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Inspiring Stories, Inspiring People

Heather John Fogarty, writer

Heather John Fogarty, writer

Heather John Fogarty, a Los Angeles-based writer, has been fortunate enough to cover her passions—fashion, food and wine—for the Los Angeles Times Magazine and Bon Appétit. In her popular blog,, she writes about those subjects with expertise and candor, a combination that will leave you wishing you could raid her closet—and snag a seat at her kitchen table.

PPF: When you were little, what did you tell people you wanted to be when you grew up?

HJF: John McEnroe

PPF: How long did that dream last?

HJF: Until the third grade when I knocked out a tooth playing tennis.

PPF: What was your first real job?

HJF: Answering phones and making coffee at an architect’s office.

PPF: What is your current occupation?

HJF: Writer.

PPF: Were you formally trained to do what you do now? 

HJF: I have lit degrees in French and English, but no formal training as a journalist, no.

PPF: Was there a watershed moment in your life that caused you to change professional gears along the way? 

HJF: I was working in a winery right out of college and knew that I desperately wanted to be a magazine editor. I saw an ad for a job at a wine magazine that seemed like an impossible long shot, but I got the job because—ironically—nobody on the senior editorial staff had a formal wine background.

PPF: Was there a particular mentor, or a person who believed in you and gave you a chance when no one else would?

HJF: Susan Haynes was the managing editor at Appellation, a now defunct wine magazine where I was the assistant to the editor in chief. Once, when an editor was out sick and we were going to press, I took the initiative to write photo captions, which was kind of frowned upon for an assistant to do. Susan saw potential and began giving me opportunities to do other small writing assignments in the magazine. She then pushed for me to be promoted to assistant editor. At every step of the way, for every job interview I’ve had since, she has continued to be a huge support. I heart Susan!

PPF: I worked with Susan Haynes at Coastal Living! She gave me some pretty amazing assignments. I think that’s how I first heard your name—through Susan. I believe you were working at the LA Times Magazine at that point. What was that job like?

HJF:  I worked at the LA Times Magazine when the Chandlers owned the paper, before it was sold to the Tribune Company. I will never, ever have another job as exciting as working at one of the top international newspapers in its heyday. Today there are several hundred reporters on staff. Then it was more than 1,000—you could just feel the energy walking in through the door every morning. It was awesome.

PPF: You were the senior style editor there. What was a typical day like?

HJF: Each morning started with a senior edit staff meeting, but beyond that there was no typical day really, except Thursdays when we closed the issue each week. Those were long days chained to a desk. But not as long as the days on fashion shoots. Those were both invigorating and draining in a way that I can’t even describe.

PPF: Was that where you got into fashion?

HJF: Do you mean professionally? I was always a bit fashion obsessed—like one of my earliest memories involves leaving a Pierre Cardin windbreaker behind at the circus. It was navy blue with a rainbow logo. I think I was three.

PPF: What is a favorite memory of covering fashion in L.A.?

HJF: For me personally, as a diehard Lakers fan, my favorite fashion shoot was with starting forward Rick Fox—at the time one of the most underrated defensive players in the league—whom I handed a disposable Bic razor as his then-wife Vanessa Williams watched while I got him to shave his famously long locks. Within two weeks of shaving his head at our shoot, his three-point average almost doubled. He later told me the hair had been a distraction. I knew it!

For me, I loved doing men’s fashion more than women’s, but I think as far as over-the-top shoots go, it had to be a pre-Oscar fashion shoot where Bentley loaned us one of their convertibles as a prop—the very vehicle featured in the “Jenny from the Block” video—and we had all these crazy couture gowns including a $20,000 frock that Dior shipped over in its very own seat on a flight from Paris to L.A. I think we had pulled a couple million in diamonds that arrived complete with their own armed guards. Before we started that morning, the photographer Steve Shaw and I drove the Bentley around the block. And I can’t lie, I used to love trying on all the jewelry—plus I’m a perfect sample shoe size so in between shots I’d try on all the shoes, too. So fun.

PPF: Is it hard to work in high fashion on a journalist’s salary? How can someone be super fashionable on a budget?

