Daily Dish

The inside scoop on food in Los Angeles

Category: Media

Pete Wells is named New York Times restaurant critic

New York Times Dining editor Pete Wells has been named the newspaper's new chief restaurant critic, succeeding Sam Sifton, who has been national editor since September.

According to a New York Times memo:

No one could be better prepared or respected for his superb writing, intimate knowledge of food and restaurants and deep commitment to our dining franchise. Pete has been Dining Editor since 2006. He has stepped in as acting critic himself — writing a half-dozen well-received columns in the interim between the great Bruni and Sifton eras.

Susan Edgerley, a former metro editor, will be the new Dining editor.

"We knew we were on the right track when more than one of the dozens of applicants around the country opened their queries by saying, ‘Pete should be the critic, but I'm available if you don’t pick him,’” according to the memo sent to New York Times staff. 


When to plant what: A gardening calendar for SoCal

Roasting garlic made easy

Burger fans, take note: Short Order to open next week

-- Betty Hallock


Caitlin Williams Freeman and SFMOMA's latest edible art offering

Zurier_Arabella-233x334Caitlin Williams Freeman is the in-house pastry chef at the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art's rooftop cafe. The former UC Santa Cruz photography student co-founded Miette. Then in 2001, in what she thought would be a temporary stint, she started making pastries for her husband James Freeman's Blue Bottle Coffee locations.

When his company landed a spot on SFMOMA's rooftop, Williams Freeman used the opportunity to channel her love for paintings and photography into her baking. Now the cookies and cakes available -- for visual and literal consumption -- at the coffee bar pay homage to artworks on view in the museum's galleries.

Constantly coming up with new ideas for art-inspired desserts, edible spinoffs have included a Katharina Fritsch ice cream sandwich, with poodle-shaped chocolate cookies sandwiching vanilla ice cream; a fudgsicle-take on Ellsworth Kelly's Stele I (located in the sculpture garden); and a Thiebaud cake inspired by the museum's large collection of Bay Area artist Wayne Thiebaud's paintings.

The latest addition to the menu is a popsicle created in reference to Santa Monica-born artist John Zurier's painting "Arabella," included in the "The More Things Change" exhibition, on view until Nov. 6. The popsicle, made of fresh spearmint ice milk and strawberry, costs $5 and will be available up until the exhibition's closing day.


The next dessert in the works will be ...

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Ruth Reichl on Gilt Taste and the future of food journalism


Ruth Reichl, former editor of Gourmet magazine, was recently in Los Angeles to talk about her latest endeavor at Gilt Taste, the online gourmet market/culinary magazine launched this year by Gilt Groupe, the site for fashion and travel deals.  

How are you liking your role as editorial advisor at Gilt Taste?   

I love it. I watched my magazine die not because people didn't like it but because there were no advertisers. We had more than a million subscribers, and if we couldn't get advertisers, then there's something really broken about that model. So this is a new model, with commerce instead of advertising. I love the idea of supporting these artisans who are growing things, baking things, making cheese. They aren't necessarily great business people. So we're really supporting them and introducing them and their products to people. 

How did you get involved?

[Gilt Groupe Chairman] Susan [Lyne] came to me and told me she really wanted a journalism aspect to the site. I wouldn't have done it otherwise. There's a difference between food and fashion. You don't have to tell people who Giorgio Armani is. But how are we going to get the food world people out there? If we create really good journalism, people will come for the stories.... People tell me every day, "I can't tell you how much I miss [Gourmet]." There's a hole in food journalism and hopefully we can fill it. These are well-written and well-edited. [Features editor] Francis [Lam] and I really kick these things back and forth and press for better stories, stories that are thoughtful. They're important stories. Even the videos. There are filmmakers who do the videos for us. Isn't it time to move on from "This is how you carve a turkey" and do something more artistic? We're trying to think outside of the box in every way.

Is there a line being crossed when you merge commerce and journalism? 

There isn't any line to cross. We're one unit. That firewall that used to exist has been eroding for years. We wouldn't be selling something if we weren't proud of it. And we wouldn't write about something we weren't interested in.... Now, I don't have a publisher asking, "can you use these products in a recipe?" just because they're an advertiser.

How are you involved in selecting products available on the site?

Editorial is where my heart is, but I am constantly traveling, meeting people who are telling me about products. I was in Las Vegas and had this amazing caviar that's sustainably raised and not available in this country, and we're working on getting that. I'm probably on my own here and love yamaimo [the Japanese yam known for its slimy texture], but it's hard to find outside of Asian markets. One of the best products on the site is American-raised bottarga

How have you seen Los Angeles' food scene change since you were food editor at the L.A. Times? 

