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Leslie Brenner Looks Back On Life As Dining Critic For The Dallas Morning News

Krystina Martinez
Leslie Brenner will step down as restaurant critic for the Dallas Morning News next month. She says she's looking forward to eating more salads.

For eight years, Leslie Brenner's been Dallas' leading restaurant critic. This week, she announced that she’s leaving The Dallas Morning News to work for a real estate startup that specializes in restaurants. 

Interview Highlights

On why she's leaving: "I've been a journalist for 29 years, and I feel like I've taken it as far as I can take this for myself. I felt that my role here in Dallas as a restaurant critic has been sort of broader and wider than just going to restaurants and saying 'This dish was good. This one needed work.' Part of my role that was important to me was to encourage chefs and restaurateurs to do things that were original and take risks and to sort of help drive the scene forward."

On chef John Tesar, who launched a public feud over a review he thought was unfavorable: "He was the only chef to ban me from his restaurants. A couple restaurateurs said that they preferred I don't show up, but [Tesar] was the only chef [to ban me]. At the time, I thought 'Wow, this is strange. I've just given him three stars.' In The Dallas Morning News' rating system, that means 'very good.' I put him on the cover of Guide, and I had never put a chef on the cover of Guide because I thought it was an important restaurant. He didn't like the review, and he wasn't happy with it, and that was the way he reacted. So, what can I do? It's easy to make a loud noise if you have a big voice."

  Chicken roulade w/shiitakes, peas, tomatillo salsa @stephanpylesflorastcafe #dallaseats A post shared by Leslie Brenner (@lesliebrenner) on Jul 15, 2017 at 3:08pm PDT

Onrevealing her identity as a restaurant critic: "Really, I had only been in town for a few months, or six months when people started figuring out who I was. Partly it's because of the way I write — it's narrative — and I would tell a story about what happened when I was in their restaurant so they would pretty quickly figured out which table that must've been. It just started to feel like a charade and one that was not useful to our readers."

On the meal she's looking forward to: "I am totally looking forward to eating more healthy and more controlled, and eating a lot of vegetables and salads when I feel like it. But I'll just be able to go in as a civilian, and it'll be so much more relaxed. I won't have to take a picture of it and post it on Instagram, and I won't have to take notes about it. I'll just be able to enjoy it."  

Former KERA staffer Krystina Martinez was an assistant producer. She produced local content for Morning Edition and She also produced The Friday Conversation, a weekly series of conversations with North Texas newsmakers. Krystina was also the backup newscaster for the Texas Standard.
Rick Holter was KERA's vice president of news. He oversaw news coverage on all of KERA's platforms – radio, digital and television. Under his leadership, KERA News earned more than 200 local, regional and national awards, including the station's first two national Edward R. Murrow Awards. He and the KERA News staff were also part of NPR's Ebola-coverage team that won a George Foster Peabody Award, broadcasting's highest honor.