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Writing About DSM USA's Food Scene Is a 'Dream Come True'

Des Moines Restaurants Food Scene Reporter

November 20, 2017

I will never forget my first visit to Greater Des Moines (DSM) to see my husband, Ed, in October 2011. Growing up on the East Coast, plane travel meant being relatively socially isolated. No one spoke to each other. At the gate in Atlanta for my flight to DSM, I noticed something different. Everyone talked to one another. Complete strangers were genuinely interested in getting to know other people on the flight. I can still remember the conversation I had with the friendly lady next to me.

For the first time in my life, I witnessed a plane full of conversation and laughter, and it started the ball rolling of my falling in love with DSM.

Local Eateries

That week, Ed and I dined around DSM at some great places including El Mariachi, Baru 66, Alba, 801 Chophouse, Tasty Tacos, Lucca, Django and Centro. My goal was to check out the culinary scene and pick where I would like to work. After moving to DSM, I worked at Baru 66 for a year before going back to school.

While working at Baru 66, I met local food writer, Wini Moranville, who became my muse and inspiration. I’ve always been a writer, and I had always wanted to go back to school to finish what I had started two decades before.

My Foodie Journey

DSM is full of educational opportunities, and I set out to gain the academic credentials that would allow me to pursue a career in food writing and food journalism. I enrolled in classes at DMACC in Ankeny. I took six classes — a total of 19 credit hours — during my first semester.

Ed and I married at the end of that semester in the dome of the Greater Des Moines Botanical Garden. Embassy Club catered the bar and Gateway Market provided the food. Vicente Diaz from Let Them Eat Cake in Valley Junction created the most stunning wedding cake two guys could ever ask for.

Before I knew it, I was accepted at Drake University and transferred. I took the ball and ran with it, earning two degrees — one in English and one in magazine journalism. I graduated summa cum laude for both degrees in May 2016. It has been my dream to transform many years as a restaurant professional into a career of writing about the food and beverage industry.

During my time at Drake, I kept my finger on the pulse of the dining scene of DSM through social media, Wini Moranville’s stories and The Des Moines Register’s Datebook Diner and Iowa Life sections. I honed my skills through the various campus publications covering local and regional food with hopes of breaking into local food writing.

Never in a million years did I think I would land the job as food and dining reporter for The Des Moines Register. It’s a dream come true. This job has allowed me to learn about the culinary scene of DSM in ways I never dreamed of before. I am humbled and honored to cover such a vibrant and burgeoning beat. In the nine short months that I have been in this role, I have discovered new and wonderful restaurants and have met and written about many amazing people who make food happen here. This includes not just restaurants, but vendors, catering companies, private chefs and venues, farmers, producers and suppliers.

Local Culinary Talent

DSM’s culinary talent rivals that of any major city. We have several advantages here. Many of our chefs are on board with sourcing locally, and nothing is better than fresh Iowa produce in the height of the summer. Our farmers’ markets are proof of that. DSM is not only drawing experienced chefs from around the world to our city, but local talent can work their way up through the ranks while working with local ingredients using international flavors and techniques. The cost of living makes it feasible for chefs and food entrepreneurs to experiment with flavor fusions and new concepts.

I’m excited to see where the road takes us all in this journey of culinary creativity. It is truly spectacular to tell the story of how a chef has overcome hardship and is working diligently to build an award-winning kitchen; to describe how a bartender has transformed the cocktail scene of Downtown DSM; and write about a husband-and-wife who started selling barbecue from their driveway and is now creating a local barbecue empire.

Food has a way of telling stories and creating memories. I am thrilled to be a part of that here in DSM, the only city that has ever felt like home for me. It’s just a matter of time before DSM has a James Beard Award winner and a Michelin star. And I want to be there to write about it.

Greater Des Moines (DSM) is full of foodie flavor. With Iowa’s agricultural roots, DSM offers a unique taste of place with farm-to-table eats, locally-owned and unique-to-Des Moines restaurants, craft breweries and local wineries with perfect pairings for any craving. Click to learn more.

Brian Taylor Carlson

Brian Taylor Carlson moved to Des Moines in 2011 from Key West, Florida, and is a native of Maryland. He worked in the restaurant industry for 25 years, working his way up through the ranks as a cook, server, bartender and manager. The 2016 Drake University grad lives in Johnston and covers the food and dining scene for The Des Moines Register.