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Farewell, Raphael Brion: A Tribute to the Legend

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Helen Rosner

Today is Eater National editor Raphael Brion's last day at Eater. I'd like to append "IDK" to that sentence to signal my own sense of confusion and dismay over this state of affairs, but as much as that would do Raphael justice, that wouldn't do Raphael justice.

Raphael joined us in March 2010, taking over the year-old Eater National title that had struggled to find its purpose and jumped in with both hands flying. From the second he started, I'm not sure he ever left the keyboard. This didn't surprise me or anyone who'd been a reader of his food blog, Eat Me Daily, which carved out a vital place in a crowded food blog world by being smarter, wittier, and faster than everyone else. Back then, he and his co-founder ran the site under pseudonyms, so it required a mutual connection for me to track the man down and meet him, a total thrill; I never thought I'd actually be able to hire him. That we did, and that he gave his everything and then some to Eater over the past four-and-a-half years — redefining food journalism in America and Saskatchewan in the process — fills me with gratitude.

To send Raphael off in the style he deserves, Eater reached out to our staff, friends, and various fellows in the food world for a few words of tribute. Those words, after the jump. Meantime, Raphael: thank you for everything. May your journey always be rich in pie. —Lockhart Steele

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[Brion and Zimmern, Eater Lounge, Aspen Food and Wine Festival]

ANDREW ZIMMERN, food world god
Raphael Brion is a smart funny informed and passionate guy who has had as much of an impact on how we look and think about food as anyone has in the last five years. I feel like I'm writing a eulogy and he's not even dead!! Well, I guess most importantly he tastes like chicken!

BEN LEVENTHAL Eater co-founder
Before I knew Raphael, I knew his site, Eat Me Daily. It was randomly specific, surprising, unrelenting, and obsessive. I loved Eat Me Daily, which made me hate Eat Me Daily on account of professional jealously. Eater is incredibly lucky to have had Raphael steward the development of Eater National, in many ways Eater's most challenging imprint. I'm quite sure I will hate whatever Raphael does next on account of how much I love it.

DOMINIQUE ANSEL, chef, Dominique Ansel Bakery
During the beginning of the Cronut craze, every other tweet on my Twitter feed would be from @Raphael_Brion. You can see his personality in just a few characters. Off to discover the #newcronut, my friend? Looking forward to seeing what you find out there.

DANIEL VAUGHN, barbecue editor, Texas Monthly
Raphael and his love of barbecue will be missed. Without this man's unceasing cronut admiration, we would not have had the Ansel/Franklin brisket sandwich (not as dirty as it sounds), and two months after it ended I'm still recovering from Meat Week which Brion shepherded the Eater community through like an oracle of animal flesh.

AMANDA COHEN, chef, Dirt Candy
Raphael was one of the first people I knew at Eater who genuinely seemed to care about chefs, and he was the first person to make me feel like Eater was a place where chefs were allowed to have an opinion. Before I met him, I felt like Eater was more interested in snark and take-downs, but he was interested in going deeper, while still indulging in the occasional snarky take-down. When the Time magazine Gods of Food issue came out I thought that maybe I should just shut up about it, but when I asked Raphael if he'd be interested in a response he immediately said "yes" which gave me the confidence that it was worth writing about. I'm sure there are people who wish he'd said "no," but for me as a writer I felt like he was in my corner.

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[Brion at #OX, Portland, OR]

BONJWING LEE, The Ulterior Epicure
Perhaps because I was blogging anonymously at the time, no editor from Eater had ever reached out to me until Raphael became the editor of Eater National. He proposed that we meet for lunch the next time I was in New York (and we did, at the now-defunct Brooklyn location of Motorino). Those were the days when Eater was almost entirely a sensationalist endeavor; barely more than online gossip column for the restaurant industry. And — not that I am big potatoes or anything — as someone who valued my privacy and anonymity, it was the last publication with which I wanted direct contact. Raphael could have easily spat me out as a five-second story in one of the day-end leftovers dump on the site. Instead, he not only respected my wish to remain private, he fiercely guarded my privacy too. That won him, and Eater, a lot of respect from me. It's also the primary reason why I eventually gave Eater the permission to end my anonymity when Gabe Ulla (former features editor for Eater National) asked to interview me in the fall of 2011. In the years since, Raphael has asked me to write a number of times for Eater. I've enjoy working with him, and am disappointed that I will no longer have the opportunity to do so on Eater. I wish him the best of luck.

