NYT Restaurant Critic Frank Bruni stepping down

Bruni stepping down from times

Frank Bruni, the New York Times’ restaurant critic has announced that he’ll be stepping down from his powerful position as Top Dining Dog. So far, no successor has been named, but obvious forklifters include the San Francisco Chronicle’s Michael Bauer — who’d probably be wise to jump ship at this point — along with Jonathan Gold of LA Weekly and Alan Richman of GQ Magazine.

It will be interesting to see what happens over the coming weeks as Bruni wraps up his tenure (he’s been in the position since 2004) and heads off to tout his new memoir.

As I’ve said countless times, the role of a restaurant critic is much diminished in the era of blogging, Twittering and Yelping. Waiting three months to review a restaurant is almost unheard of — because word is out on the street within minutes of the doors opening. Struggling newspapers can ill-afford the high cost of sending critics out to pricey restaurants even once, to say nothing of three or more times and are demanding not only reviews, but personality-driven blogs, videos and other content often considered “beneath” the exalted Restaurant Critic.

Ironically, both newspapers and the food community vocally lament the foibles of sites like Yelp (accused of pay-for-good-review tactics), bloggers-turned-restaurant-reviewers taking free meals in return for meals (nope, I’m not allowed to), and the lines that get crossed when food writers aren’t anonymous (I frankly think the whole thing is dumb because EVERYONE knows what food critics look like anyway). 

It’s a brave new world of food journalism, if it can even be called that anymore. Will the Times adhere to its time-honored (yet somewhat out of touch) traditions, or find a new style of reviewer for its Dining pages?

Time will tell. What’s your take?

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12 thoughts on “NYT Restaurant Critic Frank Bruni stepping down

  1. Valeria – People “give a rat’s patootie what goes on either in NY or at the Times” because the NYT is the parent company to the PD.

  2. I wasn’t aware that Bauer comes with a lot of baggage. How bout throwing a couple of tidbits out there. Concur that weekend warrior restaurant critics are lacking in accountability and cred for the most part.

  3. Haha. He did send me a personal letter of congratulations on my EPpy award this week. Hmmmm. 🙂 My vote’s for Jonathan Gold.

  4. I hear what you are saying about the net-based reviews versus professional reviews, but, quite frankly, I have found reviews on Yelp and some of the other ones to be amateurish, misinformed, peevish, and “highly disappointed” if a sumptuous meal was not served for a rock bottom price. Sure, there is room for value-priced restaurants, but if you take a quick scan at some of the net-based reviews of the top places in the country, including our own Cyrus, you will find more than a reasonable share of negative reviews that were probably unwarranted because of the culinary inexperience of the writer. A once-a-year trip to San Francisco does not a restaurant reviewer make.

  5. Thanks JohnG for the intelligent insight. Guess I overestimated the culture quotient on this one.

  6. Don’t blame the net for all the instant reviews. Right here in Santa Rosa we have a supposed critic who does instant-the-door-opens reviews much to our collective embarrassment.

  7. I really don’t give a rat’s patootie what goes on either in NY or at the Times. Can’t imagine why any self respecting West Coaster would care.

  8. Bauer carries a lot of baggage – I can’t see him being recruited. I don’t see them taking a critic from another major paper (ok calling the Chron a major paper is a bit of a stretch I know) but if they did, somebody like S. Irene Virbila of the LA Times is more likely, since she actually knows what she’s taking about. A writer from another field, like Eric Asimov, would be more likely, or somebody like Jonathan Gold.

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