Q&A with freelance writer Victoria Bouloubasis
Victoria Bouloubasis is a freelance writer based in Durham, N.C. She is on the food and restaurant beat for the Independent Weekly, an alternative newspaper. In this interview, Bouloubasis talks about her interest in food journalism and what inspires her reporting.
Q. How did you get into writing about food? What attracted you to that topic?
A. I find food culture fascinating. And personal narrative always surrounds food.
When you visit a new place, you always ask a taxi cab driver or a clerk at a mini-mart where to go eat. From there, you are led into a bit of their world, which leads to stories upon stories. And food itself involves so many senses and emotions, colors and sounds, that it provides the perfect backdrop for any story.
Q. The Triangle region of North Carolina has a lively restaurant scene. With so much going on, how do you decide what to write about?
A. I only write about restaurants that serve a cuisine that has influenced my palate and has made me knowledgeable about the food.
It wouldn’t make sense for me to write about types of food I haven’t had enough exposure to or a culinary style that I haven’t even attempted to cook. I don’t need to know how to cook it, but I should at least be familiar, in a kinesthetic way, with its process.
That said, yes, we have an incredibly lively restaurant scene … with lively characters and traditions, old and new. We’ll never tire of the vibrant food culture here, in restaurants and beyond, because it is constantly changing and shaping the place we call home.
Q. You have a blog and are active on social media. Why is that important for freelance writers like yourself?
A. My blog is more like a website to showcase my portfolio. It’s a convenient way to shoot a link over to anyone interested in seeing my work.
On the occasion that I do post something original for the blog, it lets me write in a personal essay style, which is a unique writing practice. And it’s fun to share online! I’ve gotten some great sources through Twitter.
Q. You are a graduate of the journalism school at UNC-Chapel Hill. Looking back, what was helpful about that experience, and what are some things you wished you had learned then?
A. Meeting peers in journalism was particularly helpful. I continue to collaborate with fellow JOMC graduates now that we have cultivated ongoing careers as writers, designers, photographers, videographers, etc. UNC gave me a network.
I wish the news-editorial sequence was more comprehensive. I tried to get into a photojournalism class for two or three consecutive semesters and couldn’t because that wasn’t my declared track. From what I hear now, the program provides more options for students.
The courses helped shape my skills as a reporter — sorting through stats, taking the most important bits out of a long meeting and expecting the unexpected during interviews. The constant writing in college makes the crazy schedule of my freelance gigs feel like a breeze.