Leslie Brenner, the restaurant critic at The Dallas Morning News, is resigning to take a job with Rebees, the Dallas restaurant company launched by developer Tristan Simon. Her final day to use the word "buzzy" will be September 8.
The queasily-titled Rebees is opening a cafe and a restaurant at Victory Park. In prototypical Tristan prose, Simon applauds Brenner's "high food and beverage IQ" and her "abilities as a writer and storyteller, given how narrative figures into the creation of meaningful places."
That all sounds delicious, another one of Brenner's favorite words, and it means Brenner will be a gainfully employed citizen of Dallas for at least another six months. Simon's last restaurant activity in Dallas was when he abruptly sold Consilient, the restaurant company he had founded, to Tim Headington, owner of the Joule Dallas hotel.
Highlights of Brenner's tenure at the paper, which began in 2009, included a well-publicized stunt to break the shackles of anonymity previous DMN critics had endured; and at least five reviews, first-looks, and second-looks at FT33, the Design District restaurant that was her favorite.
The News has already stated that it will conduct a national search for her replacement. Convincing someone from out of town to move here shows that the paper matters. They're important, people!
But Dallas' dining scene is not like the dining scenes in other cities. We're generally behind the curve, with a bit of a lemming thing. We're unreceptive to outsiders unless it's a chain we've heard we're supposed to line up for, like In 'N' Out or Halal Guys. After a month or the lines die down, whichever comes first, we lose interest.
You can't observe the standards of New York or Los Angeles. This is a job where you want to go local. To that end, we'd like to recommend five local candidates to fill Leslie Brenner's soon-to-be-vacant job:
Chef Jeana Johnson. A chef would make a great critic because they know what's going on behind the scenes and can cover the topic with the kind of insight and humanity it deserves. A good chef like Johnson has the palate and can recognize seasonings, ingredients, and techniques. A native of Palestine, in East Texas, Johnson knows indigenous cuisine inside and out. She worked at restaurants such as Stephan Pyles and Smoke, before opening her ground-breaking taqueria Good 2 Go Taco and her innovative Vietnamese restaurant Mot Hai Ba. She eats out, has a comprehensive knowledge of the local scene, and is articulate.
Critic Bill Addison. Addison was the newspaper's dining critic before Brenner came along. He's the one who suggested the newspaper interview her, but let's not hold that against him. He was adored by the Dallas foodie crowd, who appreciated his enthusiasm for No. 1 paying attention to them, but also No. 2 unearthing the obscure hidden finds as well as the high-dollar steakhouses that Brenner loves. Unfortunately, Addison has what many would say is the best critic job in the country as national critic for Eater. But he has a soft spot for Dallas, and, as a Southerner, understands local cuisine.
The guy who does DallasFood.org. If it's national attention you want, then the shadowy guy behind Dallasfood.org has delivered on that front more than anyone else in town. He first brought Dallas glory in 2006 with his expose on Noka Chocolate, a local chocolate company that pretended it made its own chocolate when it was recycling chocolate made by others. In 2016, he did a similar expose on Mast Brothers, the hipster chocolate brand, and in 2011, he did a 36-part series on gianduia that earned international attention. He eats out and takes nice photos, a perk the layoff-prone newspaper might appreciate.
Wylie H Dallas. If you spend time online, you're familiar with this internet phenomenon who first emerged as a commenter on local blogs in 2010. He's written columns for D Magazine which are often muckraking and yet delivered with the genteel politeness the newspaper used to value, before it decided that going postal might bump traffic. Wylie's an "influencer" and a master at social media — 7,586 followers on Facebook and 3,693 on Twitter — and gets lots of "traction" and "engagement," which the newspaper is very concerned with these days. Lastly, he's an anonymous figure who has managed to stay undercover longer than Brenner, or really any critic, ever has.
Instagram. With all of the opportunities that people have to express their opinions about food, dining critics are obsolete. With Yelp, Facebook, and other e-sources, who cares what one royally designated person thinks? A picture's worth 1,000 words. Just publish an Instagram feed.