When Jay Livingood was writing a weekly restaurant review column for the Deseret News, readers would often ask what his real name was. After all, when you get a free meal each week at many of the finest eating places in Utah, "livin' was good" - and it seemed a very appropriate byline.
And readers often pictured him as a rotund fellow as a result of consuming culinary delights - all in the line of duty, of course - for his weekly "Dining Out" column, a popular feature of the newspaper's weekend section.(Just for the record, Livingood is his real name, the only Livingood in the metropolitan telephone book. He's 6 feet tall and weighs 175 lbs.)
Livingood and his wife, Norma, would visit a restaurant each week and choose a variety of dishes. Sampling from her plate was all part of the job as he inconspicuously jotted down notes for his review.
"I never told the restaurant I would be coming nor did I ever tell them I was there," he said. "They found out I had been there only after the review was published in the newspaper."
And to avoid any special treatment when entering an establishment, his photograph never appeared with his column so he could delve into his assignment incognito.
When his review of a restaurant was unfavorable, he was often asked by the manager to return for another chance so they could give him the red carpet treatment. "Of course, that would defeat the purpose of the column," he said.
For variety, Livingood would try everything from a fast-food drive-in to an elegant restaurant. And only once in his many years as a dining out columnist did he get sick.
"I got some bad fish once," he recalls, declining to identify the restaurant.
A native of Ogden, Livingood attended Weber State College and was working as an announcer at station KVOG when he was drafted during the Korean War. His army assignments included 18 months as an announcer for the Armed Forces Radio Service in San Juan, Puerto Rico.
Following his release from the army, Livingood returned to KVOG as a staff announcer and play-by-play sportscaster. During his spare time, he refereed high school football games.
"I enjoyed being a referee and I tried to help the kids by explaining what they did wrong and to suggest ways of improving their game," he said.
He joined the Deseret News 27 years ago and, after serving six years as Ogden bureau chief, he moved to Salt Lake City to become a staff reporter. He later served as assistant city editor, worked on the newspaper's editorial staff and then developed the Weekend Section where his "Dining Out" column was published.
Today, Livingood serves as director of personnel, building maintenance and community relations.
Livingood relaxes from occupational pressure with a good mystery book or working with his roses at home in Bountiful. He and Norma have three daughters, Sue and Ann, who are both married, and Joy, a certified optician and part-time student at LDS Business College.