Our Current Team

Phaedra Cook, Editor & Publisher

David Leftwich, Associate Editor

Ellie Sharp, Marketing Manager & Associate Editor

Tori Rock, Social Media Manager

Ryan Kasey Baker, Food & Beverage Writer

Lauren Bebeau, Food & Beverage Writer

Staci Davis, Food & Beverage Writer

Cuc Lam, Food & Beverage Writer

Beth Levine, Food & Beverage Writer


The Big Q&A 

Who We Are
How Is Houston Food Finder Different Than What’s Already Out There?
Just Who Do You Think You Are, Anyway?
Is This A Food Blog?
Do You Have A Print Publication?
Are You Trying To Compete With [Name of Publication Here]?

Join Or Support The Houston Food Finder Team
I Love Your Site. How Can I Help?
How Do I Contact You?
Can I Write For You?
Can I Send You Stuff?
If I Send You Stuff, Will You Write About It?
Will You Come Visit My Bar/Restaurant/Event/Competition/Bar Mitzvah/Hovel?
I’m A Reader. How Do I Know If You’re Writing About Some Place That Gave You Freebies?

Advertise With Us
Our Curated Advertising Policy
Why Do I Want To Advertise With You?
Our Ad-Surance To Readers
This Is All Really Interesting But What If This Concept Doesn’t Work?

How Is Houston Food Finder Different From Other Local Publications? 

Houston Food Finder exclusively focuses on restaurants, bars, dishes, drinks and the people who make them. We offer trustworthy articles, a conscientious advertising policy and a clean, easy-to-read website with big, beautiful photos. Other than our little slide-up box asking you to subscribe to our newsletter and occasional sponsored emails (which often have special deals), Houston Food Finder promises no pop-ups or other weird online tricks that interfere with the reading experience—ever. 

You will never see a bar, restaurant, drink or dish specifically recommended here unless at least one of our writers has tried it, or it’s sponsored content, which is clearly identified with Sponsored at the top. If our writers were invited to visit and try food and beverage “on the house”, we will tell you in the article that we were invited to do so. 

Essentially, we view our readers’ trust as valuable currency that, once lost, is impossible to get back. Simply put, we promise to be open and tell the truth. We also pass on those values to our writers, both through ongoing mentorship and our Writers’ Handbook, which is provided to all new writers.

Houston Food Finder’s History

Houston Food Finder was founded in November 2016 by Phaedra Cook, former restaurant critic and food editor for the Houston Press. Cook was a journalism major with a radio and TV minor at the University of Houston before swapping her major to English. It took, however, several years before she circled back to her original interests. She ran Gecko Media, a graphic design, web design and writing/editing firm, for a decade. In the next decade, she was an independent IT consultant who supported oil and gas firms. A great interest in food and drink led her back to writing. She founded her blog, Houston Food Adventures, in 2010, which led to her first professional writing opportunities, first with the Houston Press, and then with the now-closed My Table magazine. She credits My Table editor and publisher Teresa Byrne-Dodge for her very first print opportunity, and for allowing her to have an article in nearly every print edition of My Table for five years.

In the spring of 2013, Cook received a surprise phone call from acclaimed restaurant critic and author Robb Walsh, and he recruited her as one of the very first food writers for Houstonia magazine — mostly to write restaurant listings, truth be told.

Cook was still contributing articles to the Houston Press, and in 2014, she had the opportunity to be the lead restaurant critic — the first freelancer to have that important role. In January 2016, she took a full-time job as food editor. Under editor-in-chief Margaret Downing, a tremendous mentor who taught Cook important journalism standards and helped her vastly hone her writing skills, Cook and co-author Craig Malisow won the 2016 Houston Press Club Lone Star Award for Best Newspaper Story and a Society of Professional Journalists First Amendment Award.

Over this timeframe, Cook also wrote articles for Weddings in Houston and Edible Houston, and even went outside her usual subject matter to write an article on the Japanese Garden at Hermann Park for the Houston Chronicle.

Cook was a regular guest on food journalist and Houston Restaurant Weeks founder Cleverley Stone’s radio show. After Cook left the Houston Press in June 2016, Stone invited her to come on the show and announce her next project — Houston Food Finder. 

In November 2021, Houston Food Finder celebrated its fifth anniversary in business. Financially, it was an extremely tough road, but these days, the publication is supported thanks to a hybrid model of business sponsors and supporting readers.

Is This A Food Blog?

No. This is a professional publication that adheres to journalistic standards. There are some great blogs out there, but they often aren’t ran by professional writers or cover daily news stories. 

Are You Influencers? 

All of our writers are freelancers with their own personal Instagram feeds, so they might be influencers, but the publication is not. So, you can’t invite us in to try ice cream in exchange for a post on our Instagram feed. Well, you can, but we won’t do it. However, if your information is newsworthy, shoot us an email and we’ll see if one of our writers can visit.

Do You Have A Print Publication?

No. Printing has gotten hella expensive and with most people getting their information from the Internet, it’s hardly worth it. That said, we are considering some special edition publications. We’ll see.

Are You Trying To Compete With [Name of Publication Here]?

Eh. Not really. Houston’s food scene is a giant playpen and there’s room for many different voices, perspectives and types of coverage. We read and enjoy other local publications, and you should, too.

I Love Your Site. How Can I Help?

Wow, thanks for asking! Obviously, we have to make a living doing this. We don’t believe in pay walls or trying to force people to subscribe. That just frustrates people and drives them to get their news from elsewhere.