RYAN SUTTON, Eater Chief Critic and Data Lead
Raphael was one of the earliest supporters of my Price Hike "Suttonomics" and Bad Deal rants back when I was at Bloomberg. I'm certain neither of those sites would have received the traction they did, especially in the early days, without Eater National shining a generous light on them at Raphael's behest. For that, I owe THE MAN a big big debt of gratitude. I'm continually impressed and amazed at the sheer amount of content that National puts out every day and I hope the Brion work ethic rubs off on me a bit!

KAT KINSMAN, editor, Eatocracy
"Don't be the worst." I adore many things about Raphael Brion (in addition to his use of my first and last names at all times) but this is perhaps chief among them: he genuinely wants people, places and things to do better, to BE better. I can say in all honesty that when I write for publication, I've often thought in the back of my head, "Would Raphael rip me to shreds for writing this sentence? OK, yeah, and for the right reasons." He makes me want to be better at what I do, and I thank him. He's also the sole non-colleague in my AIM list, and I light up every time his name pops up. Wherever he's going next, it's going to be better because he's there.

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[Thomas Keller, Brion, Kludt, Aspen Food & Wine Festival]

AMBER AMBROSE, former editor, Eater Houston
Things about Raphael: He's a hard ass with a heart of gold. As a new editor, I was always scared to find an email from him in my inbox, as they were usually pointing out a myriad of mistakes. Looking back, it's this attention to detail that helped make Eater what it is: focused, acerbic, intelligent and informative. It's also something that's made me a better writer. Many of us can thank him for that. As a person, he's a kickass skee-ball player, a humble guy that is always willing to give credit where it's due and a really fun person to hang out with over a few cocktails. I'll forever associate him with Paula Deen and Hall & Oates, for better or worse. Cheers to one of the most influential voices and curators in the industry. Happy trails and lots of fatty brisket to you, friend.

ADAM KUBAN, OG food blogger
Raphael's an all-around great web editor. His attention to detail on all fronts — editorial, design, web development, recognizing a great story and telling or fostering it — really helped shape the early days of Serious Eats when I worked with him there, and of course Eater National when he came on board as editor. It made Eater National a must-read site. I'll miss his stewardship at EN and hope that his legacy carries on.

Raphael lived and breathed his work at Eater with a dedication like no one else. For that alone he deserves a lifetime supply of cronuts. But after working with him, what I missed most was his disdain for words like "foodie" and "sammies." I can never read these words without thinking of him fondly. Now I'm going to miss his headlines just as much.

ADAM ROBERTS, The Amateur Gourmet
Some people are built for this blogging business and Raphael's one of the best. He knows, on a very deep level, what makes for quality content; both in terms of entertainment value and in terms of substance. What he brought to Eater is the gravitas of a serious magazine editor combined with the whimsy of a modern day purveyor of Vines and Vlogs and other amusements for people with short attention spans. He found that perfect balance between stuff that immediately makes you click and stuff that makes you stay and read. Raphael's shoes are big shoes to fill, indeed.

ZACH BROOKS, founder, Midtown Lunch and Food is the New Rock
I fear for Eater's future. But seriously though... what six people are you going to hire to fill his shoes?

JOSHUA DAVID STEIN, food writer extraordinaire
What to say about Raphael? Well, I've known him since I was a whippersnapper and it feels even longer when one considers all the endless waiting for his Google Hangout responses which come almost haphazardly and without any warning. But he's a singularly supportive editor and I'm pretty sure the hardest working man in food media. I've never met a man as serious about cats, cigarettes and celebrity chefs and I hope never to. Raphael is all I need.

