After nearly a year-long search, the Dallas Morning News has hired a dining critic: Michalene Busico, a native of Southern California and journalist at publications such as The Robb Report and The Los Angeles Times.
Busico replaces Leslie Brenner, the newspaper's most recent critic, who left in 2017 and now works for Rebees, the moniker-challenged company founded by restaurateur Tristan Simon.
Although Busico was once a food editor, this will be her first crack at being a restaurant critic. According to her Linked-in page, she was deputy editor for the Robb Report for eight years, and was previously with Entrepreneur magazine. The last time she worked at a newspaper was in 2008.
According to sources who prefer to remain unnamed, Busico was not the first candidate to be offered the job. Her salary is rumored to be "within the six-figure range."
Sadly, her hire is a rejection of our five suggestions for who should be the next critic, which included chef Jeana Johnson, man-about-town Wylie H. Dallas, and Instagram. With sites such as Facebook and Yelp, and a declining readership in the newspaper world, restaurant critics seem like a dying breed.
Busico represents a doubling down on the part of the DMN to a more old-school style of criticism. Her social media presence is currently slim, with a Twitter account currently boasting only 199 followers and a total of four tweets issued from 2016. Nonetheless, she will not be anonymous, and posed for a photo in the column that announces her hiring.
Among her stated goals is a plan to reshape the newspaper's star rating system, "so we can recognize less formal restaurants in a stronger way."
Busico has already written articles for the newspaper, including a profile of chef Julian Barsotti. In her column, which is behind a paywall, she divulges that she and Brenner are friends. (Her very first tweet was a retweet in support of Brenner, awwww.)
But dang, their friendship would seem to put her out of the running to cover Billy Can Can — which the paper momentously dubbed "the Texas saloon that might finally save Dallas' Victory Park" — or for that matter, any of the other Tristan projects coming soon to Victory Park.
Brenner's reign was controversial. She had some lingo issues, was banned from some local restaurants, and endured run-ins with chefs such as John Tesar and local heroes such as "BBQ Snob" Daniel Vaughn after "BBQ-Gate," in which a best barbecue list she crafted featured a number of restaurants he'd written about first.