Suddenly, a Saveur and Sam Sifton Spat [UPDATED]


When Eddie Huang got a no-star review from Sam Sifton, his mom more or less agreed with the Times‘ critic’s assessment of her son’s squandered potential.

Now that Michael Psilakis and Ryan Skeen’s cooking at FishTag has received identical treatment from Sifton, they’ve found a similarly maternal ally in Saveur publisher Merri Lee Kingsly. But unlike Huang’s mom, Kingsly thinks her boys have done no wrong, and that Sifton is a big old meanie.

Earlier today, after the Times failed to publish her comments about Sifton’s review, Kingsly contacted Eater to get a few things off of her chest.

After taking issue with Sifton’s “snarky comments,” about Psilakis’s “continued creativity,” Kingsly further admonished the critic: “[Y]ou need to stop being so rude to the chefs in our world that work so damn hard every single day and put every bit of passion and love into the food they cook.”

While Sifton’s review obviously struck a nerve with FishTag’s fans, Kingsly’s decision to publicly shame the critic for doing his job is a bit troubling, particularly given that Saveur is launching its own restaurant reviews this month. Are we to conclude from Kingsly’s reaction to a negative review that those in her magazine will be uniformly positive, so as to avoid hurting anyone’s feelings? Or will the negative reviews only apply to restaurants whose chefs haven’t cooked at Saveur‘s many parties or already been given loving profiles in the magazine’s pages?

Kingsly’s comments suggest that she fails to fully appreciate the inherently subjective nature of criticism, and the necessity of maintaining editorial independence from the people her magazine covers. Commenting on Eater, Dévi chef Suvir Saran put it somewhat more bluntly: “Kingsly’s outpouring is one that speaks of a delusional person.” Whether Saveur‘s critical viewpoint will suffer similar delusions remains to be seen.

UPDATE: Kingsly writes in to clarify that neither her editors at Saveur nor the magazine itself “have a single thing to do with” her comments.