Foodie Farewell

MLT’s seasoned food critic, Dawn E. Warden, says goodbye.

Well, today is the day—the final cutting of the string that has kept me tethered to all the fine people at Today Media, Inc. and, more specifically, Main Line Today.

It has been an incredibly gratifying run. One of my first pieces was on Peter’s Place, an organization devoted to helping grieving families deal with the death of a family member, and another was about children with learning disabilities in which I talked about my daughter, Rachael, for the September 2003 issue. Before I knew it, then-editor Mark Nardone was assigning me several stories—and I was a sponge for information about, well, anything.

By the time spring rolled around, I was assistant editor, working part time on the Frontline section, plus features and departments. The story that had the greatest impact on me was in the January 2005 issue: “Person of the Year,” which spotlighted Alex Scott, the wonderful little girl behind Alex’s Lemonade Stand Foundation. As the parent of a special needs child, I felt it was my destiny to spend time with her parents, Liz and Jay, and learn from their experience and, more importantly, their strength and resilience. When you start asking the question, “How do they do it?” you have no choice but to be inspired.

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There were so many great writing moments—and as many frustrating ones. But between 2003 and 2010, I amassed a formidable collection of “blurbs,” features, Q&As, “packages” and web exclusives. I am proud of most of them; I say “most” because, occasionally, I couldn’t track down a particular source in time or at all, and there wasn’t always enough time to stay with a story as long as I wanted to. (Luckily, that’s what editors are for!)

But what most of you know me for is my GINORMOUS appetite for food and drink—which I so fortunately parlayed into becoming Food & Drink editor. There are countless memorable moments for me in this department, including those spent getting to know Jose Garces, Alison Barshak, Georges Perrier, Susanna Foo, Aimee Olexy, John Brandt-Lee, Clark Gilbert, Sean Weinberg, Patrick and Terence Feury, Abde Dahrouch, Andrew Deery, Matt Levin, Nick Farina, Guillermo Pernot, Carlo deMarco, Martin Gagne, Michèle Haines and more. Not to mention getting to eat lots of interesting food.

Everyone always thinks it’s about the free meals and the critiquing but, for me, it has always been about the people I meet. Getting to know the chefs on a personal level is always the greater intrigue. And, though I take the critiquing part seriously, I don’t fancy myself a Craig LaBan, nor do I really want to have that kind of power to make or break a hardworking restaurateur. If anything, I’d rather get behind the line with all of the chefs mentioned above and learn their secrets, family history, and the ups and downs of the cooking life. Even better, I’d like to sip on a cocktail or a glass of wine with them and just enjoy a good meal, prepared by both of us—as my favorite thing on the planet to do is cook (and I am not shy to say that I’m pretty darn good at it, for an amateur anyway).

Writing, well, that comes harder to me. But I am a woman with a lot of curiosity, and being a reporter/editor has certainly allowed me to “feed my head.” I have met so many interesting people, many of them women who are doing amazing things and inspire me to grow. And, though I never planned to jump into the public relations world, that’s where I’ve landed. You may have heard: The Whole Enchilada PR. It’s a whole new ball game, yet one that my position at Main Line Today prepared me for very well. I am excited to be learning about people, businesses and life from a completely new perspective—and just a tad relieved that my days won’t be as much about deadlines.

I’m not giving up writing, though. Currently, I am apprenticing with author Rachel Simon. Again, I owe it to Main Line Today. Though I looked Simon up on my own, I made a connection by asking her to do the 60 Seconds column for the June 2009 issue. It laid the groundwork for both a friendship and a remarkable opportunity.

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My editor surely would have “cut” 200-plus words ago, so I’ll wrap this up. I will miss most two things: hearing someone tell me they were inspired by something I wrote or learned something new, and my buddy Tara Behan, MLT’s senior editor who more than anyone knows the pain of being on deadline, having writer’s block, not getting calls back from sources—all the frustrations of trying to take an idea or a topic and make it meaningful and understandable.

Thank you, Main Line Today.

Our Best of the Main Line & Western Suburbs Party is July 25!