An Interview With Ruth Reichl

An Interview With Ruth Reichl

I was on cloud nine when Ruth Reichl’s agent called me back to say she was interested in accepting my interview request. Granted, she was already going to be in my neck of the woods, but still, she’s one of the most influential female food writers ever, and it was something my little food blogging heart was excited about.

Ms. Reichl was the editor-in chief for 10 years at Gourmet magazine and has written five best-selling books. These days, she’s working on two new nonfiction works and her first fiction novel, and is getting ready for her debut as one of the judges for a newly retooled season of Top Chef Masters, which debuted April 6.

Image: Elaine Wu

I posted the full interview on my blog, but here are some questions I asked especially for the BlogHer food community:

ELAINE: What was life like after Gourmet closed its doors?

RUTH: It was so sad when Gourmet ended. But now, the experiences I’m having are so exhilarating. It’s almost like it’s opened up new doors. But the staff was very close and we really enjoyed each other. We still get together for group dinners.

ELAINE: How has food blogging changed the traditional restaurant reviewer?

RUTH: I think there are tons of good food bloggers out there. It’s changed how the professional reviewer has to behave. It’s really put the burden on them. You can’t just be a consumer reporter, like restaurant reviewing used to be. But the downside to a lot of the food critiquing blogs is that some of them take advantage of the system to get into nice restaurants or have their meals comped. On the other hand, there are others who are passionate eaters and it’s put the burden on the reader to be intelligent about the food choices they make.

ELAINE: What food blogs do you follow?

RUTH: My Last Bite. I feel like she’s reading everything. She sends me to people on Twitter. It’s like her job to be so informed about everything related to food!

ELAINE: How do you feel about how some bloggers aren’t getting paid for their writing?

RUTH: Nobody should work for free. What they do should be considered work and no one’s work is free. I’m most proud of the less sexy investigative food pieces we did at Gourmet. We need people writing about important food issues. People with the best will in the world can’t afford to do great investigative reports on food if they don’t get paid for it.

ELAINE: As a parent, what do you think about the current debate about how we’re feeding our children in this country?

RUTH: We’ve allowed our children to be addicted to fat, salt and sugar and we’re not holding companies accountable. In Japan, kids eat fish and rice for breakfast and Americans eat sugary pastries. Eating is learned behavior. This is the biggest crisis we face in this country. We have a two tier diet in this country. If you’re poor you’re stuck with what we call “food” and we need to fix it. You can debate it till the cows come home, but there is no debate.

ELAINE: What do you think of the mysterious “Ruth Bourdain” being nominated for a James Beard Award for Humor writing?

RUTH: I think it’s great! And I think it’s great that there’s a “Humor” category now. That wouldn’t have happened 10 years ago. If you can’t laugh about food what can you laugh about?


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