New ‘Times’ Dining Editor Speaks

For some time, readers have been calling for an overhaul of the New York Times “Dining & Wine” pages. Pete Wells, who was recently hired as the section’s new editor, might, in fact, be the guy to do it. (Disclosure: He’s a friend of ours.) Wells, a James Beard–award-winning writer who is currently the food editor at Details, begins in October. We asked him how things will look after the regime change.

Given your history, is it safe to say that there will be bacon on the front page of the section every week?
Not every week. Maybe every other week?

So what big changes are you contemplating?
We’re looking for ways to augment the section’s authority. I would like to look to areas other than restaurants: cookbooks and food books, for example, or consumer products and appliances.

How about the restaurant criticism? Will the ultrapowerful, magisterial critic continue to be the model?
The paper’s already getting away from having formal reviews as the only form of criticism. Bruni’s less regimented blog is a way of doing that. The reviews now are great, but the world is changing quickly.

Is the $25 meal ceiling for Peter Meehan’s reviews of inexpensive restaurants finally going to change?
The cost of a meal in New York has gone crazy, and we need to keep current.

You’ve covered a lot of regional cooking. Will the dining section get into that?
I’m very interested in New York City’s regional food supply — where our food comes from and who grows or catches or raises it. It would be fun to start talking about that in an integrated way and not just run profiles of farmers here and there.

What does the proliferation of blogs mean to the Times? No one has forgotten your Food & Wine smackdown of the bloggerati.
Blogs are not our competition. What print media do and what bloggers do complement each other; they shouldn’t be competing.

You can’t be looking forward to the kind of hourly scrutiny you’ll be under, though.
I’m sure I’ll be giving Eater new things to roast me over. [But] getting smart criticism can help clarify your ideas.

New ‘Times’ Dining Editor Speaks