Q&A: Alive editor Kristen Schmidt

Staff Writer
Columbus Alive

The first time she visited Columbus, it took Kristen Schmidt about 30 hours to find her way to Jeni's at the North Market. It only took that long because we insisted on keeping her in job interviews for a day and a half, but she certainly wasn't going to leave town without enjoying some of our favorite ice cream.

That was pretty telling: Kristen is already passionate about her new home, and she's determined to help Alive readers get the most out of life in Columbus.

She moved here from Chicago, where she spent a decade as a reporter and editor for several suburban dailies. Before that she worked for a couple of years at papers in Maryland (fondest memory: fresh blue crab).

Last year Kristen took a break between editing gigs to go to culinary school, and she discovered that restaurant kitchens and newsrooms have a lot in common.

"We depend on each other here, like you depend on your fellow cooks in many ways," she said. "You're telling a story, with a dish or an article. And if you do something wrong, you get in trouble with your audience, whether they're eating your work or reading it."

You worked for chef Jackie Shen at Red Light during culinary school. Is a restaurant like that as exciting as "Top Chef," or is it more like "Hell's Kitchen"?

It's closer to "Hell's Kitchen" because it has zero to do with creativity. In fact, the more of yourself you check at the door - preferably the parking lot - the better off your night's gonna go. You're there to duplicate someone else's idea, consistently, over and over again, very quickly, under a lot of pressure. It's just not like TV at all.

As you've gotten to know this city, what's surprised you most about Columbus?

The depth and richness of things to do, places to go and art to consume. It strikes you immediately - there's literally a wealth of grassroots things going on here. It's really, really cool.

How does Columbus compare to Chicago?

It's neighborhoody in the same way. There are distinct architectural references and you know you're in a different place in each neighborhood here, but as a whole it all works together in this great salad of people and culture. I really like that.

As the editor of Alive, what's the story you want to tell about Columbus?

This city's rich cultural experience all percolates from the ground up, from individuals, and that makes it incredibly accessible.

For instance, Ned Merkle showed me a house the other day, and from Ned I got to his daughter Molly, who owns the great Brown Bag Deli in German Village. Just through one phone call and a chance conversation, now I've made this connection. I want to bring that accessibility to our readers and show them how much is here and get them excited about that.

I think Alive should not only reflect the cultural community, we also have a chance to shape it and help mold it for the future. We can have a real voice in how we grow as a city culturally and artistically, and that's endlessly inspiring.

What's the best advice you've ever received?

"Follow the omens." Paulo Coelho told me that at a book signing for "The Alchemist," and I took it to heart. Omens are my instincts and my guts, too, and I follow that advice very carefully.

What's one thing people might not know about you?

I'm fairly obsessive about Fashion Week. I mean, I devour blogs and slideshows and stories - mostly from New York, but I follow Paris and Milan as well.

What are three things you can't live without?

Coffee, MAC lipstick and my chef's knife. Stuck on an island with those three things - pretty good odds there.

Follow Kristen Schmidt on Twitter at @kristen_schmidt

Name: Kristen Schmidt

Day job: Editor of Columbus Alive

Neighborhood: Brewery District

Hometown: Naperville, Illinois

Last words

Last place you traveled: Colorado

Last movie you watched: "Kings of Pastry"

Last album you listened to: Wilco, "Yankee Hotel Foxtrot"

Last book you read: "Bossypants" by Tina Fey

Last thing you ate: Patacon at El Arepazo. It was phenomenal.