S. Irene Virbila, whom industry insiders and media professionals often refer to as "Sherry," will be taking a generous buyout offer from the LA Times, reports LA Observed. The longtime restaurant critic, who served the paper for 22 years, eventually replaced Ruth Reichl as the publication's primary dining arbiter.
Today, Virbila gave Eater LA this comment regarding her tenure at the LA Times:
I thought I'd last 3 weeks at the Times not 22 years. (Deadlines were never part of my DNA, but the printing presses were waiting and I managed to learn that skill.) For a diehard free lancer, it was wonderful coming in from the cold and uncertainty to the big, brave Los Angeles Times. My editors always had my back and the paper arrived on the doorstep with a satisfying thump.
In those early days, the restaurant critic was also restaurant editor and I edited the restaurant news column, plus our other reviewers: Counter Intelligence columnist Jonathan Gold, the novelist Michelle Huneven, and Valley and Orange County reviewer Max Jacobson.
I've loved exploring Los Angeles through its restaurants and for the past few years writing about wine and food as a columnist. I'll miss all my colleagues--and those pesky deadlines. What's next? That's for me to figure out. [S. Irene Virbila]
With the ever-changing media landscape, both Russ Parsons and Virbila have taken buyouts in recent weeks. The Times' parents company, the Tribune Company, has offered one year full pay and benefits to anyone eligible for the buyouts. According to LA Observed, "dozens" of staffers are cleaning out their desks this week.
In 2010, Red Medicine partner Noah Ellis outed Virbila before she planned to dine at the restaurant.
Virbila was still awarding stars up until a couple of years ago, before Jonathan Gold stepped in as the primary restaurant critic for the publication. Gold never awarded stars as part of his reviews. In recent months, Virbila has focused more on breaking news and writing wine columns, though she also compiled helpful restaurant roundups. Virbila's last day at the Times will be on December 11.