Journalist, radio host, author and playwright John DeMers ate his way through 136 foreign countries before discovering he could get all the same food right here in Houston. A native of New Orleans, John grew up with parents who read cookbooks to each other after dinner while drinking cans of Dixie beer. They also cooked most meals together, a trick that John later learned from his own relationships is not the easiest thing in the world. After studying history at Boston University and earning his BA and MA in journalism at Louisiana State University, John embarked on the predictable career writing for newspapers. He had no idea how unpredictable a career writing for newspapers could be.
Currently, John hosts the weekly Delicious Mischief food and wine radio show Saturdays on NewsRadio 740 KTRH and on Austin’s Talk 1370, as well as the weekly Sunday show Houston ArtsWeek, covering the performing, visual and literary arts.
Among his most formative experiences were eight years as a reporter and editor for United Press International, before being laid off as part of UPI’s regularly scheduled bankruptcies: covering plane crashes and Mafia trials, elections and oil rig explosions, Super Bowls and championship fights. And that was before he transferred to UPI’s overnight Foreign Desk in Washington or became UPI’s globetrotting food editor almost without knowing such a job existed. Asked (especially by his children) what he did at work, the best John could ever come up with was, “I go places to eat things.”
Commerce raised its ugly head with increasing frequency. John ended up spending five years as Director of Promotions and Public Relations for the Fairmont Hotel in New Orleans and then almost 15 years creating his own magazines New Orleans Hospitality, EasyFood, CoastFood and finally Texas Foodlover. Of that experience he invariably reports, “You go to bed at night an editor – and you wake up the next morning a salesman.” It was a return to newspapers, his first love, that brought John to Texas to follow the beloved Ann Criswell as food editor of the Houston Chronicle. By the time that job went away, his longtime New Orleans food and wine radio show Delicious Mischief had made it onto the airwaves here – and he saw no reason to let himself be run out of town. By then, in other words, Houston was home.
At present, John is the author of 40 published books, including “Follow the Smoke: 14,783 Miles of Great Texas Barbecue,” reflecting the total distance he drove to overeat in 119 different places. Upcoming books include his first mystery novel, “Marfa Shadows,” as well as “Lone Star Chefs,” both from Bright Sky Press. He is a constant contributor to Houston and Prime Living magazines, as well as to his own Houston ArtsWeek. He also writes for United Airlines’ Hemispheres magazine. His article in Hemispheres about the heartbreak of seeing his hometown after Hurricane Katrina won that year’s Lowell Thomas Award for “cultural travel writing.” John insists he doesn’t know much about any other kind.
As part of one mid-life crisis or another (or perhaps just hoping for a different way to put his four kids through various colleges and graduate schools), John rediscovered his inner musician. Decades after playing in a rock band as a teenager, John starting writing one-man shows for the stage (and even a one-woman show, for an African-American actress) and finally created two musicals about Texas. The first, a love story titled “Deep in the Heart,” enjoyed its world premiere at the Hobby Center for the Performing Arts before touring Texas cities. The second, titled “Texas at Heart,” is a series of musical vignettes from 175 years of the state’s colorful history. It is currently awaiting production. Then again, asks John, isn’t almost everything?