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[Brion and Steph Izard, Eater Lounge]

I should have listened to Raphael. Digital eons ago he took me to dinner (Motorino, East Village, smoke and wine) to try to persuade me to dump my corporate blogging gig and post over to the upstart site. I did the shortsighted math and declined. But he won. It says everything that the pay stayed static over to the older, tamer media, and the editorial whip ultimately cracked too hard, while the rates rose and control stayed loose in RaphaelWorld. Working with him was always a pleasure: I typed; he had my back
fact-wise; there were no silly arguments about word choice or angle. Writers got to write.

JAMES CASEY, founder, Swallow magazine
I have always been so impressed at Raphael's dedication to getting both story and scoop. For someone who works in what, ostensibly, is a rather entertainment focused industry, Raphael has been able to ruffle quite a few feathers (generally the one that need ruffling) over the past few years. He's certainly been responsible for bursting quite a few inflated egos, too. Bravo!

HILLARY DIXLER, associate reports editor, Eater National
Obviously I can't sum up my admiration for Raphael adequately since he took a chance on hiring me and then taught me how to be a blogger from scratch BUT this is my favorite part of our banned words list:
- nom
- nom nom
- nom nom nom​

Makes me smile every time. And he led the charge with Paula Deen Gate. All of that content has his name all over it. I remember him telling me, "This is our Super Bowl."

ERIN DEJESUS, evening news editor, Eater National
An open letter to Raphael Brion:

Let's start with a full disclosure for you. Every day for the past however many months, I experienced a mini-panic with your first IM of the day. Sometimes it'd be a correction, or a link you were eager to share, or perhaps — most scary to me at the pre-coffee hour of 8:30a.m. — a kernel of a story idea to talk through. I call the last one the "scariest" because no one knows their way around wit or storytelling strategy or flat-out passion for this business like you do, and the thought of keeping up to your active mind at work was sometimes daunting. But those conversations, plus your constant encouragement, edits, and the sense of trust you've instilled in me makes me feel like less of a fraudulent sparring partner these days. Thank you for that, even though you should know now that my frequently IMed response of "lol" usually came when I wasn't sure what else to say.

As an editor of words, you have endorsed the appearance of word "embiggen," championed the addition of fun superlatives (a certain "human Ninja Turtle" knows who he is), and banhammered my beloved "kerfuffle." Most importantly, as an editor of people, you have made me feel capable of trying new things, crafting longer stories, and pushing myself as a writer, all while assigning stories about Spam and robots and TVfoodpersons (one word). The Eater voice is your voice. Thank you so much for sharing it with me. I will miss those IMs.

[Someone sent him pie!]

What is there to say about Raphael Brion, flooder of zones, tweaker of the powers that be, and champion of the exploited, except: Tip of the toque for all you've done—for foodies, quaffers, startenders, cheftestants, and, most of all, the foodie-preneurs here at Eater. You're amazeballs. Suds on us, anytime and always. Until then, welp and buh bye.

SUSAN STAPLETON, editor, Eater Las Vegas
Whenever I needed to know whether Guy Fieri was a human lava lamp or Gordon Ramsay was a shouty chef, I always turned to Raphael. He knew how to add just enough humor to an article to give Eater National a reason to be the go-to for all things funny in the world of food. I took my cues from him. You'll be greatly missed, Raphael.

AMY MCKEEVER, features writer, Eater
Raphael has been my boss for only half of my time at Eater, but he's been a mentor to me since the beginning. When I was the editor of Eater DC, struggling to prove myself, Raphael gave me feedback. Usually unsolicited, sure, but always on point. He read all of the city sites every day and would warn me when I messed up some html or discuss with me how to best play a local story. He is brilliant, especially when it comes to the internet, and gave me crazy story ideas like ordering Burger King delivered to McDonald's. And then he supported me while I carried those out. None of this was his job; he just wanted to help make my site better. In doing so, he has made me better.

