Pull Up A Seat At the Table with Jessica Tom Author of Food Whore: A Novel of Dining and Deceit

Food whore: (n.) a person who will do anything for food.

Jessica Tom’s first novel Food Whore tells the story of grad student Tia Monroe, who has every intention of taking the New York City restaurant scene by storm. But after a coveted internship goes up in smoke, Tia’s suddenly just another food lover in the big city. Everything changes when Michael Saltz, legendary New York Times restaurant critic, lets Tia in on a career-ending secret: he’s lost his sense of taste. Now he wants Tia to serve as his palate, ghostwriting his reviews.

DreamWorks Studios has acquired the rights to the novel and we sat down with Jessica Tom and asked her a few questions:

  1. Food Whore is your first novel. What inspired you to write the book?

There were a variety of factors. First, I was a young woman who moved to NYC and loved eating out (I still eat out…but not as often and I’m not that young). I fantasized about being a restaurant critic and then the story came out of that. How could I get there as a 23-year-old woman? How would it be amazing? How would it suck?

At the same time, a friend told me about two of her college friends. One didn’t have a sense of taste and ate super-spicy textured foods (think fried chicken loaded with Tabasco). This intrigued me. Another one of her friends was a Harvard grad and worked coat check at Eleven Madison Park. That intrigued me, too.

And last, I love chef and food-world memoirs, but sometimes I want more juiciness. So I set out to write a book that had the insider look of a chef memoir, but with an extra dose of drama.

Food Whore Author Jessica Tom

  1. Where does your love of food come from?

My family is obsessed with all things food. My grandfather was a chef for the US Army. My uncle is a chocolatier. Another uncle is an executive chef at a Chinese restaurant. My aunts dabble in everything from mushrooming to raw foodism to DIY foie gras. Everyone in my family loves to eat – that’s a given.

Cooking came along because I’m also a tinkerer at heart. When I taste something, I want to know what’s in it, how it was made, if I can make it but with a twist. As a kid, every Sunday afternoon I’d watch PBS cooking shows with my Dad, and then we’d cook together.

  1. What’s your favorite excerpt from Food Whore? Your favorite character? etc.

My favorite line in the book comes from Tia’s roommate, Emerald. She says, “You think you’re the one who keeps the secret, but really it’s the secret that keeps you.” I don’t want to give too much away, but that’s kind of the linchpin of the story.

My favorite character is Michael Saltz. It’s fun to write a slimy, manipulative character — and later to write of his comeuppance. I’m also partial to Chef Pascal Fox because he and Tia have insane chemistry that’s fun to put on the page.

  1. Share with our readers your writing process. What motivates you to write? Do you have a favorite food you eat while writing?

It helps to have a juicy premise. You’re going to be working on your novel for years, and you need to be regularly inspired and excited about it. I also like to outline and have a gameplan from the beginning. I know some people like to “listen to their characters”, but in my experience, my characters need some gentle guiding — especially if you want a lean, page-turning novel.

As for place/time/favorite slippers… I try not to be too picky. Otherwise I’d never get anything done! I mostly write at home, but I’ve written in various coffee shops all over NYC, cars, boats, trains, planes and various Whole Foods (Tribeca is my favorite). There’s even a scene at Whole Foods, probably because so much of my writing brainpower was expended there.

  1. What has been your favorite culinary experience in NYC?

Almost a decade ago, my boyfriend at the time told me we were going to “Georgio’s.” We got out of the subway and as we approached Trump Tower, I suddenly realized that “Georgio’s” wasn’t a low-key Italian place like I had imagined — it was Jean-Georges. That was my first NYC fine dining experience. Everything was new and thrilling, from the soup poured tableside to the marshmallow petit fours. Over time, I’ve gotten a more spoiled and maybe even jaded — but that first time was magical.

  1. What are you excited about these days in food?

I’m really into veggie-forward menus. Confession: I’m not really into pork belly, duck fat fries, or foie gras burgers. Five years ago, that admission would have lost you cred. I eat meat, but I’m glad the tide has turned towards the less carnivorous.

  1. What are some of your favorite restaurants in NYC? Who are some of your favorite chefs?

On the high-end, I love Jean-Georges and Blue Hill at Stone Barns. In my neighborhood, I like Talde, Tanoreen, Buttermilk Channel, and Lot 2. And to round that out: Cosme, ABC Kitchen, Taim, and Roberta’s.

  1. What’s next?

Right now I’m still working on getting the word out about Food Whore — hosting events, chatting with book clubs, creating content for my site and social media profiles, and doing interviews. I’m also thinking about my second book, which is secret development mode now. But, of course, it’s about food.

Last but not least … Food Whore has a movie deal with DreamWorks!! The announcement just came out last week. Bringing a book to film is a brand-new process to me, but I’m looking forward to the ride (and maybe even angling for a cameo ;))

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About The Author

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Suite & Savory Writer

I believe that even though we may speak different languages and hail from different parts of the world, when it comes to food and the desire to eat, we all speak the same language.