by Kevin Allman
So the vacant dining critic seat at The New York Times — currently occupied by temporary seat-sitter Eric Asimov — has been the subject of musical chairs in recent weeks, and word had it that only two men were in final contention to sit there officially: Times dining editor Pete Wells (the "inside the paper" choice) and The Times-Picayune's own bean man, Brett Anderson (the "bringing someone in" choice).
Today we know: It's Wells, not Anderson. POLITICO's Dylan Byers got the scoop and the internal Times memo announcing the appointment, which should be leaked into general dissemination in three... two... one... *
This is the second time The New York Times took Anderson's measure for the seat; he was considered in 2009, when the vacancy ended up going to another Times insider, Sam Sifton (now the paper's national editor).
What does Anderson think of this? Don't know; he's on a two-week vacation in Argentina.
* See? What did we tell you? Internal NYT memo under the jump.
Pete Wells will be our new restaurant critic. No one could be better prepared or respected for his superb writing, intimate knowledge of food and restaurants and deep commitment to our dining franchise. Pete has been Dining Editor since 2006. He has stepped in as acting critic himself — writing a half-dozen well-received columns in the interim between the Bruni and Sifton eras.
We knew we were on the right track when more than one of the dozens of applicants around the country opened their queries by saying, “Pete should be the critic, but I’m available if you don’t pick him.” Pete was an accomplished food writer long before the Times. He wrote a column, “Always Hungry,” for Food & Wine, and was a top editor at Details. He has received five James Beard Foundation Awards for writing about eating and drinking.
Pete wrote a thoughtful memo about how our critics have operated since 1963, when Craig Claiborne established a regular review column and codified the standards that set the Times apart from other publications. He has provocative and exciting notions about how to move our coverage into the 21st century.
Of the many top-notch candidates to take Pete’s place, Susan Edgerley stood out for her eagerness, enthusiasm and managerial skills. She says she sees the job as 100-proof joy. She is a passionate cook and avid reader of cookbooks, as well as blogs, magazines and memoirs about food. She is an intrepid restaurant diner, and a viewer of an assortment of food shows. She has been known to sip her share of wine and spirits. And she is not embarrassed to admit that she choked up when Julia Child died.
Susan has done it all since she joined the Times in 1989 as a copy editor on Metro: AME for career development, training and print-web integration. Metro Editor. Editor of the NYT News Service. And, most recently, strategic adviser to Jill, helping her live up to her promise to get around the newsroom.
Susan will soon begin transitioning to Dining, watching as the crew prepares for the Super Bowl of the department: Thanksgiving. Pete, who is having himself outfitted with a variety of seasonal, local and organic wigs, will take over the critic’s chair in January.