Food Journalists, the Association of Alternative Newsweeklies and the James Beard Foundation, she has proven her worth.
DM: What’s your favorite food?
HR: I would say oysters. I love them. (And yes she has been to Bowen’s Island several times.)
DM: Cool food moment?
HR: I loved when I visited Knife & Fork in Spruce Pine, NC. At the time no one knew about them and the chefs had just moved into town from LA. They cooked everything on the menu for me and it was one of the best meals I had ever experienced. Now the place has exploded and it is great to see how this little restaurant in a small, rural depressed town has helped develop the area into a more solid economically viable place.
DM: Beverage of choice?
HR: I would rather be drinking bourbon or wine and not too big into coffee or beer.
DM: What are your plans for tackling Charleston’s large culinary landscape?
HR: I picked up an incredible map of “where to drink in Charleston” at this year’s Tales of the Cocktail which listed 107 places to try. My goal is to do so and quickly. I am also excited about attending events like the Charleston Wine + Food Festival and Cook it Raw.
DM: Last, what’s your pet peeve?
HR: It’s hard when people want to complain publicly but are not willing to talk privately. If someone has something to say, then come talk to me directly about it.
Hanna we like what we see so far, so go with it and welcome to Charleston!