Lady Who Lunches
Heather King takes her writing skills to the table
by Jacqueline Dobbins (’16)
Westminster graduate Heather King (’97) didn’t always have a passion for food, but a series of coincidental events drew her to the world of food criticism. She’s made a name for herself reviewing restaurants for The Salt Lake Tribune, Devour Utah, Examiner, and The Utah Review. If you watch her in action, it’s not hard to see why.
How did you end up as a food critic?
It was kind of luck of the draw. I completed my undergraduate degree at Westminster, and one of my adjunct professors happened to be an editor at Salt Lake magazine. He liked my writing and asked if I wanted to be an intern. I worked as an intern for a while, and as soon as I graduated, he hired me full-time. I was the low woman on the totem pole, managing the dining guide and writing filler pieces about food—a job no one else wanted to do. Fast forward 10 years, and I hadn’t been writing about food in a long time. I missed it, so I started my own blog to review restaurants. I met Kathy Stephenson, the food writer at The Salt Lake Tribune, through Ladies Who Lunch. About a year later, Kathy asked if I wanted to apply to be The Tribune’s restaurant critic. It was happenstance, in a way.
What is Ladies Who Lunch?
It’s a group that was formed thanks to Twitter. A friend and I wanted to promote downtown Salt Lake restaurants, so we created a hashtag and set up Ladies Who Lunch. Now, I’m on my 63rd lunch; we’ve been doing it for almost five years. It’s grown to four chapters across the Wasatch Front. The only rule is that you have to be a woman. I’ve met so many incredible women at our lunches. In fact, my best friends now are women I met through Ladies Who Lunch.
What does being a food critic entail?
It’s pretty simple actually. There are a number of rules that I follow: I eat at a restaurant at least twice—if they serve three meals, then it’s best that I go three times to try each meal. I visit at different times during the week, like say a weekend and a weekday. I go with different-sized groups to get different experiences. I pay in cash and can’t make reservations in my name. I want to have the most average customer experience, so I stay anonymous. Overall, it’s pretty easy: I eat, and then I write about it.
What sets you apart in the age where everyone’s a critic?
I love to cook, so I try to look at the science behind preparing dishes. I’m not a trained chef, but I worked in restaurants throughout college, so I’m familiar with how they work. I try to be an expert in my field and won’t hesitate to research a cuisine I’m not familiar with. I think my background, my research, and the rules I follow set me apart from the everyday Instagram foodie.
Did you always have a passion for food?
My mom is a terrible, terrible cook—she’d be the first person to agree. So I wasn’t really into food until I started working at a restaurant in college. Then I fell in love with cooking and eating great food.
What are some interesting reviewing experiences you’ve had?
One of my recent reviews for The Tribune got me banned from a restaurant. That was a new one for me. It wasn’t even the meanest review I’ve written, but apparently the owner didn’t take it well. There are also restaurants watching for me. Two restaurants have my picture in the kitchen, and one has it hanging in their drive-through window. Another restaurant had my picture next to the cash register. The quest for anonymity is hard.
Graduated: BA communication and English ’97
Articles each month: 14
Times eating out each week: 15
Restaurants she loves: Feldman’s Deli, Chabaar Beyond Thai
Favorite cuisine: To cook—Italian, to eat out—Greek or Thai
Day job: Social media and community engagement manager for an engineering firm
Follow Heather: Instagram: @SLCLUNCHES, Twitter: @SLCLUNCHES, Blog: utahladieswholunch.blogspot.com
About the Westminster Review
The Westminster Review is Westminster College’s bi-annual alumni magazine that is distributed to alumni and community members. Each issue aims to keep alumni updated on campus current events and highlights the accomplishments of current students, professors, and Westminster alum.