Jay Rayner named top food and drink journalist in UK

The Observer’s restaurant reviewer Jay Rayner has been named number one food and drink journalist in the UK – as voted for by journalists themselves and the public.

Press Gazette has compiled a top 50 list of journalists working in this sector based on a survey of specialist journalists and of the general public. The public sample comprised a weighted nationwide survey of 1,000 people and was carried out by ICD Research.

Rayner emerged as number one in both surveys and was followed in the top 50 by AA Gill of the Sunday Times at two and then Nigel Slater of The Observer in third place.

Asked by Press Gazette what the secret of writing a good restaurant review is, Rayner said: ‘I think the most important thing to remember is that you are not selling restaurants you are selling newspapers. I don’t think I am employed because I opine on whether the meat was overcooked or because the fish was raw, but because I can keep writing a column that people want to read.”

Rayner started off as a gossip columnist at The Observer after being editor of the student newspaper at Leeds University. He worked as a news and feature writer for the next 11 years before becoming the paper’s restaurant critic in 1999.

He said: “At the point when the restaurant critic job came up on The Observer I had pretty much deputised on every column. In the sense that I’ve done lots of other things I’m not that dissimilar to the other people who do it. So when people say to me ‘how do I become a restaurant critic’ I say go and become a journalist.”

Rayner’s TV journalism career took off after he was asked to front an investigation into food prices for Channel 4’s Dispatches in 2007. He’s now a regular face in prime-time as a reporter for The One Show on BBC One.

Asked to pick out his favourite food and drink journalists he cited Daily Telegraph reporter Harry Wallop and Metro restaurant reviewer Marina O’Loughlin.

A fuller interview with Rayner – as well as the full top 50 UK food and drink journalists – is published in the July edition of Press Gazette magazine, which is only available to digital and print subscribers.

1: Jay Rayner: The Observer

2: AA Gill: The Sunday Times

3: Nigel Slater: The Observer

4: Tim Hayward: The Guardian, Freelance

5: Alex Renton: The Times, freelance

6: Sheila Dillon: Radio 4

7: Bee Wilson: Sunday Telegraph, freelance

8: Fiona Beckett: Guardian, freelance

9: Jancis Robinson: Financial Times

10: Elisabeth Luard: Daily Mail, freelance

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