The St. Petersburg Times' Taste section earned two second-place awards last week at the annual Association of Food Journalists conference in Santa Fe, N.M.
Food and travel editor Janet K. Keeler accepted the awards for Best Newspaper Food Coverage and Best Newspaper Special Food Project. The Sun Sentinel of Fort Lauderdale was first for food coverage. That coveted award came in the 250,001 circulation category, which includes the nation's largest newspapers. Florida was well represented, taking the top two spots. The Kansas City Star came in third. USA Today took first place in the food project category.
The Times has won for best newspaper food coverage twice, in 2001 and 2003.
The award for best food coverage included three sections from 2009, two from dates selected by AFJ and the other a wild card chosen by the contestant.
Centerpiece features from the Times' winning entries included "The nearly perfect food, Vietnamese Banh Mi" (July 29, 2009), written by then food critic Laura Reiley, about the popularity of the classic Vietnamese sandwich in Tampa Bay area community; "The Real Julie & Julia" (Aug. 5, 2009), written by Keeler, about the revolution of food blogs, sparked by the movie Julie & Julia; and "Wishbone U. Class of 2009" (Nov. 18, 2009), the fifth annual Times special project coordinated and written by Keeler. A baker's dozen of challenged cooks in the bay area learn to prepare a Thanksgiving feast with instruction by chefs from Publix's Apron's Cooking School.
AFJ judges praised the Taste section for its graphics and design with "content to back it up."
"Love the Taster's Choice, but seriously love the Stir Crazy feature, which should be the standard for tight, good writing that doesn't scrimp on useful information. You pack a lot in your section . . . features, food, recipes (love the difficulty ratings), wine, events, celebs, restaurants — all with a fun flair that isn't forced and is still informative," the judges said.
Times designers Terry Chapman and Jennifer DeCamp; Patty Yablonski and Scott Keeler of the photo staff; and food critic Jim Webster are among the team of people who produced the winning sections. The award for special food project recognized "Kids in the Kitchen" (March 25, 2009), a section devoted to stories about Tampa Bay area teen chefs, younger kids learning to cook, a high school cooking club, teaching youngsters healthful eating habits and a restaurant review written by youngsters, with stories by Keeler, Reiley and reporter Sharon Kennedy Wynne. Nikki Life was the section designer.
"This section offers insight into where and how young people can be educated at various sites, including home kitchens, schools and at cooking camps and clubs," said the judges. "The section also successfully references tips for improving skills, tried-and-true recipes and encourages youthful cooks to learn via professional chefs on the Food Network."
The AFJ, a professional journalism association now in its 36th year, presents awards in recognition of excellence in reporting and writing in all media, newspaper food section design and content, food illustration and food photography.
For a complete list of winners, go to afjonline.com.