It's official. Sam Sifton is the New York Times' new restaurant critic. Serious eaters should be thrilled. Sam is an inspired choice for the job. Before I tell you why I should tell all of you that Sam was the Dining section editor who reached out to me to become a regular contributor to the paper. Though we have not worked together in at least five years, we have stayed in touch and broken bread together on numerous occasions. So I am sure what I am about to write is colored by the great respect, admiration, and warm feelings I have for Sam.
In the end all of that doesn't matter. What does is what Sam is going to bring to the most important and influential restaurant critic job in the world. Allow me to explain, after the jump.
- First of all, Sam Sifton is brilliant, and that's a word I don't throw around easily. He's smart as a whip, and he has more bandwidth than just about any other human being I know. Sam is endlessly curious and ridiculously well-read.
- He is also a serious eater par excellence. Sam is as passionate and discerning and inclusive about food as anyone I know. Go back and read any installment of The Cheat in the Times Magazine, and you'll feel his discerning passion in every sentence. When you do that you'll also notice something else: Sam writes like a dream.
- Sam is not a food snob. Remember, he was the one with whom I developed the long-form format for my round-up stories about hamburgers, hot dogs, and pizza by the slice. Sam encouraged me to go to all five boroughs in my seemingly endless searches for seriously delicious food. He is a man of the people, albeit in part a man of the people who went to Harvard.
- Sam has strong, well-reasoned opinions about food and defends those opinions as well as anyone. We don't always agree, but I have always respected his point of view and his ability to articulate and back up his arguments.
- He is a straight shooter, a person of unimpeachable integrity. Chefs and restaurateurs can rest assured that Sam will give them a fair shake, though I am sure that some of them will think otherwise when he writes his first negative review.
So factoring in everything I have just told you about Sam, I think you can see why I think the New York Times got it right. He is the right man for this job, especially at this moment. In a world where everyone has the wherewithal to be a restaurant critic, it's somehow comforting and reassuring that the Times has come up with someone as democratic, discerning, and authoritative as Sam Sifton.
Everyone at Serious Eats would like to welcome Sam Sifton to the fray.