Besha Rodell is no longer the food critic at LA Weekly. The still-anonymous critic quietly gave up her post in a heartfelt note left on the company’s website today, announcing her departure as well as her return to her native Australia.
Rodell has done much to change the landscape of dining and reviewing in Los Angeles, a town dominated by the presence of very un-anonymous critic Jonathan Gold. Whereas Gold is known for opining lovingly about dishes and moments without often pinning down whether or not a place is actually worth eating at, Rodell took the opposite tack from basically day one. She instituted a starred rating system for her reviews, and was never afraid to go after places that she felt weren’t up to par in some way.
A notable example is Rodell’s fiery Otium review. Rodell called Timothy Hollingworth’s Downtown restaurant downright arrogant, who went so far as to say treatment by staff and servers at the place depended largely on thick wallets and trim waistlines. She similarly lambasted places like Tao in Hollywood, while fawning over Felix in Venice and wondering aloud just what was going on with the highly anticipated Verlaine in West Hollywood.
In her departing piece, Rodell calls being a food critic in a major American city “the best job in the world.” She goes on to double down on Los Angeles’s prowess as a dining hub, and notes a sadness to not be around while watching all those other out-of-town restaurant groups come calling:
It's been an incredible honor to take part in that conversation over the last half-decade and to witness the rest of the world waking up to the truth that Angelenos have known for years: This is the most exciting food city in America. I'm sad about leaving for so many reasons, but one of my greatest regrets is that I won't be around to cover the Great Out-of-State Restaurant Invasion of Los Angeles, to ask whether the city will benefit from its new status as a bandwagon that far-flung chefs are eagerly piling on, to parse what the Changs and Bloomfields and Nomads might add to the scene. Do I sound a tad protectionist? It's possible. I'd love to have the chance to be proven wrong.
So now Rodell returns to Australia to be closer to family and, as she hints, further from the current politics of the United States. There are endless personal, professional, and financial reasons, she says, for the move, but it does not come without a heavy dose of sadness on all sides. LA’s dining scene will miss Rodell, even if her byline will continue to appear in some form on the site for the next few weeks. Her final review was Vespertine, and the publication has not named a replacement.