Claire Tansey – Food Editor, Chatelaine
After a long day at work not everyone looks forward to jumping in the kitchen and cooking up a meal. Claire Tansey, the new food editor for Chatelaine, hopes to show more people how to enjoy this simple delight in life while balancing a hectic schedule.
“We’re really looking to provide everyday solutions and pleasures to ordinary Canadian women,” Tansey explained. “[The goal] is to develop food pages that people will find inspiring and also accessible, so that they will take pleasure in looking at one of our recipes, buying the groceries and making it for themselves and their family.”
Tansey joined the staff in February 2010 and is looking forward, she said, to encouraging people to cook for themselves in “an easy and effortless” way.
“I’m one of those people that grew up in a family that ate dinner together every single night and you weren’t allowed to miss it,” she said. “I think it’s one of the daily pleasures that you can actually look forward to as a perk instead of a chore.”
Being a food editor combines Tansey’s love for food and cooking with her passion for writing. While earning an undergraduate degree in theater she worked in small restaurants and completed an apprenticeship in a restaurant shortly after graduation.
“I knew that I loved food and I wanted food to be in my [career] life somehow,” she said. “But working in a restaurant is actually kind of boring [for me] in the end. I knew I wanted to incorporate writing and research, and all that kind of creativity and intellectual activity into my food work.”
She went on to get her master’s degree in literature and freelanced wherever she could while simultaneously working as a chef or in catering. She eventually started freelancing for Toronto Life and ended up getting a real break into journalism as the food editor for Canadian House & Home, her position prior to joining Chatelaine.
Becoming a part of Chatelaine – one of Canada’s most prominent women’s magazines – gave Tansey the opportunity to not only tap into a larger audience, but also the chance to develop and test recipes.
“Here I run a kitchen and I feel like I’m really contributing on a bigger scale to the way food interacts with the lives of Canadians,” she said. “I cook and work with food on a daily basis, as well as plan concepts for the magazine, develop new pages, and actually get in there and edit and design. It’s a really wonderful combination of tasks over the course of a day.”
She is also thrilled about the publication’s redesign – debuting with the June 2010 issue – and the expansion of their digital platform, which means an increased amount of food coverage and accessibility online. This also means integrating more social media, something Tansey has already dabbled in.
“One of the ways I’ve always used social media is looking for everyday people’s responses to food ideas,” she said. ”I’ll often throw a question out to my followers and friends [asking, for example] what would you think about spending 45 minutes in the kitchen making dinner? You get a sense of what people are like when they’re at home. It’s a way to interact and connect with readers.”
Connecting with the audience also translates into expanding the community they have with their readers and incorporating more feedback into the print and online pages.
“One of the most important things I learned at House & Home was about how much readers can really love to entertain and cook,” she said. “You learn all kinds of tricks in the restaurant business on how to do things faster so I try to incorporate that, and at the same time while working in magazines you learn what people want. So I’m trying to combine those two things here.”
Tansey reminds PR professionals that Chatelaine’s focus is mainly on Canadian issues, products and local Canadian stories. They don’t have a lot of room for any European or U.S. based stories unless they have some kind of connection to Canada.
Topics that will catch her attention include weekday cooking, easy weekend entertaining, sustainability in food, and sometimes wine and spirits.
She emphasized that they do not take any recipes. “Because we have a huge test kitchen, we develop everything ourselves here,” she said.
One of her pet peeves is publicists that send pitches without knowledge of the magazine’s coverage.
“I would love it if people had a sense of our magazine before they pitch us,” she said.
Tansey prefers that some kind of hard copy be sent to her in the mail for whatever item is being pitched. She’ll actually respond to hard copy mail faster than e-mail.
“If it’s actually food product related we [always] prefer to have the items [mailed] to us,” she said.
This is so that they can see, touch or taste the product, to get a real feel for it.
Before sending in a pitch via mail, Tansey advises that PR professionals either introduce the item or idea via e-mail or use e-mail as a follow up after a pitch has been mailed. Please do not send large e-mail attachments as they clog up her inbox.
Tansey also prefers to avoid any phone call pitches and unfortunately, she said, she doesn’t have enough time to get back to all the pitches received.
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