The smoke has cleared, and in the wake of Sam Sifton’s departure from his relatively short tenure as the New York Times dining critic, according to Politico’s Dylan Byers, dining editor Pete Wells has been named as his replacement. In the wake of his departure from the dining editor position, Susan Edgerley—a former assistant managing editor, recently moved to a position as the a special assistant to the executive editor at the paper—has been named editor of the Times dining section in Mr. Wells’ wake.
News of the appointment to the post was first rumored last week by Dylan Byers at Politico; during the time between Sam Sifton’s retirement and today’s announcement, a number of candidates were rumored as being eyed for the job, especially the New Orleans Times-Picayune‘s Brett Anderson, who the Observer hears from a source familiar with the situation that he did not, in the end, want to leave New Orleans if offered the job. A spokesperson for the New York Times did not immediately confirm the rumor (The Observer will update if she does).
[UPDATE: Amanda Kludt at Eater has confirmed both appointments. She also notes: "It should be mentioned that Wells just changed his Twitter profile picture from a photo of himself to a photo of oysters and the Times removed his photo from their website." Meanwhile, the Times has filed their own post on the move, noting that Wells won't begin his duties officially until January.]
Mr. Wells has been the Times Dining editor since 2006, when he joined the paper from Details magazine, where he was an articles editor, prior to which, he was a columnist at Food & Wine for two years. In the weeks between Frank Bruni’s retirement from the post in 2009 and Sam Sifton’s first filing at the position, Mr. Wells filled in as dining critic for the paper, and was—infamously, gloriously—critically violent to the few restaurants he reviewed in that time. A sampling:
From a goose egg “FAIR” review of celebrated Greek chef Michael Psilakis Gus & Gabriel Gastropub: “A selection of offal and other oddities, it raises hopes that those dishes are exempt from the pub theme because they’re so delicious. Those hopes wither at the first bite of a sour chicken-liver mousse paired with a mushy terrine, and they die with a taste of tongue that seems to have passed through the flavor subtractor. (The tongue came with a dish of what the waiter said was the poaching liquid. It didn’t taste like anything, either. The only thing on that plate that did was the bread.)”
From his following filling, a goose egg “SATISFACTORY” review of Hotel Giffou, in which he found a table difficult to secure: “I was afraid that if I returned [to the host's stand] they would hit the one-hour mark and lead me to a produce crate by the dishwasher. So I stayed away.”
From the filing after that, a one-star review of The Standard Grill: “We didn’t blame the overwhelmed waiter, but we did want to wrap him in a warm blanket and pack him into a cab with the names of a few restaurants that give the staff more than 30 seconds of training before sending them into battle.”
Mr. Wells received some criticism for what was seen as being unduly harsh on these restaurants at the time (his final of the four filings was, indeed, a two-star review). Yet, if critical relentlessness is what Mr. Wells brings to the Times Dining table, it may not be undue: Even Mario Batali himself expressed surprised at what was perceived by some to be an overwrought and all too kind review of his big box operation in the Meatpacking District, Del Posto, to whom Sam Sifton awarded four stars (which hadn’t happened for an Italian restaurant in New York City since the 70s), a restaurant whose cuisine Bloomberg critic Ryan Sutton derided as “mushy.”
In other words, may Mr. Wells bring forth the critical hounds of hell on New York City’s dining scene. This will likely be a great deal of fun.
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