Further expanding its coverage of the Golden State, the New York Times has named James Beard Award-winning reporter and columnist Tejal Rao as its first official California restaurant critic. Times food editor Sam Sifton made the announcement on Twitter Friday morning. In a press release, he calls the new position “a perfect beat for Tejal,” who will be based in Los Angeles and is expected to begin this fall. “Tejal will review restaurants and write about food and food culture in every corner of the nation’s most populous state, at places both fancy and not, wherever people gather to exchange money for food,” Sifton says.
Times chief restaurant critic Pete Wells, who will remain in his current position, has previously filed reviews from California, though not without controversy. In 2017, Wells awarded Locol, Roy Choi and Daniel Patterson’s fast-food restaurant that aims to take healthy food to underserved populations, zero stars. Considering the business’s mission statement, this rating was perceived by some to be a low blow. Wells will continue to review restaurants in New York “and further afield, including occasionally in California,” according to Sifton.
The Times just announced a $24 million profit in its second-quarter earnings report, pointing to digital-only subscribers as a major catalyst, and Sifton says California has more subscribers than any other state aside from New York. Rao moves west at a time when the state is seen as the epicenter of American food culture but has a dearth of full-time critics. Longtime San Francisco Chronicle critic Michael Bauer recently announced his retirement. Jonathan Gold, the legendary Los Angeles Times critic, died on July 21.
The Times already offers West Coast news coverage by way of its California Today newsletter. Rao is not the newspaper’s first full-time critic to set up shop outside New York City. Besha Rodell has been covering restaurants in Australia since October 2017.
• Tejal Rao Named First California Restaurant Critic [Official]
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• All California Coverage [E]