Who’s behind Ruth Bourdain has been an enduring mystery since the snarkster first started tweeting more than a year ago, and today in the Star Tribune, writer Lee Dean claims to know who’s responsible for the parody: Village Voice restaurant critic Robert Sietsema. “How do I know who Ruth Bourdain is?” writes Dean. “He was tweeting while listening to the same speaker I was, in a closed room in Charleston, SC, at a conference with the Association of Food Journalists.”
We rang up AFJ director Richard Swearinger, still down at the event, to find out more, and he told us, “It’s been the talk of the conference: ‘Is Ruth Bourdain here?’ Some of the tweets have been surprisingly immediate.” He couldn’t say for sure whether the James Beard Award winning parodist was in their midst.
Sietsema, for his part, denied everything when we got him on the phone. “It’s not me,” he assured us. “I have enough of a handful doing my own tweets. Clearly Ruth Bourdain is a professional tweeter, not just somebody who’s dabbling in the art … That’s like writing War and Peace.” So what about Dean’s supposed smoking gun? “It was that I happened to be texting a friend during a session,” Sietsema claimed. “There were 60 food journalists there and I think any of them had the writing chops.”
Does he know who it could be? “It’s probably somebody who’s a food writer. A freelance person, somebody who doesn’t have to be sitting at a desk all day. I think it’s a guy.” Anybody specific? “I think it could be Ben Leventhal or somebody like that. Somebody who never has to worry about working for Ruth,” Sietsema, who was a contributor to Gourmet, said. “I feel bad swiping his or her thunder by this controversy, but then again it kind of builds the Ruth Bourdain brand.”
Ruth Bourdain, anonymous tweeter, unmasked [Table Talk/Star Tribune]