HJF: Journalism used to pay pretty well, actually. Plus there were sample sales for industry people. Of course, now we can all shop sample sales thanks to sites like Gilt Groupe and other online sample sales. High fashion at off-the-rack prices is pretty available to all these days, which is awesome. And I think Target and H&M with their designer collaborations have totally changed the way we think about fashion. But even so, it’s wise to invest in a few statement pieces and go high-low, like mixing a really killer pair of Isabel Marant pumps with a trench from, say, Viktor & Rolf for H&M or a pair of skinny jeans from Topshop.

PPF: How do you define your style?

HJF: Relaxed, feminine, classic. I’m drawn toward well-made things that last a lifetime, whether that’s a handbag or a sofa.

PPF: What are your favorite labels right now?

HJF: Isabel Marant, Lanvin, Vanessa Bruno, APC.

PPF: So what led you to Bon Appétit? And what was your role there? 

HJF: I loved my job at the L.A. Times, I mean loved it, and for the most part loved working in fashion. I also oversaw the food and design coverage for the magazine, so occasionally I would write a wine story or something on cocktails just for fun since it was in my background. I studied some enology as an undergrad at UC Davis, as well as working in several wineries right out of school. One day I got a call from Victoria von Biel, then the executive editor at Bon Appétit, asking me to come interview for a senior editorial position at the magazine, which was based in LA at the time. I hadn’t even considered making the move from fashion to food, but when offered an opportunity to become the wine and spirits editor at America’s most beloved food magazine, you say, “Yes!”

PPF: Do you have a favorite story from working at Bon App?

HJF: This is kind of unbelievable, but one day I said to Victoria, “I hear that Guinness tastes better in Ireland. Can I go taste for myself?” And she said, “Yes!” That was before the economic crash, and we used to get to do that kind of crazy stuff all the time. The reason that story is my favorite, besides getting to drink a lot of beer in Dublin, I mean a lot, is because it ended up being so personal—I’m married to an Irishman—and it was the last story I researched before finding out I was pregnant with our first son. Oh, and yes, Guinness does taste better in Ireland.

PPF: Since you were wine and spirits editor, I’m curious what your go-to wines are. What are the ones you keep on hand for family meals at home or special occasions?

HJF: We drink a lot of dry Riesling, mostly from Alsace, in our house. It’s one of those versatile wines that goes with everything from salad to steak. It’s also fantastic with spicy cuisines like Indian, which we order in about once a week. For impromptu celebrations, I always keep a bottle of Lucien Albrecht Cremant d’Alsace Rose on hand, which costs $20 dollars and tastes like pink champagne that costs two to three times that. I like that you don’t have to spend a lot of money to get a really killer bottle of wine, so generally I don’t splurge, unless we are talking white burgundy and then all bets are off.

PPF: You grew up in wine country, on Howell Mountain. If you took friends back to wine country, what wineries would you visit?

HJF: Having worked in wineries and growing up in wine country, the very last thing I would want to do is visit a winery. Vineyards, on the other hand, I love. Checking out the soil. In my next life I’d want to come back as a viticulturist, but that would mean I’d need to be good at science. But if I’m taking friends to a winery, the caves at Schramsberg, two miles of which were dug by hand in the 1870s, are as hauntingly beautiful as their sparkling wines.

PPF: How did your blog come into being?

HJF: I came up with the idea for on my first day back to work from maternity leave. It was—and still is—a great creative outlet at the end of a long day. When I was working full-time, I used to blog at night after we’d put our son down and before I’d go to bed and then post it the next morning. My husband will tell you it’s a lot cheaper and more productive than my late-night Internet shopping habits.

PPF: How would you describe the content of your blog?

HJF: It’s a blog that focuses on my obsessions, mostly with food but also with fashion and design. And gin. It’s totally for fun.

PPF: What is essential to help you do your best work?

HJF: Balance—mentally and physically speaking.

PPF: What has been the lowest point in your career?

HJF: When a 14-year-old fashion model passed out in the middle of a shoot because she hadn’t eaten in two days and her mother said, “She’ll be fine—just give her some orange juice.”

PPF: What has been the highest point so far?

HJF: Becoming the editor of my son’s preschool newsletter. My husband said, “You’re so excited one would think you’d landed the top job at The New York Times!”

PPF: Describe your version of the perfect Saturday.

