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In this third installment of Frank Bruni’s new life—now that he’s almost a year out from being New York Times restaurant critic and has a just-out paperback edition of Born Round—he discusses what he misses about critic life and what he thinks about his replacement, Sam Sifton.
Special added bonus: We’ll have a special Part IV of Bruni's interview soon, including his most memorable meals and what he thinks about Ninja, the meal he said was the worst of his tenure as a critic.
On what he misses about being a critic:
I miss the ability, when I find something really special, to broadcast it to the world. Similarly, when I’m having a horrible experience, I miss the opportunity to take a restaurant to task.
On what he doesn’t miss about being a critic:
As a critic, I go to restaurants where chefs know who I am, I know they know who I am, and it all feels absurd. And when it’s great, I don’t have the opportunity to shake someone’s hand. The polite person in me wants to say, “Hey, this is great, thanks so much,” but the critic in me has to be sphinx-like.
Also, being a critic means I change where I'm dining nightly. When I'm a critic, I lose being a regular. I’ve always in my life been a regular at restaurants that I love. In Italy, in Detroit. There’s such a specific pleasure in being a regular, in getting that kind of greeting, in having a chef suggest a dish. As a critic, it’s always next place, next place, next place.
On how his replacement, Sam Sifton, is doing:
I think he’s doing amazingly. I can’t believe how fast he hit the ground running. Sam, unlike me, came to this job from such a long participation with New York restaurant culture. The amount of energy he brings to the job is awe-inspiring. And he loves restaurants; that’s a real skill and gift.