I've had a lot of jobs at The Times. I've been the national editor and the culture editor. I've been the restaurant critic. I write a column for The New York Times Magazine. I also write for the Dining section. For the last year I've been leading a team to launch Cooking, a website and iPad app that gives readers access to more than 16,000 recipes in The Times's archive. You can search, save and share our recipes here. You can sign up here for the newsletter I send out three times a week. I'm from Brooklyn. UPDATE, 3:41 PM EST. PROOF! UPDATE, 4:01 PM EST. I'm answering questions! Ask your own! UPDATE: 5:06 PM EST. Thank you so much for all these excellent questions. I've got lots to think about now. Hope you enjoy NYT Cooking.

Comments: 136 • Responses: 41  • Date: 

Astrochef1218 karma

Do you find any correlation to Yelp reviews and your own impression of restaurants?

SamSifton22 karma

None.

LonginiusSpear11 karma

Speaking for myself, I can count on two hands how many times I have been a consumer in a 4 star restaurant. It seems to me the majority of food reviews by professional food writers are for these types of establishments. They treat food like an art form and combinations of flavors like a symphony. Are these food establishments the goal of fine dinning or are they just an elite setting that I have been some how taught is "the best".

I eat hamburger helper almost once a week. Its cheap filling and easy. Many food shows and food reviews specialize in simplicity but with great flavors. If they are so great, why aren't I eating them instead of hamburger helper? IS the problem ME? The culture I was raised in? Perhaps is the lack of willingness of me to try new foods. I'll tell you, when I try these, they taste like dog shit 90% of the time. Is my pallet simply not refined enough?

If the problem is me, or the culture I was raised in. Why do food magazines feel I would find things other than what I"m accustomed too, appealing?

SamSifton16 karma

Cheap and filling and easy is excellent, so long as it's not turning you into a diabetic. Hamburger Helper won't do that, so all's good, even though you could probably get a better meal by browsing through our Cooking site with a search for "pasta" and "ground meat." But you don't do that, apparently, and you ask why. The answer is usually fear: Whatever you cook (you think) won't be as good as the Hamburger Helper, which offers a ton of flavor in the form of salt, MSG and sugar. But it will be! Go over to our site and look around. Look at the pictures. Read the topnotes. You'll find something that sounds awesome. Now make it and see if I'm not right.

As for the four-star reviews? Nope. The majority of reviews are not for four-star joints. They're for one-star ones, good restaurants that in New York City at any rate should be aiming for art.

rebellicfish10 karma

I love the new cooking site, and especially the newsletter!

What's the mood in the newsroom right now after yesterday's news? Are people still optimistic about the future?

SamSifton6 karma

Thanks! I'm glad you like them. We're okay here. Newspaper people are a dark lot, generally speaking, so bad news is often greeted with a shrug. Could be worse. But there's an undercurrent of optimism on my desk as well: We're really excited about Cooking, and hope that it can help us weather the storm.

my_dpp9 karma

I know that the New York Times newspaper is iconic and the magazine is not that far behind.

Given the struggles that both have had in this digital age, do you think that the strategy the New York Times company has, including simply digitizing its content and now this website/iPad app, has worked and will work out in the future?

SamSifton8 karma

It's working pretty well, I think! But I can assure you it's not "simply digitizing" the work we do for the print report. It's expanding our sense of how people read and look at our work, and where, and when, and how best to tell them our stories.

richardwrinkle7 karma

Have you ever had the pleasure or displeasure of meeting Anthony Bourdain? Any stories?

SamSifton20 karma

I have met him! (True fact: His mom was a copy editor here at The Times.) He sent me a story when I was an editor at New York Press. I loved it. We put it on the cover. Then the boss editor came back from vacation and spiked it. Bourdain took the story to The New Yorker. It became a book you may have heard of: Kitchen Confidential. Later we would meet again on a dais, where we absolutely ROASTED Alan Richman, the GQ restaurant critic.

richardwrinkle5 karma

Thank you so much for sharing! Anthony Bourdain is one of my favorites!!! Glad to hear he is not a douchebag in real life like so many other people!

SamSifton12 karma

He's not. He's a good dude.

tosk055 karma

Best place to get a burger and two beers in the city on a Wednesday at 3pm? I've got no more than 50 American bucks.

SamSifton5 karma

Keens!

samfbiddle5 karma

What did you cook for yourself most when you were in your 20s?

SamSifton12 karma

Kielbasa, caramelized onions, baked potato. Repeat.

IsabelleHappy5 karma

There's NOTHING in your fridge, you're starving and on the way home from work…you stop at the grocery store, what do you buy? what do you make?

Also:

What's your favorite Brooklyn Pizza? (Mine is L&B's Spumoni Gardens)

SamSifton6 karma

Nothing in the fridge? Can't we just drive to L&B? That's a great grandma slice. Every single part of it is wrong: bad cheese; overly sweet sauce; weirdly underdone/overdone crust. But as a slice? As a sum of its parts? It's superb, one of my favorite in New York City.

kaylem5 karma

Do you think bacons an overrated food?

