The Identity of Ruth Bourdain: Not Who New York Thinks It Is

The long-running mystery of who’s behind the Twitter parody known as Ruth Bourdain—an amalgamation of the now-defunct Gourmet magazines longtime editor Ruth Reichl and author/television personality Anthony Bourdain— received another jolt this week.

In a sidebar in this week’s New York Magazine front-of-book Intelligencer section, Eater noted a preview for the forthcoming “Ruth Bourdain” authored book, Comfort Me With Offal, which was attributed to:

“Ruth Bourdain (aka Voice writer Robert Sietsema).”

The problem? Village Voice dining critic Robert Sietsema already denied being the person behind Ruth Bourdain last October after Star-Tribune writer came up with a theory that ostensibly outed Sietsema as the mastermind behind the Tweets, which prompted Eater to ask:

 Does someone at New York magazine have insider info, or are they just messing with everyone?

In a phone call with The Observer this afternoon, Mr. Sietsema again denied involvement with Ruth Bourdain. So how did his name end up in the magazine? “The only conclusion that I can come to,” he explained,  “is that Ruth Bourdain says he’s me in the text [of the book], which I have not seen. It looks like they’ve seen a copy of the book.”

“I can’t imagine they’d be so stupid to say that without having any evidence that it’s me.”  As he tells it, nobody at New York called him to verify his identity as the person behind the account, “and they are a fact-checking group,” he noted, referring to New York‘s research department. “So I can’t help but think there must be something in the pages.

“As part of the humorous shtick, I can imagine Ruth Bourdain writing in the book, ‘Well, I’m Robert Sietsema, of course.’ It’s in his or her best interests to have me as the cowcatcher on the front of the locomotive. “

When asked what New York thought of Sietsema’s denial, The Observer received a terse email from a magazine spokesperson explaining: “This was an editing error.” While they did not respond to further questions about how the error came to be, they did note that the mistake would be corrected in the next issue.

“It’s amazing that she’s been able to keep her anonymity for this long,” marveled Sietsema.

Indeed, it is: Not only does Ruth Bourdain operate in a relatively small world (the food journalism subculture), but also, has a book coming out, has done press for it, and was even recently handed a James Beard Award for accomplishments in humor. Sietsema also pointed out that Regina Schrambling of Gastropoda has been suspected of being behind the account.

Before him, Eater co-founder Ben Leventhal (who called Ruth Bourdain’s identity “perhaps the best kept secret in all of food”) once pointed to both food blogger Josh Friedland and Adam Robb—the creator of a fake Twitter for ‘Resturant Girl’ (aka former Daily News food critic Danyelle Freeman)—of collectively perpetrating Ruth Bourdain on the world. As for whether or not Sietsema would seek any royalties if falsely identified as the identity behind Ruth Bourdain in the book, he explained: that kind of thing just isn’t his style.

“It’d be much easier to just step in front of a car.”

For the time being, the identity of “Ruth” remains at-large. | @weareyourfek The Identity of Ruth Bourdain: Not Who <em>New York</em> Thinks It Is