The Daily Meal Hall of Fame: Mimi Sheraton

As a restaurant critic, journalist, memoirist, and overall fount of information, she finds the story at every table

Sheraton was the New York Times' first female restaurant critic. 

The Daily Meal is announcing the inductees into its Hall of Fame for 2017. The Hall of Fame honors key figures, both living and dead, from the world of food. We are introducing the honorees one per weekday. Our seventh inductee is Mimi Sheraton. For all Daily Meal Hall of Fame inductees, please click here.

In her superb 2004 book, Eating My Words: An Appetite for Life, Mimi Sheraton (1926–) offers a master’s guide to food writing in the guise of a memoir. Anyone who aspires to be a food writer, in any of the many incarnations of that term these days, should pick up a copy immediately and see how it’s done — for besides having an unbridled appetite for restaurants, food history, chefs, and (perhaps most of all) research, Sheraton is first and foremost a great journalist. Long before Ruth Reichl donned wigs for anonymity, Sheraton did it. Before Jonathan Gold won a Pulitzer, she was already on the case.

Sheraton was most definitely also a pioneer. When she became the first woman restaurant critic for The New York Times in 1975, it was at a point in history when men dominated both newspapers and restaurant kitchens. After leaving the paper eight years later, Mimi went on to chronicle many, many aspects of our food culture. She has seen — and, seemingly, tasted — it all. Her bibliography is impressive and important, and she is still “bringing it,” well into the twenty-first century. She is never mired in the past. She embraces the new — as long as it meets her exacting standards. She is warm, and funny, and wise, which means that she does not suffer fools gladly.She has seen — and, seemingly, tasted — it all.

In my many years as an editor at Bon Appétit, I knew that I could always rely on Sheraton to answer a question, no matter how mundane or routine it might have been to her (especially in my early days). Often the explanation came with a fascinating back story that only she could have provided. She was, and still is, a mentor and friend to many, something that seldom gets a lot of attention.

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Mimi Sheraton epitomizes what a Daily Meal Hall of Fame inductee should be: influential, curious, and tenacious; someone with a distinct voice and point of view. This is not just about longevity. It’s about quality. As she puts it in the introduction to Eating My Words: “I believe there is a story at every table. Anxious to know what each might be, I have honed skills at eavesdropping, glancing (too unobtrusively to be called staring, I trust) and filling in the blanks myself.” How lucky we are to have those blanks filled in by the talented and astute Mimi Sheraton.