SamSifton18 karma

I think bacon-flavored food is overrated. I think bacon is AWESOME.

tofugoddesss4 karma

How do you feel about the recent job cuts (of I believe to be 100?) with New York Times? What does this say about the state of modern-day journalism?

SamSifton2 karma

We haven't had cuts of 100. We are facing the need to come down 100 positions, which we're going to try to do with voluntary buyouts. What it says about the state of modern-day journalism is: This is a tough environment. We need to do more with less. I hope our efforts in Cooking can help.

slantwaysvote4 karma

Food critics don't talk about candy often.

What is your favorite candy?

What will you be handing out on Halloween?

SamSifton9 karma

Snickers is a righteous candy. I will hand out little ones to the little ones on Halloween.

Chezpanke2 karma

Do you ever remember snickers having corn?

SamSifton1 karma

No! Snickers had corn kernels in them? No way!

RDB20054 karma

Have you eaten at Guy Fieri's Times Square restaurant? If so, what do you think?

SamSifton15 karma

I have not. You know why? Because my pal Pete Wells did and wrote about it and I kinda thought, Life's too short. Read his review.

Frajer3 karma

do you think gluten-free and juices are just a trend ?

SamSifton4 karma

I think gluten-free is going to be around for a while. Juices? OJ's been trending since the first one was squeezed. That's not going to change, even if we eventually tire of acai.

7adi773 karma

What is the most gross food you have ever tasted?

SamSifton18 karma

Deep-fried cow brain at a German joint in St. Louis. It had been frozen before it went into the fryer. It was not quite cooked when it came out. It was served with a slice of pumpernickel, a slice of onion, and a bunch of potato chips. I asked for fries. "It comes with chips," the waitress said. I got some veins caught in my teeth.

lordeoftherings3 karma

As someone who’s been both a high-profile editor and a high-profile writer, what qualities do you try to instill in writers as an editor? Who are some of the favorite editors you’ve worked under, and what did you learn from them?

SamSifton2 karma

The jobs are different. Editing is about leadership and ideas and working a room. Writing is about fear and panic and typing. The job of the editor is to make the writer's job possible, and then to make the work they produce a little bit better. (Sometimes you make it worse.) My mom's an editor, a really good and scary one who I wouldn't call a favorite but from whom I learned a huge amount. See also: Keller, Bill.

thebongofamandabynes3 karma

What is the most current trend in NYC restaurants? Oh, and what's your favorite place to eat in the city that doesn't break the bank?

SamSifton17 karma

Why won't the small plates go away? Must we have a raw kale salad? (Though those can be pretty good.) Those scamps at Eater did a good job running down the problems with trendiness. Check out the menu. At the opposite end of the spectrum? Head down to Mott Street and have dinner at 456 Shanghai Cuisine.

lordeoftherings3 karma

Hello from a reader! When I was an undergrad in Chicago a few years back, I knew… an embarrassing amount about the NYC restaurant scene because I read your columns so often. The precision of your diction, the off-handed but pleasurable nature of your style really made them such a regular delight—something that could have been quotidian, stuffy, self-involved, or ass-covering became a gift to the reader and an excuse to educate. They’re something I aspire to in my own journalism.

SO. How did you handle writing those columns—or really any regular journalistic assignment? What was your workflow? Were you an outliner, a multiple-draftser, or do you tend to write and edit at the same time, so your “first draft” is the published version?

SamSifton3 karma

Thank you so much. That's really nice to read. As for how the columns were written? Nail the lede and everything flows out from there. Unless you don't have a lede. Then white-knuckle through the bottom and stare at the screen until the top pops out.

richardwrinkle2 karma

Who is the coolest person you have ever sat down and had dinner with?

SamSifton7 karma

Stephen Sondheim, no question.

wordwhacker2 karma

Will the iPad app be free to subscribers to the NYT, or on a separate pay tier?

SamSifton3 karma

It is free right now to subscribers and non-subscribers alike. I'm not a business guy, but I imagine it's going to remain that way for some time.

[deleted]2 karma

[deleted]

SamSifton3 karma

It's great to eat for a living. It's great to work for a company that understands that you can't take things for free and remain objective about them. But I'll risk sappiness to say that the best thing about the gig is the interaction with readers for whom Cooking is making a positive difference in their lives. Aww!

painsofbeing2 karma

What do you miss most (or least) about being a restaurant critic?

SamSifton4 karma

I miss eating in new restaurants all the time. I don't miss eating in new restaurants EVERY NIGHT.

willberkk2 karma

Pick 1 for the rest of your life: Defontes or Court Street Grocers?

SamSifton3 karma

Sophie's choice!

orily2 karma

What's your healthiest go-to meal in NYC?

SamSifton2 karma

Wait, what?

orily2 karma

I'll rephrase :)

Are there any healthy dishes you regularly eat?

