The City Stuff is a national publication dedicated to reporting on, telling stories about, and critically examining the world of food and drink, with a particular focus on restaurants. We are actively seeking pitches from journalists, writers, academics, filmmakers, and other contributors of all backgrounds, especially those whose voices are often underrepresented in media. Food and restaurants are among the most dynamic and powerful lenses for storytelling, and we particularly enjoy hearing from writers whose interests, experiences, and areas of expertise originate outside of the food world.
All accepted stories go through a collaborative editorial process, and all are paid at competitive rates. We receive a lot of pitches and try very hard to respond to all of them; if you don’t hear back from someone within a few weeks, please nudge us or resubmit.
WHAT WE’RE LOOKING FOR
We encourage anyone interested in working with The City Stuff to spend some time reading our reports and longform archives to familiarize themselves with the sort of freelance stories we run. Universally, the most successful pitches are those with thoughtful initial reporting, strong framing, and deep insight. We’re primarily interested in reported stories rather than personal narratives, though we welcome reporting in which the writer is present, or that is informed by personal experience and insight. We are most excited by stories where food and restaurants intersect with, illuminate, or are illuminated by other subjects: business, technology, history, science, politics, society, activism, identity, the arts, pop culture, etc. All stories on The City Stuff should be scoped to a national audience.
WHAT WE’RE NOT LOOKING FOR
We cannot possibly overemphasize that we do not cover recipes and home cooking at all. (Sorry.)
Other things we’re not very interested in: Stories about health, wellness, or diets; chronicles of quirky food experiences and festivals; I-only-ate-[whatever]-for-a-month stunts; linear travelogues; and stories that lack a significant narrative hook or meaningful cultural resonance. We’re not opposed to humor writing, but true humor is rare; we encourage you to get the unvarnished opinions of several independent parties before submitting something you believe to be funny.
HOW TO PITCH STORIES TO The City Stuff
Across the board, we’re looking for pitches that give a clear, concise summary of the subject, angle, or thesis of the proposed piece, and your anticipated story structure. We’re looking for pitches that contain answers, not questions. (Or, if you don’t have answers yet, an explanation of why you don’t — and the reason shouldn’t be “I haven’t started the reporting.”) Your pitch should also serve as an example of your writing style and tone.
All submissions should include a very short explanation of who you are and why you’re qualified to cover this story (or this beat), along with links to previously published pieces and/or your online portfolio.
Depending on the length, depth, and topic of your story, it might fall into one of a few departments at The City Stuff. Please read the guidelines below and submit your pitch accordingly:
The City Stuff’s reports section uses original reporting to inform readers about the things they obsess over: food, restaurants, and most crucially, why food and restaurants matter. Generally speaking, these stories are 1,800 words or less — tight enough to be a well-paced read, but rich enough to leave the reader well-armed for dinner party conversation — and are usually assigned with a lead time of a few days to two weeks.
A successful pitch not only identifies a trend/interesting subject, but makes an argument for its place in historical and cultural context. This might include brief histories about regional, obscure, or deeply beloved food items (from ployes in Maine to Choco Tacos), dives into restaurant ephemera (like the tiny piece of plastic that arrives on top of your delivery pizza), and strange cultural phenomena (like people who collect vintage cereal boxes). We’re also interested in stories pegged to current events and breaking news (like how the Rio Olympics changed the city’s iconic beach food culture and how restaurants navigate political controversy), explorations of trends in restaurant operations, and generally examining why things are the way they are. These stories do not necessarily have to contain a complete narrative arc, but we ask that your pitch does offer a conclusion or a forward-thinking statement.
TO SUBMIT: Send your thoughtful, tightly focused pitch at email@example.com.
Vivid and original magazine-style reported narratives are the bread and butter of The City Stuff’s features department. A feature story should support a length of at least 2,500 words, or its multimedia equivalent. (The average assignment length for Eater features is 3,500-4,000 words.) These stories often require extensive research and reporting, occasionally including travel, and are usually assigned with a lead time of one to two months.
Our take on food culture is broad, curious, skeptical, and equally hospitable to the serious and the absurd. A small selection of stories that we’re proud of include a profile of a restaurant owner and how her establishment embodies the strange cultural relationship between New York and Los Angeles, an on-the-ground reported story of the women-run restaurant economy in the world’s largest refugee camp, a deep essay explaining the cultural resonance and historical roots of Black Americans carrying hot sauce with them, a piece on the global history of foie gras and the Georgia farmer trying to produce it humanely, and a multimedia obituary marking the closing of the most influential restaurant in New York City.
TO SUBMIT: Send your well-researched and clearly presented pitch to firstname.lastname@example.org.
The City Stuff is now accepting pitches for video content from freelance filmmakers and video producers with experience in storytelling and working in a collaborative environment. Ideal pitches contain strong storylines and deep insight backed by an authoritative food voice. We are not looking for professional or home cooking recipe-based cooking shows, and we’re more likely to green light one-off/feature content, as opposed to pitches for hosted/series-based content. All videos will have to work across multiple platforms including YouTube and Facebook.
TO SUBMIT: Please send your video pitch along with links to previous work to email@example.com.
Voices is The City Stuff’s op-ed and first-person section, where writers discuss broad topics through the lens of their personal experiences. If you have a compelling perspective on an issue relevant to the food world (or on a general issue, with a food-world angle), we want to hear from you! Examples of successful The City Stuff Voices columns include a North Carolina chef on how HB2 affected her business, a queer writer on how a bar successfully handled another patron’s harassment of her, and a celebrity chef on how he feels as an immigrant in Trump’s America. We’re interested in featuring a wide range of perspectives, from writers of all backgrounds and experience levels. If you’re a non-writer with an important story to tell, we’re happy to work closely with you to help turn your story into a piece.
TO SUBMIT: Please send a paragraph or two explaining what topic you’d like to discuss, your position on the topic, why you’re qualified to write about it, and a clear rundown of the points of your argument to firstname.lastname@example.org.
In general, travel pitches should conform to the above story guidelines, rather than being conceived of as pitches for a separate “travel” site or section. That said, we’re most interested in pieces and perspectives from locals and natives — we’re generally not interested in parachute journalism, and especially not stories reported during one’s vacation.
TO SUBMIT: Send your pitch to email@example.com.
As part of The City Stuff’s commitment to covering dining in a way that is service-oriented, informative, and delightful, our shopping content focuses on dining and kitchen products that readers can buy. Shopping stories can include product roundups of a specific item, from wine glasses to steak knives, sourced by chefs and other industry experts; and reported explainers on a specific product, like a certain controversial knife at a popular restaurant.
We’re also seeking short spotlights on a single distinctive item for our Buy This Thing column — either a product found in a restaurant/dining space that you personally vouch for, or a kitchen or dining item that a chef swears by — that everyone should know about. These stories are best when they’re personal and obsessive; they typically run 250 to 400 words in length.
Above all, The City Stuff shopping stories should be rooted in discovery and service; and they must always provide shoppable links for readers to bring the items discussed into their own homes.
TO SUBMIT: Send your pitch to firstname.lastname@example.org.
If you’re interested in pitching a story that doesn’t fit into one of the above categories and you’re sure that it definitely isn’t something from our What We’re Not Looking For section above, send a brief query to email@example.com. If we’re interested, we’ll ask to hear more.