BBC Good Food’s group managing editor Lulu Grimes tells Amrit Virdi about how her passion for food led her to fall in love with journalism
”My life at home was food,” says 56-year-old Lulu Grimes. She never planned to become BBC Good Food’s group managing editor but her natural love of cooking and a culinary upbringing led her to fall into the career. ”There weren’t many food magazines around when I went to university, so I hadn’t really thought about going down that route, or that I’d be working in food.”
After a brief stint as a chef, Lulu worked with Delia Smith at Sainsbury’s magazine, before dabbling in publishing at Murdoch Books in Australia, releasing a series of cookbooks herself. ”If someone’s going to pay you to do something you like doing, you just stay.”
Joining the BBC food family in 2009 for the launch of Olive magazine, Lulu now manages the test kitchen team at BBC Good Food and oversees its print and digital content, as well as Olive’s and Easy Cook’s, and the Good Food app. ”We’re always writing and testing recipes, making video and doing live events. But the media year is very structured.”
At any one time, they’re working on six magazines alongside the website. ”I run the planning meeting and all the teams come. And we talk about what we’re going to do in say, October,” says Lulu.
Her day to day is never boring. ”I like coming up with ideas with the team. Good Food is 34 years old, so we’ve done 34 Christmases, and it’s always interesting to think, ‘what can we do this year?’ You think you’ve had a great idea, then realise you actually did it 15 years ago. But never mind because everyone’s forgotten.”
The pandemic and cost of living crisis means Lulu uses her role to help those struggling, which has been the highlight of her job.
”I would say we probably never worked so hard. We are constantly uploading new information to try and help people. We did a lot of Instagram Live Q&As with people saying, ‘I can’t get this. But how can I make that?’ When we write recipes, we’re always thinking about who’s making it, and we test everything.”
The digital dominance is something which Lulu sees as a challenge. ”When websites get really big, it’s just about having enough hours in the day to produce enough content. That is a constant struggle for everyone.”
ChatGPT and social media have also posed issues for the sector. ”You just almost have to be hyper vigilant now,” says Lulu about the rise of misinformation. ”There’s this huge swathe of information on TikTok about how to make your fruit and vegetables last longer. All of which is bad advice.
”There will always be a place for generating new content that is right from trusted sources. I’m a real person. I know what I’m talking about. I know where to go look things up that aren’t just coming from internet.”
For budding food journalists, Lulu emphasises the importance of work experience and of individuality when pitching. ”What is different about what you do that we don’t do? Also, if you write for websites you need to know how to tag things properly and all the rest of it. In terms of carbon footprint, magazines are not going to be here for necessarily much longer.”