If you love our content and find it useful, please make a monthly contribution to our Patreon account, even if it’s just five dollars a month. Creative types like us use Patreon to be able to pursue their vocations and still make something like a regular income. It’s different than crowd funding in that it’s ongoing support, not just a one-time fundraiser for a particular project.

Reader support also helps us maintain a conscientious advertising policy, because it gives us an alternate revenue stream. 

How Do I Contact You?

We love hearing from our readers! Email us anytime. Send us questions, complaints, suggestions, fashion advice or pledges of eternal fealty and adoration. We’re not picky. #saymyname

Can I Write For You?

Maybe! Email a letter of interest and, ideally, three writing samples (or links to your online writing samples). We’ll get back to you soon. In the meantime, be thinking of some article pitches in case we like what we see. If you’ve never been professionally published, you still need to send us some kind of writing to look at, even if it’s a business paper or college essay. 

Just as important is your passion for and knowledge of Houston’s food and beverage scene! We’ve had two writers who had no professionally published articles, but they had all the rest and they turned out to be some of our favorites. So you never know. Give it a try.  

Please note that most of our articles are in third person, not first, so if you mostly want to talk about yourself and your opinions, it’s not going to work out. Our articles focus on the subjects, not the writers. We’re also not looking for consumer-level “restaurant critics”. Restaurant criticism is a disciplined craft with rules and standards, and it requires years of experience. 

Can I Send You Stuff?

It depends on the nature of the stuff. Are we talking a press release, a cured ham or a can of whoop ass? Email us at [email protected] and let’s talk. Oh, except for the can of whoop ass. You can just keep that. 

If I Send You Stuff, Will You Write About It?

Maybe, but understand the risk. We appreciate that you think well of us, but we’re not swayed by freebies. People offer us free stuff constantly. We’re totally jaded and we work for the readers. If we hate it, we’re going to tell our readers. On the more positive side, if we love it, you’re in luck, as we’ll tell our readers that, too. 

Email us first and let’s discuss. There’s no sense in sending us something if we have no interest in covering it.

Will You Come To My Bar/Restaurant/Event/Competition/Bar Mitzvah/Dirty Hovel?

Maybe, except for the last one. Ew, gross. Please understand we are really busy people with a lot of demands on our time. We’ll visit if we can, especially the bar mitzvah. Requests for in-person visits or competition judges should be emailed

I’m A Reader. How Do I Know If You’re Writing About Some Place That Gave You Freebies?

You’ll know because we’ll disclose it—every time. That includes media tastings and invitations from restaurants to come in and try something. Writers on assignment for Houston Food Finder are expressly forbidden to ask for freebies. Our readers’ trust is our most important asset.

For critical analysis pieces, like reviews, we’ll do our best to sail under the radar so we get treated like normal paying customers. Here’s some real talk, though: there is no high-profile food writer in this city who’s going to go unnoticed in a popular restaurant for more than 30 minutes — and 10 is more likely. Either you trust the writer, or you don’t. 

Our Curated Advertising Policy

We gratefully accept advertising that is a good match for our audience, which is a great mix of diners and industry insiders. 

We are different from most other publications in that we don’t accept advertising from just anyone who waves money at us. If you ask us about placing an ad, and we’ve never been to your place or experienced your product or services, we’ll want to make a visit first. We want to be reasonably assured that any ad that appears on our web site is of interest to our readers—and something they’ll probably enjoy. That means that we’re going to say “no” to potential advertisers sometimes, even if that means turning away money.

Providing a quality experience to readers is priority number one and we believe the rest will follow if we stay true to that mission. We want our readers to trust us. By extension, this is something our advertisers will benefit from as well. If your ad appears on our site, our loyal readers will already know you’re better than the average bear.

Our promotions team works hard for our sponsors. You’ll get professional writing and good advice from highly experienced people. Also, we’re young, scrappy and hungry. You’ll find our rates are extremely competitive, and we’re also proud to say that we have several regular sponsors who have stayed with us for years — some almost since our inception in 2016.

There are several different rates and ad placement options. We only work on a flat-fee basis; none of this goofy per-click stuff that leads to unpredictable bills. Email and request our Sponsor Guide, which includes rates and website stats. Like you, we’re busy people, so rest assured that asking for our sponsor guide doesn’t mean we’re going to pester you until Eternity. We want to work with people who want to work with us. 

Why Do I Want To Advertise With You?

You mean, other than because we’re awesome? Houston Food Finder has a five-year track record of good, trustworthy content and has been fortunate to find a large audience of people who take her recommendations. Houstonians who are as much into what the city has to offer as we are will see your ad and that’s worth a whole lot.

A minimum one-month commitment includes three hours of complimentary consultation and graphic design services to help you craft an appealing message that will encourage people to actually click that ad and visit your online presence.

Our Ad-Surance To Readers

We will never place advertising in a way that hampers the reading experience: no pop-ups, no boxes to make go away, no ads that suddenly appear out of nowhere in the middle of an article and no videos that play on their own and make unexpected noise.

In return, please pay extra-special attention to our advertisers: more than you might on other web sites. They’re supporting our ability to publish articles, and they respect your reading experience almost as much as we do.  

Disclaimer: Obviously, we can’t guarantee your experience with any advertiser whose ad appears on our web site. However, we think you’ve got a pretty decent shot at having a good time.

What’s Your Theme Song? 

Ah ha! You made it this far, and you shall be rewarded. Please enjoy.