“HE SAID, SHE SAID” Culinary Soundbites Pt. 1: Ruth Reichl
Beginning as a food critic known for her brutally honest reviews of places like the legendary Le Cirque, Ruth Reichl has now won her rightful place as a masterful food writer. Ruth Reichl is perhaps to food what Roger Ebert is to movies. Or maybe what Anna Wintour is to fashion. Influential, witty, and incredibly honest, Reichl influenced the world of haute cuisine through deflating the inflated notion some may have of haute cuisine. Today, we revisit some of Reichl’s best tidbits on food. While Reichl no longer reviews restaurants, she has since served as editor-in-chief for Gourmet (RIP), has produced and starred in television shows and written three successful memoirs. Now, Reichl is the editorial advisor for Gilt Taste the flash sale website off which we wish there was more we could afford (hint, hint). Reichl also maintains a blog of recipes and musings, as well as attending various speaking engagements across the country. Below, we sound off on some of our favorite Reichl moments in food history.
“This is a city of strangers, a place where people yearn both to be left alone and to connect. Nowhere do public and private come together so completely as they do in restaurants. That is why New York is — and always will be — a city devoted to the joy of eating out.”
Trust Reichl to so eloquently describe what may be at the core of why we love food so much. Half the fun of eating, cooking, baking is the act of togetherness and mutual enjoyment one derives from these things. New York in this quote could easily be substituted by any other city and would still hold true. In a sentence, Reichl captures the essence of the love of food, and we love her for it.
” ‘Do you have a reservation?’
This is said so challengingly I instantly feel as if I am an intruder who has wandered into the wrong restaurant. But I nod meekly and give my guest’s name.”
This iconic opening to Ruth Reichl’s first review for Le Cirque, that iconic Manhattan restaurant, is indicative of essential Reichl. After this review of Le Cirque ran, Reichl’s second visit to the restaurant went much more smoothly, and Reichl was seated and the King of Spain was left to wait, or so the story goes. Reichl quickly gained legendary status after this review, becoming one of the authorities on fine dining. She brought fine dining down to a very human level, despite her high status in the food world. Reichl’s influential review is inspiring food bloggers like ourselves even today.
Nothing represents Ruth better than this episode from her cooking series with Gourmet. Here, Reichl displayed best what she was able to do for the magazine–create an accessible, quintessentially American magazine which brings fine food to us, not the other way around. The death of Gourmet rattled us, and while we will probably never fully understand it, this episode dulls the pain a bit. In this series, Reichl is one with nature in her cooking–exploring different cuisines from farm to table. This series once again helps us prove our belief that the best food writing and programming may in fact all be online.
- Damanpreet Pelia