Meet The 2 New Food Critics At The LA Times

Street Tacos being made in front of the Gabba Gallery in Los Angeles on Sep. 30, 2017. (Photo by Joey Zanotti/Flickr Creative Commons)

A month after the Los Angeles Times named Peter Meehan as its new food editor, the paper has announced who will fill the shoes of late restaurant critic Jonathan Gold. It's gonna take two people because those are some big shoes to fill.

Bill Addison, Eater's national critic, and Patricia Escárcega, formerly the food critic for the Phoenix New Times, will become the new restaurant critics at the L.A. Times.

The paper also hired Lucas Peterson, former host of Eater's Dining on a Dime and the Frugal Traveler columnist for the New York Times, to host a new video series and contribute to the food and travel sections.

The three new hires all start in December.

They join Meehan, acting food editor Jenn Harris, test kitchen director Noelle Carter and writers Andrea Chang and Amy Scattergood to round out what is, once again, a robust food section. In fact, this is probably the most robust food section the L.A. Times has had in more than a decade.

Addison has been the national critic at Eater, wher he compiled many of the site's best-of restaurant lists. He previously reviewed restaurants for Atlanta magazine, the Dallas Morning News and the San Francisco Chronicle.

An assortment of tacos: two wild boar tacos with roasted Anaheim chiles and two fried egg tacos with fava beans, fresh pigeon peas, sunburst tomatoes, pickled onions, chile del valle and chives. (Photo by T.Tseng/Flickr Creative Commons)

Addison tells Take Two he has always been impressed by L.A.'s food scene.

"I have been saying for years that Los Angeles is absolutely the most exciting food city in America. Two things that I have noticed in my frequent travels to Los Angeles: Number one is the dining public is incredibly engaged. I don't really think that a dining landscape, a city's food ecology, becomes excellent without diners of all kinds really willing to support restaurants of all kinds. Also, I find the chefs here have a really nimble approach to both tradition and innovation in any cuisine that they choose."

Escárcega, who was born and raised in Riverside, is a food writer at the Arizona Republic and was the restaurant reviewer at the Phoenix New Times for three years.

"I'm hardly the first one to say this, but Los Angeles is home to the richest, most diverse food scene in the country," she says via email. "Its mosaic of cultures and its proximity to some of the top agricultural valleys in the world are unparalleled. It's a city that's thriving on its diversity, on its abundance of quality products and on the determination of entry-level self-starters. It's an energetic city full of invention and possibility. It's been my favorite food city for many years, and I'd like to think that's not just because I have local ties to the area."

Escárcega hopes her writing will lead readers to think deeper about what they're eating, especially in the age of Yelp, when everyone's a critic.

"I'm interested in food criticism as an engaging and ongoing conversation. Eating is a basic human enterprise that cuts across all borders and sociological labels, so it's an accessible way to talk about what's happening in the culture at large. It's such a useful lens for talking about all kinds of things. My aim is to file reviews that help spark discussion about what's happening in Los Angeles, and what that means for the city and beyond," she says.

Addison also believes the job of a restaurant reviewer goes beyond a thumbs up/thumbs down approach.

"Good food critics offer context, they offer a narrative, they offer cultural parameters... how this restaurant, how this chef plays into the landscape, what neighborhood is he in. That's always the real work of a restaurant review.

Peterson, in addition to hosting Dining on a Dime, is a Jeopardy champion and former actor. He speaks multiple languages including Mandarin, Spanish and German.

The press release also said the Times is "currently developing additional platforms to produce and share coverage and building a new state-of-the-art test kitchen."

A burrito in Los Angeles, circa 2011. (Photo by JOH_2189/Flickr Creative Commons) (JOHN JOH)

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