When restaurant reviews are news

A recent New York Times story about the culinary scene in New Orleans is noteworthy for obvious reasons — but some subtle ones as well.

The readily apparent news of the story is the return of restaurant reviews in The Times-Picayune, the daily newspaper in the New Orleans area. Regular reviews were suspended in the aftermath of the Katrina disaster in 2005. The paper’s food critic, Brett Anderson, turned to straight-up reporting as New Orleans began its long recovery. Now, as a sign of the city’s rebuilding efforts, that writer has filed his first restaurant review. He’s back on that beat, and that return is the focus of the NYT story.

The less obvious component of the story is the primacy of The Times-Picayune in the city’s famed restaurant culture. Its reviews — and its authority — were missed. Did bloggers fill the gap? Not really. How about the alternative weekly in the area? Not so much. Here’s the key quote from a New Orleans chef:

“We cooks love to wake up on Friday mornings and open up The Times-Picayune and learn what other people are doing. The key thing is to stay competitive, and that’s where the role of the critic comes in.”

The brand name that is The Times-Picayune still gives the newspaper a prominent role in this aspect of the culture of New Orleans. Whether that name exists in print or online doesn’t matter. The Times-Picayune is the go-to place for restaurant criticism. That’s food for thought as newspapers consider how to “own” a story in an ever-increasing market of media.

Enjoy the review of Mr. B’s Bistro, and laissez les bons temps rouler!



  1. This week the pinheads at the Orlando Sentinel fired Chow Hound Scott Joseph their restaurant critic for the last 20 years. So much for local flavor. I’m about to say “check please” to my hometown newspaper.

  2. Thanks for the comment, Coco.

    It’s too bad that Orlando is making this move. Unlike other types of criticism (books, movies, music), restaurant reviews cannot be surrendered to the wire services.

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