SamSifton4 karma

I try for a salad here and there, ideally with lardons of bacon and a poached egg. I'm mad for Chinese broccoli and oyster sauce. I wish these things were healthy. Do smoothies for breakfast with the kids count?

hannahuberly2 karma

What did you major in at college?

SamSifton4 karma

History and Literature. Britain between the wars.

nSquib2 karma

Why didn't the national editor job work out?

SamSifton2 karma

It worked out great! That gig is terrific, if exhausting. I'm proud of everything we did up there, and of all who report for the desk.

nSquib1 karma

Why did you leave?

SamSifton2 karma

I got the chance to build something new, something that could help build the future of The Times, and I got to do it from Craig Claiborne's chair. That's a once-in-a-career opportunity.

culinarystudent2 karma

My boss is brining up Black Cod Collars for the smoker, Spot Prawn and Dungeness Crab season just started yesterday. The boss is busy, and briny, so he's making me type out questions. Paul Greenberg has probably told you a lot of lies about his Alaska fishing trips to Bristol Bay, have you ever fished up here, and when are you coming?

SamSifton3 karma

Haven't fished Bristol Bay. Want to very much. Let me get this thing up and running and I'll be on my way. Was in Anchorage not so long ago speaking to the Alaska Press Club. Wish I could have wet a line then. Soon!

Lepew12 karma

What is the best food truck in NYC?

SamSifton9 karma

The one near your office that you like. (In this sense, food trucks are like dry cleaners.) Traveling a great distance for a food truck is a bad bet. #ops

culinarystudent2 karma

We heard that you are a musician through Doughty, do you still pick up the bass and jam?

SamSifton2 karma

Doughty's the musician. Not me. True fact: We were cub reporters together on New York Press, the two youngest guys in the newsroom.

feedingpeople2 karma

If you were forced by some kind of regional deportation to live outside of the NYC area (including LI, Hudson, N Jersey, etc), where would you live?

SamSifton3 karma

Eastern Long Island!

steenp2 karma

Sam, I'm a fan. The first thing I read by you was your review of Nello, and it read to me as not just a restaurant review but a precise thumbnail of a particular time, place and culture. You nailed it, the way a good novelist does. Plus, it was funny. Who are your models in terms of writing?

SamSifton1 karma

Thanks so much. I read a lot and I have a lot of heroes. Joe Mitchell and Elmore Leonard are two of them.

feedingpeople1 karma

How many false albacore have you caught so far this year?

SamSifton4 karma

I HAVE CAUGHT NO FALSE ALBACORE. I have not cast a single fly in the direction of a false albacore. (I have tied many flies for false albacore.) Does this make me a bad angler? No. I makes me a guy in New York trying to launch a Cooking site with his colleagues who, when a day opens up, faces winds out of the northeast gusting to 30 and seas 6-9 at the Point. Argh!

culinarystudent1 karma

We bet our social media guru 3-4 years ago that Melissa Clark was going to become a cooking video star, she's awesome, and we won the bet. Who is the best cook of all of you at NYT Cooking? We're split between Tanis, Clark, you, and Bittman.

SamSifton6 karma

Not Kim Severson? She'll tell you she's best! And she won't be far wrong. Moskin will quibble and rightly so. Julia's awesome. Clark's bananas-good. Tanis ran the kitchen at Chez Panisse! Bitty's a god. But I'll tell you what. Put all of us in rental-home kitchens with similar bags of groceries and I'll bet this happens: FLORENCE FABRICANT FOR THE WIN.

Anfini1 karma

You weren't kidding when you mentioned that Cooking has over 16k+ recipes. I noticed your personal recipes are over 200 now. So I'd like to know what are the determining factors to have a recipe listed on your site? Are all the recipes developed by the chefs listed on Cooking? Does the recipes also include user submissions?

SamSifton1 karma

I put recipes I want to make in my box. You can look in there to get a sense of what I'm cooking, I suppose. You can also search under my name and see all the recipes I've brought into The Times. There are no user-generated recipes on the site. Yet!

SwallowDaily1 karma

Hi Sam, What is it about Alan Richman? Why is he such an old jaded grump? Why doesn't GQ fire him and get some young blood in there. Maybe even hire someone who actually worked in a restaurant at some point.

SamSifton2 karma

He isn't an old jaded grump. He just plays one in print. And he's worth reading close.

AndersonJake1 karma

Is there any food you would simply refuse to eat if it was presented to you?

SamSifton2 karma

Not really. Maybe that St. Louis brain situation I wrote about.

paulisnofun1 karma

How many push ups can you do?

SamSifton7 karma

A fair number. It's insane to walk the food beat without working hard to stay hungry and fit. Safety first!

Angoth-1 karma

Do you ever leave New York? If so, what is your opinion of the rest of the planet?

SamSifton1 karma

I love not being in New York. Being on the road as a Times journalist is a rare and excellent feeling, one that should be encouraged in all Times journalists. Because: The rest of the planet is awesome.