A food critic holding a glass of wine and sitting in front of a plate of food at a restaurant..

What is a food critic? What’s it like to work at Condé Nest?

Ruth Reichl, a renowned American chef, food writer, and editor, has made significant contributions to the fields of food criticism and editorial work. On Wiser Than Me, Reichl unveils what it takes to be a food critic and the advice that helped propel her career.

If you’re considering going into a career in food criticism, read more.

Ruth Reichl’s Journey Through the Food Critic and Editorial Landscape

With a career spanning several decades, Ruth Reichl’s accomplishments include serving as a food critic for esteemed publications such as the Los Angeles Times and The New York Times. Reichl also held the position of editor-in-chief at Gourmet Magazine from 1999 to 2009. Throughout her journey, Reichl has emphasized themes of overcoming fear and taking risks in one’s career, navigating toxic company cultures, embracing authenticity and individuality in professional pursuits, and recognizing opportunities for growth and success.

What is a food critic? A food critic is a writer who reviews food and dining experiences and publishes their findings. Reichl’s food critic journey serves as a focal point of conversation. She relates how her initial terror about taking the editorial role at Gourmet magazine due to her lack of editing experience fell away.

Reichl paints a vivid picture of a groundbreaking review she wrote after visiting the illustrious restaurant Le Cirque, both anonymously and as herself, contrasting the differing treatment she received. Despite causing her great angst, the piece blazed a trail and cemented her reputation as a fearless critic.

Memorable Moments From the Vogue-like World of Condé Nast

Reichl’s time at Condé Nast provided significant food for thought. The discourse painted a picture of a company culture characterized by extreme entitlement with Reichl consciously resisting its influence. 

An amusing anecdote explains her persuasion of her publisher to take the subway instead of waiting for a chauffeured car—a significant deviation from the office’s norms. 

Another notable moment was the unintended comedy that ensued when Reichl’s staff brought a freshly butchered halal goat into the office, sharing an elevator with renowned fashion editor Anna Wintour. These incidents underscore Reichl’s eccentric approach in the often frantic world of Condé Nast.

Career Cornerstones: The Advice That Mattered

In this episode, the duo share transformative advice essential to their careers. Reichl recalls how her friend’s insistence that “opportunity waits for none” led her to accept the position at Gourmet magazine despite her concerns. This decision rooted in the fear of missing an opportunity, proved to be a cornerstone of her notable career. 

On the other hand, Louis-Dreyfus underscores that everyone’s journey is unique and that success isn’t about achieving perfection but appreciating the journey.


Reichl’s experiences shed light on the evolving landscape of food criticism in an era dominated by social media and online platforms. As technology advances and consumer preferences change, traditional forms of culinary journalism are being reshaped. Additionally, her tenure at Gourmet magazine highlights the influence of prominent figures like Anna Wintour within the publishing industry. These individuals have played pivotal roles in shaping cultural trends and consumer behavior through their editorial decisions.

Furthermore, Reichl’s story invites discussions on ethical considerations faced by public figures when endorsing brands or products. The challenges faced by women in leadership positions within traditionally male-dominated industries are also worth exploring through her experiences. Moreover, examining the intersection between food criticism and other realms such as fashion or lifestyle journalism can provide valuable insights into how these industries intertwine.

Looking ahead to the future of food criticism and editorial work, it is expected that advancements in technology will continue to shape these fields. Social media platforms will likely exert even greater influence on brand endorsements and product recommendations as they become increasingly integrated into everyday life. 

What Is a Food Critic? Reviewing Food for a Living

Katie Doll

Somehow, Katie was able to pull off her childhood dream of creating a career around books after graduating with a degree in English and a concentration in Creative Writing. Her preferred genre of books has changed drastically over the years, from fantasy/dystopian young-adult to moving novels and non-fiction books on the human experience. Katie especially enjoys reading and writing about all things television, good and bad.

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