Tejal Rao — the critic who earned a Beard Award for her work at the Voice and Bloomberg — is joining the food department at the New York Times. Per Sam Sifton, Rao will write a food-focused column for the New York Times Magazine in addition to contributing to the regular Wednesday food section. Rao replaced Ryan Sutton at Bloomberg two years ago, when he moved to Eater. No word yet on who will take over the critic mantle at Bloomberg. Of course, it's also possible that Bloomberg could move away from restaurant reviews, as many publications across the country have done in recent years.
The Rao hire suggests that perhaps the Times is creating a contingency plan for whenever Pete Wells decides that he wants to turn in his badge and his gun, which could still be a few years from now. For those keeping track at home, Pistol Pete has been reviewing restaurants for the last two and a half years now. The Times already has another critic on staff, Ligaya Mishan, but she mostly covers small mom-and-pop establishments for the Hungry City column. Like Wells, Rao has years of experience writing about restaurants both big and small, so she could be a strong candidate for the main critic position. Stay tuned for more updates on Rao's move and the fate of the Bloomberg job as they become available.