Susan Puckett is a food writer and editor who has authored or collaborated on many books. A native of Jackson, Mississippi, she was the food editor for The Atlanta Journal-Constitution for nearly 19 years before leaving in 2008 to pursue independent projects. Her forte throughout her career has been finding and telling food stories with a sense of place.
At her first newspaper job fresh out of the Ole Miss journalism school, she wrote stories about working gristmills, cushaw melons, molasses-making and other fading food traditions around the state. The paper compiled those pieces in a book, A Cook’s Tour of Mississippi, with an introduction by famed Mississippi writer Willie Morris.
It was this experience that led her to study food in-depth at Iowa State University, where she wrote her second book, A Cook’s Tour of Iowa. Noted American regional food writers Jane and Michael Stern praised it as “an account of the way Americans really eat…a rarity within gastronomic literature.”
Since then, Susan has written about food for numerous newspapers and magazines around the country, including The (Cleveland, OH) Plain Dealer, The South Florida Sun-Sentinel, The Philadelphia Inquirer, National Geographic Traveler, The Local Palate, Saveur, Country Living, and Restaurants & Institutions, and Atlanta magazine.
While at the Atlanta Journal-Constitution, she and her staff garnered dozens of awards for writing and editing from the James Beard Foundation and the Association of Food Journalists. She wrote or co-wrote three books inspired by newspaper features she wrote or edited — The Ultimate Barbecue Sauce Cookbook, Dips, and The 5:30 Challenge — and was general editor of The South The Beautiful Cookbook. In 2008, Susan was named one of five newspaper food editors recognized by Saveur magazine in their annual top 100 tribute to food-related people, places and things.
After leaving the paper, she traveled extensively through the Mississippi Delta to explore its unique foodways, and produced a travelogue with recipes called Eat Drink Delta: A Hungry Traveler’s Journey Through the Soul of the South. In 2014, the Georgia Center for the Book named it one of “Ten Books All Georgians Should Read.”
She also co-authored Citizen Farmers with Daron “Farmer D” Joffe, which won the top award in the Food Matters category in the 2015 International Association of Culinary Professionals’ cookbook awards competition. She coached Steven Satterfield on writing his book, Root to Leaf, which was released in March 2015.
Exploring local food traditions is the most pleasurable way to know to learn about a place and its people. It can also raise tough questions you may never have thought to ask.
In January 2013, Susan returned to her alma mater, Ole Miss, to co-teach a depth reporting journalism class with former Miami Herald magazine editor Bill Rose at the Meek School of Journalism and New Media. The Delta Project course took students into the Mississippi Delta over spring break to report on attempts to use local foodways — from hot tamales to haute cuisine– to boost the local economy and slow the steady exodus from one of America’s most depressed regions.
The students’ stories and photographs were presented in a magazine published in the spring of 2013: Land of Plenty: Will Food Save the Delta or Be Its Death? The magazine was named Best Student Magazine in the country in the 2014 Society of Professional Journalists’ national awards competition, and is now available on IPad.
Susan lives in Decatur, Georgia, with her journalist husband, Ralph Ellis, and their sweet, snaggle-toothed rescued greyhound, Laney. She writes a monthly food feature for Atlanta magazine and contributes to other publications.
She is a member of the Southern Foodways Alliance, the International Association of Culinary Professionals, the James Beard Foundation and the Association of Food Journalists.
She is on the planning committee for the Decatur Book Festival and speaks at a variety of events, including the Southern Food Writing Conference, International Association of Culinary Professionals Conference, and the Delta Tamale Festival.
She is collaborating with Eddie Hernandez, executive chef of Taqueria del Sol restaurants, on a cookbook to be published by Houghton-Mifflin-Harcourt, and working with other food professionals on their literary projects.
Susan’s Posts from Atlanta Magazine
Susan writes a monthly feature for Atlanta magazine about chefs and the techniques they are known for, and translates their recipes for the home kitchen. . She also collaborates with chefs and food professionals on their book projects.