It's a really young food energy. It reminds me of what's happening in Paris. Chefs are saying, "I don't want to cook for movie stars and rich people." It's comfortable and casual. And this is hugely different from back in the day when everything was dictated by the movie industry and who was eating where.... The food people have wrested it back from them. 

You mentioned a hole in food journalism after the end of Gourmet. Is there a lack of good food journalism in general?  

There's a lot of good food journalism, but it's not in epicurean magazines. [It's in] newspapers, the Atlantic has a food component, the New Yorker food issue. When I started at Gourmet we asked ourselves what we should be covering. The farms, where food comes from.... And we faced this attitude, "People don't come to Gourmet to learn about fish farming or how trans fats are bad for you." We said, they should. And they did. People who eat food and cook food want to know. But it's a hard sell to advertisers. 

Is Gilt Taste a viable model for long-form journalism? 

I think it will be increasingly with food and fashion magazines. They'll start to ask themselves, why not? Maybe it's not a pure model for the future. It's a bold experiment that I wanted to be part of. 

What about blogs' place in the future of food journalism?

They're stunningly good, a lot of them, with great recipes, and a lot of them can really write. The difference is there's a group thing that happens with good journalism. It's very collaborative, the effort of a lot of people. There's a real place for what [blogs] are doing. But it can be in a vacuum, you don't get the big picture or can move it forward in a big way.... The rumor that print is dead is just like what happened with the movie industry when videos came around. They said, "Nobody's ever going to go to the movies." 

Look at the magazine Lucky Peach and how successful it's been.  

Yes, it's so irreverent and so much fun.... [Lucky Peach publisher] McSweeney's is doing a great job at proving that print is not dead. It's just the landscape is changing. There's room for all of it.


Food Events: El Bulli the movie, Cube Marketplace sale, San Gennaro feast

S. Irene Virbila on the Marling Menu-Master

Rosh Hashanah recipes from the Test Kitchen

-- Betty Hallock

Photo credit: Marcqui Akins/Gilt Taste

A sneak peek at the new Bon Appetit

Bon-appetit Look for Bon Appetit to get a hefty dose of "buzziness." That's the overall impression new editor Adam Rapoport gives in an interview with Women's Wear Daily. “We need to tap into popular culture and have a buzziness,” he tells Amy Wicks, but continues: “I don’t want to get away from the foundation of it all — time-tested cooking advice — but we need to have a relevance for right now.”

Rapoport, the former style editor of GQ, was brought in by parent company Conde Nast to remake Bon Appetit, including moving it physically from its longtime Wilshire Boulevard headquarters in Los Angeles to Manhattan.

The first full issue under his watch will be in May and will focus on Italian cooking. A photo of the cover shows headlines such as: "Pizza! Pasta! Gelato!: C'mon, how could your kids not love Rome?" and "Cucina Confidential: The food world's breakout star on the meal she can't resist."

Reportedly, the following cover will feature Gwyneth Paltrow. Other upcoming features, Rapoport says, will include an excerpt from Gabrielle Hamilton's edgy memoir "Blood, Bones & Butter" and a feature on "the real baconator," about bacon cheeseburgers.

What do you think? What are you looking for these days in a food magazine?

--Russ Parsons

(Photo of magazine cover from WWD website)


Ludo Lefebvre and Michael Voltaggio want to know: What's a chef gotta do to pay his dues?


L.A. chefs Ludo Lefebvre and Michael Voltaggio say they have cried and bled in the name of their profession, so the eighth paragraph of a New York Times story today about Sam Talbot -- a third-place "Top Chef" alum now opening Imperial No. 9 in the Mondrian SoHo in Manhattan -- came with a dose of disappointment. 

The story said: 

Mr. Talbot ... is among a new breed of celebrity chefs who have coasted into culinary fame, less by grueling dues-paying, and more on their telegenic brand. The group includes the brothers Brian [sic] and Michael Voltaggio, Ludo Lefebvre, Spike Mendelsohn, Sam Mason, Fabio Vivani and Marcel Vigneron.

These new schoolers tend to have tattoos (Mr. Talbot has 10), use hair gel, wear man jewelry and sport gym-buffed physiques clad in tailored flannels, designer denim and $50 T-shirts.

It was enough to drive both Lefebvre and Voltaggio to call and text the Los Angeles Times: 

Continue reading »

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Daily Dish is written by Times staff writers.