This year’s biggest food story in NYC concluded today with the announcement that Sam Sifton is replacing Frank Bruni as the food critic of the New York Times. Bruni was at the top of his game when it was announced in May that he was leaving the post and becoming a writer-at-large for the New York Times Magazine. Bruni even got off to a preliminary start the other week with a cover-story excerpt from his forthcoming book memoir, Born Round: The Secret History of a Full-Time Eater.
Sifton will have a hard act to follow, but let’s face it – that’s the norm. If you’re bagging one of the most coveted reporting jobs at the Times, you’re not going to be stepping in for some namby pamby journalist. This is the big show, kid. That said, Bruni was an especially prolific and dedicated critic, blogging early and often as well as writing across newspaper sections and far beyond New York. He also brought a palate that really cared more about food than sucking up to service – something I can’t say about in regards to some other high-profile food critics.
The Observer reported that Sifton was selected from a shortlist of four people, three of whom came from the Times, plus an outside consideration of Brett Anderson from the New Orleans Times-Picayune. Lots of foodies and media (myself included) have been fans of Anderson ever since he wrote about the effects of Hurricane Katrina on chefs and the hospitality industry, even going as far to get his hands dirty – and anonymity in restaurants eroded – helping out the victims in the Hurricane’s immediate wake. But New Orleans is a much, much smaller market to manhandle than New York, so I think his consideration stemmed more from admiration than a likely prospect.
Sifton has the goods to do his job well: he’s got the internal politics down from his neck-and-neck win that secured his present role as editor of the NY Times‘ Culture section, he’s the former editor of the Times‘ Dining section, and he’s got plenty of socialite and celeb street cred from his founding role as a staffer at Tina Brown’s now-defunct Talk magazine.
Minutes after the announcement, pictures of Sifton were spread across blogs and online news sites, so having an early start as an incognito restaurant reviewer is not looking good. In fact, it seems taht the only place you won’t find photos of Sifton are on the Times‘ own websites, which pulled off photos that can now only be seen low-res on Google image searches. That’s why my favourite news story of the day is Gawker’s piece aimed at ‘helping’ the easily recognised Sifton with creating disguises for sneaking in convertly into city restaurants (a la Ruth Reichl). Check it out:
Other top stories on the NY Times food critic appointment:
New York Observer: Sam Sifton Is Your Next Food Critic of The New York Times
New York Times: Bill Keller on Restaurant Critics and Anonymity
New York Times: Sam Sifton: How I’m Preparing, and What I Weigh
New York Times: Frank Bruni Moving To Times Magazine, Bill Keller Announces