I’ve known Andrea Weigl since she started writing about food for the News & Observer several years ago. She had covered death penalty issues for several years before then, and I was surprised that the N&O would let a person so green in culinary issues (and someone who really knew almost no one in the industry) take over this position. I quickly realized that Weigl was not only a great writer with a passion for food, but she had more initiative in her left pinkie than most others have in their entire bodies. She is fearless, never hesitating to ask questions or meet people. She immersed herself in the business, even going to culinary school, just so she could be a better food writer. Her piece on the closing of Durham’s Starlu restaurant was a masterful story, garnering a lot of acclaim.
Weigl has continued to write fantastic stories for the N&O, even as the paper, and the print news industry as a whole, is struggling to survive. Writers and editors have left the N&O, many of whom are friends of Weigl. Budget cuts have forced Weigl to share a greater portion of the cost of reporting. It’s a tough world, yet Weigl has found a way to continue to put out a great product. One benefit of the cut-backs is that Weigl started to work more closely with the N&O’s sister publication, The Charlotte Observer, and its food editor, Kathleen Purvis. Purvis is one of the best food writers in the country, and although the two writers knew each other, they didn’t necessarily work together all that frequently.
Well, Weigl, Purvis and the N&O have just won several awards in the prestigious Association of Food Journalists Awards. The awards recognize excellence in reporting and writing in all media, newspaper food section design and content, food illustration and food photography. The AFJ announced the three finalists in several categories, and Weigl is a finalist in two — Best Newspaper Food Coverage for a Paper with a Circulation of 150,000 or Less and Best Newspaper Food Feature for a Paper with a Circulation of 200,000 or Less. To be a finalist in one category is a noteworthy achievement. To be a double finalist in the same year just means you’re a food writing rock star. The placing of each finalist (i.e., first, second, third) will be announced in September at the AFJ’s annual conference, but these folks are already winners. And what’s even more fun about this is that Kathleen Purvis is one of the other nominees in the Food Feature category. I believe both of those stories — Weigl’s “When Chefs Dine” and Purvis’ “Roux the Day” — appeared in the N&O, as the budget cuts have led to a sharing of the talents of these writers in both newspapers. The industry’s loss is our gain.
I’ve written about how lucky we are to have such a good food writer in our area, and this recognition by the AFJ only substantiates that claim. Weigl made a list last year about the top 50 food items/icons in the Triangle. There was a huge omission on that list — Andrea Weigl herself. Congratulations to you and Kathi!
(Image of Weigl courtesy of the N&O)