I first met Hillary at a Learnings at And Comfort Knitting event where we knitted and chatted about skincare, restaurants, and good design. Since then, she’s become one of our best community members and also fit modeled for our initial collection! While drinking coffee and eating Russian Honey Cake at a delightful Hayes Valley cafe called 20th Century Cafe, she shared her thoughts on food, the changing role of media in the restaurant industry today, and things that keep her inspired. Read on to meet Hillary and hear what brings her delight in her everyday.
Please introduce yourself!
Hi! I'm Hillary. I'm Eater's restaurant editor (wearing our And Comfort Tokyo Skirt above). I write, assign, and edit stories about restaurants from around the world — from trend pieces and opening reports to essays and reported features. I also love taking photos (yes, I am addicted to Instagram and yes it’s mostly food porn), caring for my growing houseplant collection, and reading. Also, I just moved to LA! If you are reading this and want to meet up let me know!
How did you get into the world of food?
I started working in restaurants back in 2009, although my interest in food started way, way, way before that thanks in no small part to TV shows like Two Fat Ladies, East Meets West, Two Hot Tamales, and, later, No Reservations. Things happened pretty fast once I started working in the industry; after about a year doing everything from room service operator to cocktail waitress at The Breslin in New York City, I got a job in the Momofuku offices. I started as an office manager, and worked my way up to being chef David Chang’s assistant. I worked on PR and special projects, including the launch of the magazine Lucky Peach and several restaurant openings. I took a brief detour to work at a dating website, and then landed at Eater in 2013.
What are some of your favorite things to write about as an editor?
I obsess over all things restaurant-related, and try as much as possible to follow those impulses when I write. Recently, that’s meant: asking one of the most famous chefs in the world why his restaurant has a “no kayaking” sign; diving into the significance of Philip and Elizabeth’s McDonald’s run on the series finale of The Americans; and dedicating 1,000 words to (dead) houseplants in dining rooms. I also have a column called Shop the Restaurant that I just love doing. I pick a restaurant with a great interior design, learn all about how the look came together, and then tell readers how to bring the style home. Every time I do one I end up wanting to redecorate my apartment!
Between the pressure on publishers and the competing sources of information (and attention), it’s all the more important that we as writers and editors provide meaningful, valuable content to our audience, that we cultivate our authority and expertise, and that we earn readers’ trust when they reward us with their time.
What role do you feel like media plays in the restaurant industry? How has it changed over the years (the good and bad)?
The media plays several roles. There’s service — telling which restaurants to go (or not go) to, whether through reviews, lists, or opening coverage. For businesses built on notoriously thin margins, restaurants’ bottom lines can sometimes be made or broken by media coverage. Ultimately, though, the media’s role is to responsibly serve readers. It’s not PR. The media can also do the work to tell the truth about the industry, whether it’s reporting on the role undocumented immigrants play, the impact of natural disaster on local businesses, or the sexism and classicism embedded in the industry’s most coveted honors. Reporters from Eater, as well as from the food sections of the New York Times and the Times-Picayune have exposed some of the biggest names in the business as sexual harassers. On the one hand, there’s more food writing now than ever; on the other, legacy publishing is in the midst of an existential crisis and things feel more precarious there than ever. Social media — and, to a lesser extent, crowdsourced review platforms — means consumers can get information about restaurants from each other and from the businesses directly. Between the pressure on publishers and the competing sources of information (and attention), it’s all the more important that we as writers and editors provide meaningful, valuable content to our audience, that we cultivate our authority and expertise, and that we earn readers’ trust when they reward us with their time.
My morning coffee now means interacting with a well-made object filled with memories of our visits. The mugs are beautiful and the handles are comfortable. Each mug we purchased at the factory is a “second,” meaning there are small flaws. To me, the flaws make them feel lived in and homey.
Any places (blogs, newsletters, sites, Youtube Channel, Instagram/Pinterest accounts) that you love to look at for inspiration?
I am addicted to podcasts! Some of my favorites:
The philosophy that drives And Comfort is the idea of finding delight in the everyday What’s something that brings you delight or keeps you inspired?
At home we have 10 mugs from Heath Ceramics, a beloved Bay Area company that famously provides plates and bowls for iconic California restaurants like Chez Panisse. We picked up or collection two at a time, adding to it every time we visited the factory and store in Sausalito. We have six large mugs, two Plaza Line modern cups, and two Coup Line studio mugs. My morning coffee now means interacting with a well-made object filled with memories of our visits. The mugs are beautiful and the handles are comfortable. Each mug we purchased at the factory is a “second,” meaning there are small flaws. To me, the flaws make them feel lived in and homey.