Food critic Laura Reiley has decided to finally show her face after 27 years of near-anonymity. The Tampa Bay Times critic says that she is currently one of only a few dozen full-time food critics employed by U.S. dailies and that she went for the big reveal because “there’s never been a more important time to write about food.” Reiley penned the identity-illuminating tell-all for her publication, the Tampa Bay Times, and included her take on what her job means to the world today.
“In the past decade or so, we’ve been through the most transformative period in culinary history — critics provide the framework, background and even the vocabulary with which the dialogue about food continues,” she wrote. “Just as more people care about the provenance of what they eat, the food system has become infinitely more complex and opaque and the institutions for policing such things have become weaker.”
Reiley’s piece explains that in this part of her career she wants to be more visible as she finds herself writing more about things like agriculture and food technology as well as industry innovators, nutritional science, and about how the food system works — “and about how it doesn’t,” she adds pointedly.
While there are some food critics who don't mind having their faces shown, some do. Lontime Village Voice (and current Eater) critic Robert Sietsema took to obscurring his identity with a terrifying devil mask. Jonathan Gold, the Los Angeles Times’ food critic, dropped his anonymity in 2015 (even though everyone already pretty much knew his true identity). Chicago Tribune food critic Phil Vettel likes to keep a low profile and uses a silhouetted outline of a man on his Tribune author page. There are photos floating around of Pete Wells, The New York Times’ food critic, because this is the age of social media and it is becoming harder to conceal and protect your identity. However neither his author page nor any of his written pieces include a photo of his face.
Twitter was largely shocked when Reiley turned out not to look like the large fork that was posing as her avatar on her author page.
Ultimately, Reiley’s decision to reveal her face was a personal one linked closely to her dedication to journalistic integrity. However the 10 most famous kid critics and cooks have decided from a young age to show their face. Do you recognize any of them? One could be the next Pete Wells!