The interview subject is there to tell his or her own story; the interviewer is there to record that story and keep the interview on track. The following questions are offered as general suggestions and reference points for conducting interviews. When conducting your own interview, you should develop questions that are specific to your subject.

To Begin the Interview

Always begin the recording by stating your name, the date, location, interview subject and interview topic for the record. For example: “This is Jane Johnson, and it is Sunday, May thirtieth, two thousand and three. I am with Joe Smith at his home in Memphis, Tennessee, and we are going to be talking about his years as a barbecue pit master.”

Suggested Questions

  1. Would you please state your name, age, and current occupation?
  2. Where were you born and/or how did you get to ___?
  3. Where does your family come from?
  4. What was it like when you grew up/first moved here?
  5. What do you miss most about those days?
  6. How have things changed t/here since then?
  7. What did you want to be when you grew up?
  8. How did you get into the business you are in now? Or How did you become known for what you do/make?
  9. What does your job entail? Do you enjoy it? What do you enjoy the most?
  10. Where/how did you learn to cook?
  11. What does your future hold?
  12. Do you have any regrets? Is there anything you would do differently?
  13. Do you have any favorite moments/memories?
  14. Is there anything else you would like to add?

Restaurant-related interviews should include information about when the restaurant opened, by whom, the “style” of the restaurant (food and physical appearance), history of employees, discussion of clientele, description of food/menu items and prices (and changes over the years), advertising, other businesses in the area, and any other questions relevant to place and history.

Cooking-related interviews that have more to do with an individual person than restaurant affiliation should include information about how the interview subject learned to cook, more about their family’s history with food (traditions, recipes, styles), what they are known for, what they enjoy most, their methods (and secrets, if they’ll share), tools of the trade (i.e., favorite iron skillet), and any other questions specific to the person and the food they make.

INTERVIEWING TIPS:

DO

  • Check to make sure that your recording device is working properly throughout the interview
  • Maintain eye contact with the narrator
  • Nod and smile in agreement, avoiding verbal agreement such as “uh-huh.”
  • Listen carefully
  • Try to slow down narrators who talk to fast
  • Keep the interview on track, redirecting the subject when necessary
  • Ask probing questions when sensing that the narrator is hesitant to talk
  • Ask follow-up questions when necessary
  • Try to have the narrator talk in specifics, rather than generalities

DO NOT

  • Ask more than one question at a time
  • Ask “yes” or “no” questions
  • Hurry the narrator
  • Repeat or summarize what the narrator has just said
  • Interrupt the narrator
  • Complete the narrator’s thoughts/sentences
  • Talk at length about yourself or your own experiences
  • Make irrelevant or distracting comments

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