After two years as restaurant critic for The New York Times, Sam Sifton is getting a new table. As he tweeted this morning, "I'm stepping down as restaurant critic to be the national editor of The Times. #checkplease."
Sifton, who replaced Frank Bruni as restaurant critic in the summer of 2009, was named national editor of the paper by executive editor Jill Abramson. Abramson became executive editor, replacing Bill Keller, only recently. In other words: more musical newsroom chairs at the NYT.
So, who will replace Sifton as restaurant critic?
Good question. One would assume that the Times will promote from within, since that has been their practice. Sifton was the paper's culture editor before he took the job. When Bruni was given the job in 2004, he had been the paper's Rome bureau chief. Bruni replaced William Grimes, who was the paper's restaurant critic from 1990-2004 and wrote for the paper before that as well. Grimes succeeded Ruth Reichl, the only one of the recent critics to come from outside the paper (the Los Angeles Times, in 1993) and to escape it (to Gourmet, in 1999). Both Bruni and Grimes still write for the newspaper.
Pete Wells is probably the favorite, but who knows. Perhaps Mark Bittman will soon be peering over menus instead of lifting lids in restaurant kitchens. Or, if Abramson does look outside, there are a few people we know, including one with a Pulitzer somewhere in his closet. Hope not, for entirely selfish reasons. Anyway, place your bets in the comments section. Even games of musical chairs should have odds, right?