It’s always useful to look back in time to the reasons an organisation was established. In the case of the Guild, in 1987 a small group of food writers discussed the fact that apart from meeting at food-industry events they had no forum to bring them together in their work as food writers and editors. This germ of an idea grew, and was encouraged by Bob Diprose, a member of the Agricultural Writers' Association and executive of the Poultry Industry Association. The PIA offered $500 as seeding finance and they were away.
The first committee of eight was chaired by Tui Flower, Jill Brewis was secretary and Janet Dew was treasurer. The name of The New Zealand Guild of Food Writers was registered in line with food writer organisations in the United Kingdom and other countries, assuming that those working in radio or television had to write their material before it was broadcast and would therefore fit within this title.
To gain registration as an organisation and therefore to copyright the Guild’s name, a minimum of 17 members was required. Months of communication followed to food writers throughout New Zealand (remember that in pre-internet days every communication involved typing a letter, putting it into an envelope and buying a stamp) until a full application for registration could be made.
Eventually the New Zealand Guild of Food Writers was formally established in 1988. A draft Constitution was drawn up by Janet’s husband, lawyer Peter Dew, its aims were formulated and a Code of Ethics was compiled. The Constitution defined the Guild and its objectives and set out the four categories of membership: professional, associated, corporate, and honorary and life members. It gave the Guild freedom to establish branches in other centres, defined the roles of the president and the executive committee, established the funding system and set up subscriptions.
There was considerable debate about inviting corporate members into the Guild and it was decided that as a small country and with a small population, food writers needed the food industry as much it needed them.
In 1992 the first awards for food writers were introduced, with winners announced at the annual conference. At other times seminars and social events are frequently held.
The New Zealand Guild produced its first Handbook for Food Writers in 1991 and a revised edition in 1999. The handbook is a reference point for everyone developing recipes and writing about food, and not only offers standards for spelling, abbreviations, recipe format and terminology but also includes information on new foods, appliances and nutrition. The latest revised edition is available online.
Over the last decades, the Guild has provided a unified voice in dealing with major issues. It has faced crises both in the food industry and in its own members. When necessary the Code of Ethics has been enforced; this is done with full privacy by the members of the ethics committee, without the name of the member and the reason for the enquiry being disclosed (possible reasons could be plagiarism, dispersing false information or libel of other members).