Free Times is pleased to announce that David Clarey has been hired as the publication’s second staff writer. He will primarily report on the Columbia area’s food and drink scene, though he will also help with coverage of local government and other news projects.
Clarey will work closely with Free Times’ established rotation of food and drink freelance writers, helping to coordinate that section of the paper and enhancing our ability to report quickly on developments in the culinary scene while continuing to deliver more in-depth features.
A graduate of the University of Minnesota, where he received a degree in journalism, Clarey joins Free Times after a year spent reporting on local education and county government for Minnesota’s Rivertown Multimedia. He previously held internships at the Minneapolis / St. Paul Business Journal, where part of his duties included reporting on the Twin Cities’ food scene, and the Minnesota-based alternative weekly City Pages. He was also an investigative intern for American Public Media Reports.
He explains that his family history helped pushed toward food writing.
“My family ran several restaurants growing up, and continues to manage and cook at one in my home state of South Dakota,” Clarey says. “Growing up, my mother would often take us to adventurous restaurants — or the versions of them that exist in South Dakota and surrounding states — on vacations and I remember being really intrigued by those stops.
“That’s something that’s carried on for me as I’ve grown older. From the varying ideas that can be manifested in food to the societal issues that can intersect with food, I find so much of it exciting. I’m particularly interested in the people and the stories behind a restaurant and its dishes, along with exploring what food means to everyday people.”
He’s eager to dig into coverage of the Midlands’ expanding food and drink offerings — and to bring a fresh perspective.
“The food scene seems to be vibrant and understands Columbia,” he observes. “It has a mix of mainstay restaurants and newer restaurants trying adventurous things, and they’re across a wide swath of price points that never veer into steep prices I’ve seen in other cities. All of the food I’ve tried so far — The War Mouth, Motor Supply and a few others — has been very good as well and fun to explore.
“The drink scene seems bustling, too. I’ve been impressed with the brewery options in town, along with several other businesses that cater to differing nightlife styles — from rooftop bars to dim-lit wine bars.”
Beyond keeping readers up to date on openings and closings, Clarey wants to write about the infrastructure that makes locally owned concepts possible, and to illuminate the cultures that feed into their cuisine — and are fed by it in return.
“I’m excited to get my finger on the pulse of the food and drink scene in Columbia and beginning to tell the important stories out there,” he enthuses. “I really envision my coverage exploring and interrogating Columbia’s food scene. I mean that in a way beyond just restaurants and bars, too. I’m looking forward to exploring where the city’s food comes from and what its future might look like.”
Besides “escaping Minnesota and the Midwest’s bitter cold winters,” Clarey says he was motivated to join the paper after meeting the staff.
“[They] have a strong understanding of Free Times’ role in covering Columbia,” he offers, “and have a clear vision for what it wants out of the food section.”