Sam Sifton named to NYTimes Dining Critic post

Sam Sifton named to New York Times Dining critic post

sifton.jpgNYTimes culture editor Sam Sifton will be the guy who replaces Frank Bruni as top diner for the Times. And already the Tweetosphere is patting itself on the back.

The NY Observer broke the news, and photos of Sifton are everywhere. Meaning that supposed “anonymity” of the dining critic has officially gone the way of the dinosaur. Amen to that, though Sifton looks like maybe he could use a wig or two to warm up that bald head of his.

Bloggers like and Feedbag say Sifton’s appointment is a good thing — he’s a good writer and a straight shooter as at ease with pizza as foie gras. Another good thing to hear.

In a smart move, the NYTimes has already posted a Q&A with Sifton on how he’s preparing for the job and what he currently weighs. I’m already endeared to him as he responds to a reader who says they like tacos. “Dude. Me, too.”

(PS…get over thinking i’m shilling for the NYTimes, who own the Press Democrat. They opted to cut my pay 2.5% last year, so, um…yeah. I did get a very nice note from Arthur Sulzberger Jr., however, when I recently won an award. So there’s that.)

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9 thoughts on “Sam Sifton named to NYTimes Dining Critic post

  1. Your excelloent review of Chin Chin in
    today’s issue prompts this possible idea
    for a future piece on alternate eating
    places on vacation. Since man Times
    readers comee up here to Southern Maine,
    there is an enormously popular Oriental
    restaurant called East, located in Wells,
    Maine, the town that connects Ogunquit and the Kennebunks. It offers tourists
    a delightful alternative to the abundance
    of seafood restaurants. The Chinese
    Restaurant Association has named it the
    top local Chinese restaurant for the last two years in a row because of its menu and its subtle and sophisticated decor. Should you ever decide to do a
    reivew of superb eateries while on
    vacation, you might examine East,a regional favorite drawing clientele from
    all six New England states as well as
    your Empire State.

  2. SVO says I make myself well known in restaurants. Nonsense. I use phony names to make reservations, never say that I’m coming, and am usually not recognized. In fact, I go out of my way to be anonymous. I grade service not only on how staff treats me, but how staff treats others in the room. I consider myself a journalist first and a restaurant critic second–which keeps me honest. So please, don’t say I make myself known in restaurants. I don’t. –Jeff

  3. They’ve removed his picture from the site, but everyone there is pretty clear that his picture is all over the place already. It’s one of those situations where they’re not advertising his picture, but they’re past trying to hide it.
    And yeah, i think i’d look particularly cool in the Groucho glasses. Sweet.

  4. Yeah, I was trying to figure out if Sam wanted the spotlight or not. There wasn’t a picture with the NYT article announcing his promotion, so I kind of had to guess. Sounds like we’re in agreement. It makes sense to disclose your identity/what you look like, but if any old fuddy duddies want to keep their appearance secret, they should be allowed to.
    P.S. I’ll see if I can find you one of those glasses/nose/mustache combos in case you ever want to go incognito.

  5. Hey Eric…
    You raise a really good point, my fellow bloggah…
    Here’s where I think you and I get into the church/state discussion — the inside the park stuff that most other folks don’t struggle over.
    As journalists we’re trained to remove ourselves from the story, to be objective and impartial. As a food critic, you’re forced to insert yourself into the story, but many newspapers, for years, have tried to keep that church/state line by keeping the critic anonymous.
    But with the new journalism, the church/state line is being blasted to bits. I guess many blogger types are seeking out a new kind of restaurant criticism that’s more transparent and populist. And less old-fashioned and artificially puffed up. You see how people respond to biteclub…they want to engage with me and each other. Most food critics cringe at that idea.
    I agree 100% that announcing yourself is outside the scope of what a true critic would do. It’s amateurish. That’s where I argue that there’s still a need for paid/trained writers. it’s this very fine line where you don’t pretend to be anonymous or wear silly costumes if someone recognizes you. You can be public and market yourself. You can even be social with your subjects. I frankly adore the chefs I work with an have always said that’s why I could never be a true critic — I have no desire to separate from the world of food that I so admire. But yeah, I’m not gonna show up with a camera crew and demand a corner table because I’m heather irwin, dammit! (okay, sometimes i really want to do that, but i don’t)
    I don’t claim to be among the ranks of the Bauers and Brunis of the world, but i can say for myself that I’ve created some boundaries for myself and try to be as fair as possible to everyone. I don’t think anyone has completely figured it out yet. But I like that the Times is heading in a progressive direction.
    Sam isn’t being outed. I think he enjoys it as much as anyone.

  6. SVO,
    Please spare me the patronizing tone. I asked an honest question and made no effort to impugn the reputations of critics who ID themselves up front.
    I’m just curious as to the arguments in favor of restaurant critics identifying themselves as such. “Because everyone knows who they are and what they look like” seems like kind of a flaccid reason. Clearly, a critic desiring anonymity could maintain that anonymity by not slapping his or her photo all over everything he/she writes, or announcing to everyone within earshot that he or she is a restaurant critic.
    I mean, that’s cool if critics want to disclose their status and market themselves a little bit. But I don’t see what the point is of “outing” a critic who may wish to remain anonymous, either.
    The obvious point in favor of having anonymous restaurant critics deals with service. If I walk into a restaurant that generally has subpar service and identify myself as a critic, I’m probably less likely to have the kitchen or waitstaff mess up my order or be rude to me. Last time I checked, even in this “modern age of reviewing” I apparently need to be welcomed into, service was one of the factors restaurant critics take into account.

  7. Wittmershaus wonders whether s/he is “old fashioned” if restaurant reviewers are no longer anonymous.
    Time to join the modern age of reviewing. Do you think Heather is anonymous? Jeff Cox makes himself well known in restaurants. But more to the point–is there really any good evidence that anonymous vs. identified reviews are different in quality, scores, or recommendations?

  8. Isn’t the point of having restaurant critics with some level of anonymity so that waitstaff don’t pay extra attention/give special treatment that the average diner wouldn’t get? Maybe I’m old fashioned, but I don’t see what the argument in favor of having critics’ faces out there is. Please enlighten me.

  9. I can’t wait to read Sifton’s reviews. Wednesdays, Thursdays and Sundays are my favorite NYT days (can you tell I am obsessed with the Style section?) and I have always looked forward to Bruni’s reviews. Even if I live in Sonoma County and the closest I get to New York and the 5 boroughs is visiting family in PA, a girl can dream about eating in the Big Apple, right?
    I haven’t read the Q&A yet, but I do like a man who likes a taco!

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