Keith Pandolfi is an award-winning food journalist who began his career in Cincinnati writing for an alt-news weekly paper. After more than twenty years building his writing career in places like New Orleans and New York City, he recently migrated back to Cincinnati where he says it’s a great place to eat, to drink, and to call home.
Pandolfi has always considered Cincinnati his hometown. He was born in Massachusetts, but he moved to Anderson Township when he was 9. After graduating from Ohio University in 1993, he came back in Cincinnati, landing in Clifton’s gaslight district.
Thinking he might pursue a career in teaching, he enrolled in a graduate program in English at Xavier University. But, what Pandolfi really wanted to do was write. He took an internship at Everybody’s News, an alternative weekly newspaper, and found that the scene was the perfect place to learn the craft.
A close family friend suggested he move down to New Orleans. This friend had worked for the Associated Press and said he would connect Pandolfi with some freelance writing opportunities.
For those first two years in New Orleans, he wrote for all the local publications — business weeklies, alt-weeklies, and monthly magazines. But he left New Orleans when he was offered a full-time editorial job at Dayton’s alt-weekly paper. After a year and half working in Dayton (and living in Cincinnati), he moved back to New Orleans to take a job as a business reporter. He lived there for two more years.
While in New Orleans, Pandolfi began writing for a trade magazine headquartered in New York. In 2003, an opportunity opened up for a full-time job at their New York City office and he felt like he couldn’t turn it down.
Getting a writing job in New York City, he says, was like being accepted into Harvard. He knew it would be a great place to further establish his career. So he took the leap and moved.
Things changed quickly. That trade publication was sold and Pandolfi ended up writing for a theater magazine, “which I knew nothing about,” he says.
Pandolfi enrolled in a class called Writing for Men’s Magazines, thinking he’d land a job somewhere like GQ or Esquire, both of which published excellent writing and paid well. But the teacher of the class, who worked for the magazine This Old House, offered him a job working with him instead.
He took the job in 2005 and it held steady through the 2008 economic recession. He remembers other publications laying people off at every juncture, but his job was secure. He counted his blessings and stayed put. Then, in 2012, a colleague at This Old House left for a job at the gourmet food and travel magazine Saveur and, soon after, he went, too.
In 2013, he was hired on full-time as the senior editor of Saveur. In 2015, he transitioned into a job as features editor with Serious Eats. In the last few years, he has done primarily freelance work and has been working on his food memoir.
Pandolfi loved living in New York City but, after sixteen years, marriage, and the birth of a daughter, it was time to move on. The cost of living alone was prohibitive. Leaving when they did was a preemptive move for the day when New York wouldn’t seem so practical. And he says he never intended to stay forever anyway.
With a stable freelance career and his wife’s job with a podcast company owned by Scripps (which is conveniently headquartered in downtown Cincinnati), the timing seemed right to move closer to home. So his family moved back to Cincinnati in summer of 2019.
Part of Pandolfi’s dream for this next phase of his career is to help expand representation of Cincinnati’s local and regional culinary talent and culture. And he’d like to help foster the local writing community to continue to represent Cincinnati well. He intends to keep telling its story.
LOCATION: HALL OF MIRRORS
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