Today we’d like to introduce you to Farley Elliott.
Farley, please share your story with us. How did you get to where you are today?
I started at Eater more than four years ago, after freelancing for years at publications all over the city and country. I wrote about things like culture, history, live events, and yes food, but quickly I found that the food and restaurant ecosystem already encompassed all of those things. Once I switched to essentially covering food full-time, I was able to really grow into my skin and develop my own style and voice.
Prior to freelance writing, I spent most of my time working a desk job and moonlighting as a sketch and improv comedian at the Upright Citizens Brigade. It was a fun, meaningful time in my life (most of my friends are still in the comedy world) but I didn’t have the heart for the hard parts of the industry — especially when I was finding, increasingly, that I could get paid money to traverse the city and rave about its tacos and strip mall spots.
I was hired by Eater in 2015 to help grow the site, contributing daily news coverage as well as longer features. The Eater job is, in a lot of ways, about getting to news first, and that means being way more of a true journalist than I ever had before. I started to develop sources, run down leads, and I tried to win everything, all the time. It’s exhilarating to beat the LA Times, say, to a scoop, but it’s also important to know that covering this city is really about being humble, about driving further than you want to and returning time and time again to build trust in those whose story you are telling. Small businesses matter, the suburbs matter, the people here matter in massive ways, and our job is not just to cover the big restaurant groups, because that’s not how all of LA dines.
Definitely agree about the importance of covering the diverse options available throughout the city and not just focusing on the big, flashy names. Alright, so looking back on your career so far, has it been a smooth road?
More than anything, I struggled early on to build a book of reputable sources. I don’t have a journalism background, so it took a lot of time (and money) spent at restaurants, meeting folks, putting on a smile and handing out business cards in order to find my place in the world of breaking news. Now, I push hard to enable the other writers on our staff to do the same thing, to build their own stories and rosters of connections, and to tell stories that affect more and more people across the city. Adding a diversity of voices is not only key to Eater’s success, it’s important for the city as a whole.
Please tell us about Eater Los Angeles. What else should we know?
Eater Los Angeles is a daily online publication that focuses on the restaurant scene of Southern California, from Santa Barbara to Palm Springs to Orange County, though we spend most of our time honing in on LA proper. We break news, we know things before anyone else, and we cover the scene at large with a wide lens and a sometimes skeptical eye.
Mostly, I’m proud of our ability to continue to celebrate the small business owners of Los Angeles, from street food vendors to backyard burger pop-ups and Taiwanese tasting menu spots in West LA strip malls. We have an amazing, and I would say somewhat unique, ability to shine a light on wonderful, often important restaurant operators and individuals in Los Angeles, and to see those people thrive partially as a result. Enabling folks in this city to continue to do their awesome work, just on a more prominent level, is gratifying.
Is our city a good place to do what you do?
Los Angeles is the perfect city for Eater. We have higher-end dining, true fine dining, everyday dining, and street food all in such abundance that a daily coverage publication is not only able to succeed here, it’s needed. What most out of town publications don’t understand is that LA’s sprawl and diversity is its strength, not its weakness.
That being said, the media opportunities can be few and far between in LA. It’s easy to become an influencer or to have a small blog, but someone interested in telling big stories about food and restaurants can do so from whatever small town or region or mid-sized city they’re already in, and they’ll likely get noticed earlier for their efforts.
Wonho Frank Lee