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Coffee Chat with Katlyn Moncada
March 27th, 2024
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In our latest Coffee Chat, we had the privilege of sitting down with Katlyn Moncada, Food Editor at Better Homes & Gardens.

Press Hook: How did you get started as a journalist, especially in food journalism?

Katlyn Moncada: I started my journalism career in my hometown of St. Louis, Missouri. I was working for a smaller, local city magazine and ended up becoming their lead dining blogger. That was my first introduction into food writing: covering the local food scene, getting to know chefs in the city, and trying different cuisines featured on their menus. I just fell in love with it.

I grew up in a Filipino-American household, and I loved watching my grandmothers on both sides of my family cook. One side was country home cooking, and the other side was Filipino cooking. It also branched into my mother’s cooking. I really appreciate getting to gather around the table over good food and have great conversations. That was the highlight of a lot of my childhood memories.

When I got to start writing about the dining scene in St. Louis, it really invigorated me to see how food affects other people and how chefs end up where they are. I loved the stories and that solidified how I wanted to become a food journalist.

PH: Love the family story. Is there a moment that led you to Better Homes and Gardens?

KM: Somewhere in the middle of freelancing and working as a communications assistant for digital platforms for a university, I continued working for food publications on the side. I was approached by a recruiter from Meredith Corp (now Dotdash Meredith) about a job opening for an Associate Food Editor for in their headquarters of Des Moines, Iowa.

I was a little hesitant to take a job in Iowa, but it was an opportunity that really stood out: getting to tell more stories through food and teach people about food. Now I'm about five years in and it's been great! In December of 2022, I made a switch over to the print platform. I am now the Food Editor for the print magazine. Fortunately, since I was already on the digital side, I was able to keep being part of the Better Homes and Gardens brand. I feel lucky that I have the best of both platforms.

PH: What is the biggest difference in the way that you think about curating pieces and selecting content for print vs digital?

KM: Digital is a lot more immediate. In general, we are always trying to think of what's going to perform best for readership now and in the very near future. I’m always looking at what's trending, what ingredients are currently in season, and who is being buzzed about the most. We’re always looking for the current hook and angle that's going to perform best. We use SEO keywords to make sure that we have content that people are actually searching for.

For print, I'm planning at least six months ahead, if not more. It's harder to predict what's going to be trending in a year. It took a while for my brain to be able to function in both places. I'm thinking about what's trending now - “I'd love to write about this ingredient or fruit that's currently seasonal” - but then it's also like “I either save it for next year or I need to find something else for the stories right now”. Sometimes we just anticipate and try to predict what the trends will be, and we hope that we get it right. If not, we'll at least spark some interest in whatever we hope is going to be trending six months down the line!

PH: That’s quite a bit to juggle! Do you see any latest food trends that you hope will sustain over the next few months or year - things that you're seeing both in print and online?

KM: I love seeing the Asian food trend: different authentic Asian cuisines have been trending in such a positive light and people are more interested in trying things that they've never had. Seeing certain flavors like ube, pandan, kimchi, miso - ingredients that are so rooted in Asian cuisine - being used in the traditional ways and new ways.

I think it's about finding food that really resonates with people and has a story behind it. A lot of the fusion that I'm seeing are by people who come from mixed families and bloodlines. They're using that to share new and exciting cuisines and recipes. I think that's my favorite thing that I'm seeing lately.

PH: Love that. Do you have any kind of tips or advice for aspiring food writers and editors?

KM: First, it’s finding a type of cuisine that you can be passionate about, a niche of what you think is most interesting. And then finding the good stories and the good recipes that go with it. Also, immerse yourself in it, try it yourself, and cook it yourself. Even if you're not putting first-person into your writing, at least you have a better understanding. I think that's really important.

You can tell when a writer really loves what they're writing about. If you can give me an emotional reaction to it, that's what I appreciate out of somebody's writing.

PH: Passion can definitely be felt in the way that words are presented. Is there anything upcoming in your career that you can share with us?

KM: I'm always appreciative of new, innovative products and methods. Everybody gets attached to their own ways of doing things, whether that's in the kitchen or not. It’s important to be able to be challenged and learn more. I'm constantly learning new things in all aspects of my job. I don't want to ever be complacent.

When I mentioned products, we launched our first ever Better Homes and Gardens Food Awards. I managed the testing of a couple hundred products that were newly released in the last couple of years. We try to give attention to companies big and small, and I really appreciate the work that goes into trying to launch a product that people will enjoy.

Continually finding new things to put in my pantry is something that I'm looking for, for myself but also for story ideas. That's one of the most fun parts of the job!

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