Restaurant critic Besha Rodell has a brand-new job following her recent departure from LA Weekly and move back to her native Melbourne. Starting today, she’ll be the New York Times restaurant critic for Australia.
In May, the Times, ostensibly New York’s paper of record, opened a bureau in Sydney, Australia to expand its international coverage, and last month, Australia bureau chief Damien Cave announced plans to add a restaurant critic to the Australia staff. For those who follow the small world of restaurant criticism, Rodell was the clear choice.
“We know that food matters, to Australia and to our readers all over the world, and we think Besha can really add something to the conversation about Australian culture and the ways that Australia is changing, with food being an entry point that allows for both fun and insight,” Cave tells Eater.
Rodell was LA Weekly’s restaurant critic for five years. In that time, she stood out as the city’s sole truly anonymous critic and instituted a starred-rating system for LA restaurants. Rodell wasn’t afraid to be critical, and could be vicious, as was the case with a July takedown of Hollywood hotspot Tao. At the Times, Cave says, Rodell will “apply Times-ian rigor to her reviews — to really dig in without fear or favor.“
The reviews, which will run every two weeks, will cover restaurants that “tell us something about the country.” Initially, Rodell’s reviews will encompass a range of locations and restaurant types, and going forward, the Australia bureau and be taking suggestions from Australia’s readers. But, Cave says, Rodell “knows Australia, she knows food. She knows how to provide the kind of perspective that is an important part of what we are trying to bring to our growing Australian audience, and to those who are just interested in food and drink.”
Update 1:30 p.m.: Rodell says her beat in Australia will be different from the one she covered in LA, describing it as more “exploratory” and “anthropological.” She explains: “Here I’m really seeking out the interesting corners of Australian food culture rather than trying to keep up with the ever-changing new hotness of one particular city.”
Rodell plans to go “wherever the interesting food happens to be.” This will include restaurants in Australia’s biggest cities, Sydney and Melbourne, but, Rodell says, she’s “excited to find places in those cities and beyond that are worthy of deeper consideration.”
Stay tuned for Rodell’s first review, which will run Friday morning, Australia time.