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Culture / Restaurants

Texas’ Most Fearless Restaurant Critic Resigns to Take on a New Food Mission

Can She Change Dallas’ Restaurant Scene Again?

BY // 08.08.17

Dallas’ most prominent food critic Leslie Brenner is resigning from her job at the Dallas Morning News. In her memorable eight year tenure as restaurant critic and dining editor, Brenner stirred up a fair share of controversy in the Dallas restaurant scene with her sharp commentary and uncompromising reviews.

She’s one of the rare newspaper writers who always made her stories appointment reading.

The Dallas Morning News notes that Brenner will officially leave the paper on September 8. Brenner is leaving to take on a new role in the city’s food scene, one that puts her on the other side of the restaurant aisle. She is jumping into a senior management position at Rebees, a Dallas-based “place creation company” founded by developer Tristan Simon in 2014. Simon is credited with reviving Henderson Avenue and was behind the development of beloved restaurants such as Fireside Pies, Victor Tangos, and Hibiscus.

“One of the reasons that I’m excited to work with him is I feel like he’s a visionary. I think he’s done amazing things for the dining scene in this city,” Brenner tells the Morning News.

Brenner’s Battles

The announcement of her resignation will bring a sigh of relief to certain finicky kitchens across the city. A few chefs have even barred Brenner from their restaurants in a misguided effort to protest the critic and the paper’s hotly debated star system.

The most memorable Brenner-related brouhahas?

There was that time she gave John Tesar’s steakhouse Knife a three-star review, causing the chef to wage a full-on, very public battle. Tesar actually tweeted “f*** you” to the critic, and announced she was banned from all his restaurants. As the never-ending media storm raged on, the chef even went off in Esquire  magazine.

“The fact is that Leslie Brenner is a universally mean, bitter person,” Tesar claimed. “Because she is so powerful, a lot of chefs are too young or too afraid to say that.”

Of course, Tesar has plenty of his own critics. The notoriously hotheaded reality TV force has even been dubbed, “The Most Hated Chef in Dallas.”

Brenner also memorably dressed up as a mummy to sneak in a review at Proof + Pantry. The Downtown Dallas restaurant had previously rejected payment from the critic in an effort to prevent a review (the newspaper’s policy does not allow critics to take comped meals). Lucky for Brenner, this all went down around Halloween. She returned to the restaurant disguised as a mummy and later published a three-star review of the restaurant, stirring up more controversy.

Most recently, Brenner shone the spotlight on the lack of modern Mexican cuisine in Dallas, kickstarting a heated debate among local publications.

Perhaps the critic with the most critics (or just the most interesting critic), Leslie Brenner certainly knew how to thrust Dallas’ restaurant scene into the national spotlight.

Though she is stepping down as the city’s most feared and revered restaurant critic, she’s not done making an impact on the Dallas’ food scene. Brenner assured the Dallas Morning News that she intends to remain in the city for this new venture.

Home, chic home.

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