Special Sauce: Frank Bruni on What Makes a Good Restaurant Critic

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[Photograph: Soo-Jeong Kang. Manicotti photograph: J. Kenji López-Alt]

Serious eaters who are fans of New York Times op-ed columnist and former restaurant critic Frank Bruni are in for a treat with this week's Special Sauce, the first of a two-parter. Bruni has done so many interesting things, both at the Times and on his own, that contribute to his unique perspective on topics as varied as eating disorders, restaurant criticism, and covering presidents. In this episode, we discuss the unforeseen consequences of writing his poignant, brutally honest memoir, Born Round: A Story of Family, Food and a Ferocious Appetite: "It is very weird, to this day, to meet people who have read that book, and who remember that book, and know more about me than some people who I dated for two years. Because, like, all of the messy and most intimate stuff is there." We also talk about Bruni's stint as the Times' Rome bureau chief (during which he sometimes got intel from an unnamed source at the Vatican), as well as the qualifications we tend to look for in restaurant critics versus movie, art, or architecture critics. As for his take on Donald Trump and his passion for meat loaf, the latter of which led to his new cookbook, A Meatloaf in Every Oven, written with Times reporter Jennifer Steinhauer, I regret to inform serious eaters everywhere that you're going to have to wait for next week's episode to hear some decidedly un-fake news on both subjects.

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