Life and Times
Ruth Reichl (Reichl is pronounced “RYE-shul”) is a food writer, editor and reviewer.
She was born 16 January 1948 in Greenwich Village, Manhattan to Ernst and Miriam (née Brudno, born 1908) Reichl. Her parents were relatively well-off and educated: her mother had a doctorate in music from the Sorbonne, and the family had a summer house in Connecticut. Ruth’s mother, though, was not a good cook — 26 people at her son’s engagement party had to have their stomachs pumped after eating a soup she made with crabmeat she let sit out to thaw for two days. Ruth claims that she developed her powers of taste because of her mother’s cooking: you had one bite to make sure the food was safe to eat, if you wanted to live long enough for a second bite.
For Christmas in 1960, when Ruth was 12, her parents took her to Paris, where they stayed at the Ritz. There, she said she wanted to learn to speak French as good as them. Her mother took her seriously, and, a few weeks later in January 1961, took her by train to Montreal. Only when they arrived there did her mother inform Ruth she was now enrolled there in school at the girls’ boarding school “Collège Marie-de-France”, where she would spend the next three years having to recite the “Hail Mary” every morning.
Ruth’s first memorable gourmet meals came about because of that. A school friend of hers, Bernice du Croix, took her home to Ottawa for weeks. Bernice’s father was a gourmet. He fed her brie from France, as well as dishes such as foie gras, sole, chartreuse of partridge, chocolate soufflé, and Ris de veau à la financière.
At the age of 16, Ruth returned to America to finish high school in Connecticut, where her parents had moved. After high school, she went to University of Michigan in Ann Arbor, Michigan, where she graduated in 1970 with a BA and MA in art history. While there, she worked at a high-end restaurant called “La Seine”. Even though her wages were only $1 an hour, she’d top up the $4 dollar earnings from a four-hour shift with about $26 bucks in tips.
While in Ann Arbor, she met her first husband, Douglas Hollis (1948 – ), a sculptor. The couple moved out to California, where they lived in a communal house. One year, the commune made Thanksgiving dinner from food they got out of a supermarket dumpster
From 1974 to 1977, Ruth cooked at the collectively-owned Swallow Restaurant in Berkeley, California. The restaurant helped expose people in the area to now-familiar foods such as quiche and antipasti, as well as Moroccan and Indonesian dishes. The restaurant amazed people by making its own bread, chutneys and salad vinaigrettes.
From 1977 to 1993, she was the restaurant critic at New West and other California magazines. During that time, she had an affair with Colman Andrews, the editor of New West magazine (he later became the editor of Saveur magazine.)
During that time, from 1984 to 1993, she also became a food critic for The Los Angeles Times, and from 1990 to 1993, she was the Los Angeles Times’s food editor as well.
In 1993, she moved back east to become the New York Times food reviewer, taking over from Bryan Miller. She expanded the scope of the reviews away from just the high-class restaurants that had only previously been covered, and also shifted the focus, from just to the food, to the food and the customer experience.
She ventured into places where ordinary people were eating, such as Japanese noodle shops. Bryan Miller said she was lowering the New York Times’s standards by reviewing unknown, Mom and Pop ethnic restaurants, and accused her of destroying their star-rating system
She wore disguises to see what treatment ordinary people would get. Claudia Banks, who was a retired acting coach and a friend of Ruth’s mother, helped Ruth create 12 different disguises in total.
The first persona was Molly Hollis, a dowdy, well-padded retired high school teacher from Michigan. Brenda was an aging red-haired hippie; Chloe was a blonde divorcée; and Miriam was meant to be Ruth’s mother. In addition to the wigs, make-ups and charity-shop clothing, Ruth even got credit cards in her character’s name, in order to complete the disguises.
In 1993, the Molly Hollis character got treated badly at the Le Cirque; Ruth then went back as herself, was recognized and treated like a queen. She then wrote a review describing the double-standards and took away from them one of the New York Times four stars.
One time, though, while disguised in a fancy restaurant, she was recognized — Julia Child came in, stared at her across the room, and then said in her typical booming voice, “There’s Ruth Reichl in a wig!”
After her stint as New York Times restaurant critic, the wigs got auctioned off for charity.
In 1999, she was lured away from the New York Times to become chief editor of Gourmet magazine, where she stayed until Conde Nast closed the magazine in October 2009.
Despite the elaborate recipes she published in Gourmet, Ruth herself actually cooked very simply at home. She wouldn’t get home from work until 7:00 or 7:30 pm, so to cope, on weekends she would plan out and shop for week-day meals that could be on the table in around half an hour.
Ruth divorced her first husband on amicable terms and remarried to a Michael Singer. In 1989, their son Nick was born. The couple have a summer home in the Berkshires area of New York State. In 2000, she and Michael expanded their holdings in the Berkshires, paying $250,000 for 20 acres in Spencertown. 
Ruth maintains that she likes meat with fat in it, because she feels that all the flavour in meat is in the fat.
- 1972: Mmmmm: A Feastiary
- 1998: Tender at the Bone
- 2001: Comfort Me with Apples
- 2002. Endless Feasts (editor)
- 2005. Remembrance of Things Paris (editor)
- 2005. Garlic and Sapphires
- 2006: The Gourmet Cookbook: More Than 1000 Recipes
- 2009. Not becoming my Mother.
- 2009. Gourmet Today: More than 1000 All-New Recipes for the Contemporary Kitchen (editor)
Magazines written for include Family Circle, Food and Wine, Metropolitan Home, Vanity Fair
- 1984. Who’s Who of Food and Beverage in America
- 1994. James Beard award for journalism
- 1996. James Beard award for restaurant criticism.
- 1998. James Beard award for restaurant criticism.
- 2007. Adweek award for Editor of the Year
- 2007. Missouri School of Journalism award for Distinguished Service in Journalism
- 2008. New York Women in Communications Matrix Award for Magazines
- 2009. James Beard award for multimedia food journalism
Web site: http://www.ruthreichl.com/ (link valid as of March 2011)
 Mitchell, Deborah. An American in Europe. New York Daily News. 28 May 2000.
Diski, Chloe. Babe Ruth. Manchester: The Observer. Sunday, 12 May 2002.
Gross, Terry. Interview with Ruth Reichl. Ruth Reichl: A New Book And The End Of ‘Gourmet’. Aired 14 October 2009. Transcript retrieved July 2010 from http://www.npr.org/templates/transcript/transcript.php?storyId=113758495
Kifner, John. A Passion for Food, Now Served Monthly. New York Times. 2 February 2001.
King, Jonathan. What’s not cooking in Berkeley? UCBerkeley News. 17 March 2004. Retrieved August 2010 from http://berkeley.edu/news/berkeleyan/2004/03/17_cafemuse.shtml
Kuczynski, Alex. Times Critic Will Become Editor of Gourmet. New York Times. 26 January 1999.
Lee, Albert. So What Do You Do, Ruth Reichl? 8 October 2002. Retrieved 1 August 2010 from http://www.mediabistro.com/content/archives/02/10/08/
Matos, Michaelangelo. The Un-Career Woman. Baltimore City Paper. 29 April 2009.
Reichl, Ruth. Tender at the Bone. New York: Random House. 1998.
Segan, Francie. Gourmet Girl – Cooking with Ruth Reichl. Pittsfield, MA: Berkshire Living. March 2006.