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The LAist Interview: Cicely Wedgeworth, LA ChowNews

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As Chowhound.com -- the once relatively obscure über-food lovers' website -- becomes increasingly well-known to the world at-large, it becomes less of a sweet hound and more of a daunting monster. The site’s most active discussion boards, LA included, amounts to a deluge of information and opinions. For the impatient, too much info can be a definitely bad thing.

But it is a good thing to have someone who culls through the spirited virtual conversations about the city’s best mole, bahn mi, sushi chefs, pizza (or lack thereof), ice cream, guanciale source, you name it. Cicely Wedgeworth does the dirty work of compiling the goods into ChowNews, the weekly newsletter available by subscription that makes the wonderfully unwieldy LA message board more, er, palatable.

Age and Occupation:

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30; Los Angeles Times copy editor by night; editor of Chow News, an email newsletter about local food, by day.

Where are you from?

I was born in Chicago and grew up half there, half outside New York City.

How long have you lived in Los Angeles and what neighborhood do you live in?

I’ve been here for five years and live in Silver Lake, but still haven’t figured out whether it’s two words or one.

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When you first arrived in LA, how much did you know about the city, and most importantly, how did you begin to explore the culinary landscape? Which sources were most helpful for pointing you in the right direction?

I knew hardly anything about LA other than the Santa Monica stereotype: beach, bikinis, babes on rollerblades. I found a place on the Eastside because I wanted to stay away from all that. I really like my neighborhood because it feels like real people live there, although I’m also somewhat guiltily enjoying the fruits of gentrification. It’s also a great base from which to explore ethnic enclaves for food: Chinese in the SGV, Mexican in East LA, Thai Town, K-Town, and Armenian and Middle Eastern in Glendale.

I had heard about Chowhound in New York, so I started reading the message board pretty early on, as well as Jonathan Gold’s Counter Intelligence.

Do chowhound.com and other similar online affinity "communities" have a different type of value and significance in a dispersed and decentralized city like Los Angeles?

I think people definitely need to feel they’re part of some kind of community. Virtual communities are also convenient for the modern lifestyle; even when you don’t have time to go out, you often have time to blog or read posts or IM.