HJF: A perfect Saturday? Early morning four-mile run around the neighborhood, followed by a cup of Ristretto Roasters coffee on the porch off our bedroom—and if this is indeed fantasy, then a brown butter date mini Bundt cake will have magically appeared from Sycamore Kitchen. Midmorning, pile the boys into the car and head to Griffith Park to ride the trains and ponies. So cute. Lunch would be a No. 19 pastrami sandwich at Langers in MacArthur Park on the way home. Then, while the boys are napping, I might sneak out to meet my friend Booth for a little afternoon shopping on Melrose Place and grab a Spanish latte at Urth Caffé. After nap, we’d take the kids to the Boone children’s art gallery at LACMA to play.  If it’s summertime, this evening would end with a date night picnic at the Hollywood Bowl with a fireworks finale. Or in winter, it would be slurping ramen at Daikokuya in Little Tokyo followed by killer seats and margaritas at a Lakers game against the Heat, which I would love because I am a huge Ray Allen fan. And the Lakers would win. But Ray Allen would hit an insane number of 3′s, obviously.

PPF: What (or who) most inspires you & why?

HJF: Within my own profession, that would definitely be Katharine Graham—a kick ass woman at the top of her game in a man’s world.

PPF: What job could you never, ever, do, no matter how broke you were?

HJF: I’m a never say never kind of girl, but probably couldn’t hack it working customer service for AOL Time Warner Cable.

PPF: You have two kids. How do you create a balance, being a mom and a writer?

HJF: Both require undivided attention. I’m not sure that I’ve quite figured out that balance, but I do the best I can.

PPF: When have you been most daring in your life?

HJF: Eating a hot dog at Dodger Stadium.

PPF: When have you been most afraid?

HJF: I totally flipped out when my four-year-old son wandered off in a parking lot this summer while I was unbuckling his newborn baby brother from his car seat. I looked up the street and he was nowhere in sight and I freaked out. I ran up the sidewalk thinking, “This is it, this is happening,” and, thank God, I saw him through the window of a bakery. He was ordering a muffin—pumpkin with chocolate chips.

PPF: What is the best advice you ever got?

HJF: Twenty years from now you won’t remember the day you spent at your desk, but you will remember the day you played hooky with your kids at the beach.

PPF: What do you want your last meal on earth to be?

HJF: One of Nancy Silverton’s Backyard Burgers. I’ve been lucky enough to have actually had one in her backyard, so this is a totally informed decision. And then maybe I’d want to drink something completely over the top like a bottle of DRC. All to myself. Or a perfectly balanced gin and tonic.

PPF: What’s on your bedside table right now?

HJF: A favorite framed photo of my husband; my new iPhone 5; A Hologram for the King, by Dave Eggers, on top of a stack of dog-eared Elle Decors–inspiration for redoing our master bath; bottle of Tom Ford Scarlett Chinois nail polish; a Natursutten BPA-free Golden Apple Teething Toy; half full cold cup of coffee from yesterday morning; a parking ticket.

PPF: What’s the trip you keep talking about taking one day?

HJF: Marrakech or Beirut.

PPF: First concert you ever went to?

HJF: I think it was Def Leppard. In fact, I know it was Def Leppard.

PPF: Best concert you ever went to?

HJF: Toss up between Tom Petty at the Fillmore in San Francisco and Yo-Yo Ma at the Hollywood Bowl.

PPF: Song that would be the title track to the soundtrack of your life?

HJF: For Once in My Life, by Stevie Wonder

PPF: Best meal you ever had?

HJF: The best meal I’ve ever had was omakase at Urusawa in Beverly Hills—right up until the moment I got the bill, and then I nearly barfed.

PPF: What are you really good at that would surprise a lot of people?

HJF: I don’t have any of those groovy hidden talents, though if you want to talk about what surprises a lot of people, is the fact that I never learned to properly tie my shoes. I still do rabbit ears.

PPF: If you could interview someone and ask him/her these questions, who would it be?

HJF: John McEnroe

*Photo of Heather by Sharon Suh Photography




  1. if we were not already great pals, i certainly would be wishing we were!!
    hoping for a gin and tonic together — and soon!!

  2. char—you know the address. gin is waiting… xx

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