That's still been the case in the two years now that he's been my boss. Raphael has given me a string of ideas and opportunities, and the support to carry them out. He also let me try out my own ideas. I never thought I'd get to write long features for a blog, but Raphael gave that to me. He gave that to all of Eater. He's a genius at the viral shit, but Raphael also deserves credit for Eater National's tremendous depth. Among other things, you can thank him for being interested in whether going to culinary school is worthwhile and for being obsessed with ramen noodles.

There's a lot more to say, but bottom line: Raphael cares about what he does, and he expects and inspires the same out of the people around him. To the benefit of all of us. Thank you, RB, and keep on killing it.

MEGHAN MCCARON, editor, Eater Austin
If Raphael ever IM'd me "lol" about a lede or headline, that's when I knew it was actually funny. His idea for the world's most viral sandwich lead to the meeting of food line titans Dominique Ansel and Aaron Franklin (they got along swimmingly), and if a better SXSW headline than "SXSW 2014 Where to Eat Austin Tacos Tex Mex BBQ SEO," I haven't seen it.

[Forbes + Brion.]

GREG MORABITO, engagement editor, Eater
Raphael has given the Internet many, many gems over the years, but my absolute favorites are the Foodstuffs of Mad Men posts. I love the depth of history contained therein, and I still don't know how Raphael turned them around so quickly. If you're diving in for the first time, check out RB's digital trip back to The Forums of the Twelve Caesars.

KHUSHBU SHAH, news desk writer, Eater
I am going to keep this short with sentences without singular em dashes in the preferred style of Raphael. There are no amount of words or blog posts that could cover how much respect I have for you, Raphael, as a boss and as a person. I am a proud graduate of the RB school of blogging, and that is something I hold in higher regard than my own college degree. Thank you for teaching me how to find the angle on the story no one else has (including a method that actually makes Yelp useful), showing me how to scour through corners of google news I did not know existed, and revealing to me the many, many ways one can describe Guy Fieri. While you will be sorely missed, the world better brace, because no doubt there will be many awesome things coming from you in the future.

JACKIE GOLDSTEIN, director of operations, Eater
Raphael is a genius and it has been a privilege to work with him the past few years. I remember early on in my career at Eater, I used to be intimidated by him. He is such a creative and talented person but he takes his work very seriously. One of the first times we got to hang out outside of the office was at my first Eater Awards. He gave me a compliment on my work ethic and being able to make things happen. A compliment from him just carries more weight, and I've held it with me ever since.

DANIELA GALARZA, news editor, Eater
I only worked directly with Raphael for three months, but in that short amount of time he taught me just about everything he knew. There are so many tiny things that I'll never forget, because the details were everything. I will never not credit a photographer! There are dozens of words and phrases ("hullabaloo," "top toque") that I do not use in my personal life because he banned them (for good reason!) on Eater. I spend precious minutes reviewing the punctuation in each post. He taught me how to blog. He taught us how to think about the food world. And to laugh about it. His Paula Deen coverage: epic. He liked to use the words bold and brave; He is both. The people that get to work with him next are some incredibly lucky bastards.

AMANDA KLUDT, editor in chief, Eater
First off, Raphael is just an incredible journalist. He's fast, he's funny as hell, he knows how to find the angle, flood the zone, crown the heroes, and take the right people to task. His fluency in the internet is unlike any human I've encountered. But over the last four years he's become an even better editor and leader, because the man is never satisfied. He pushes his writers to have cleaner, clearer copy, to be smarter reporters and more creative thinkers. He catches fuck ups, from people above and below him. He pursues bigger stories, explores new formats and designs, and isn't afraid to expand the scope of what we do. Raphael asked a lot of the people who worked for and with him. In return he gave all of himself and more to them, to us, to Eater.

Raph, thank you so much for being such a pivotal and encouraging part of my time with Eater. And thank you for always giving me room to run. I owe you a lot, my friend. Good luck in this next chapter. See you around the way.

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[Brion, out.]