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Montreal Gazette Announces New Food Writers and Critic

Six months after Lesley Chesterman left, it looks like the newspaper is beefing up its food coverage, although with an unusual structure.

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Six months after longtime critic Lesley Chesterman resigned her post, the Montreal Gazette has appointed not one but three new food writers, with one taking Chesterman’s former critic role.

The three newcomers are:

  • Joanna Fox, who was an associate editor for Ricardo, until its publisher ended the English version of the recipe magazine in February. Fox holds a masters degree in gastronomy from Le Cordon Bleu in Adelaide, Australia, and has also previously contributed to Eater Montreal. Fox will be the Gazette’s new critic.
  • Isa Tousignant, a freelance writer with substantial experience writing for Tourisme Montréal, Canadian Art Magazine, and as an editor at Air Canada magazine enRoute.
  • Amie Watson, a freelancer who has been a contributor for Global News and MaTV; she also founded “Tinder for restaurants” app Fork That (previously called Feed Me).

Gazette editor-in-chief Lucinda Chodan announced the new writers and critics over the weekend. Of the three, Fox seems to have the most substantial background in food writing, with Tousignant coming from a more general arts and culture background. Watson is in between, with ample food experience, but less of a formal background in it.

What’s most surprising here is that it appears the Gazette will publish more restaurant reviews and food-focused stories than before. In her last few years as critic, Chesterman usually published one review per week, as well as occasional feature pieces (Chodan notes that Chesterman will continue contributing to the Gazette on an occasional basis). Bill Zacharkiw, the newspaper’s in-house wine writer, also dipped in and out of the food beat, and presumably will continue to do so.

With the three new writers, it looks like the Gazette will generally publish two food stories a week (not counting bonus Chesterman or Zacharkiw contributions). Given that Postmedia (the Gazette’s owner) has had a fairly notorious reputation for cutting budgets at its newspapers in recent years, the decision to bring in three writers comes as somewhat of a surprise, even if the writers aren’t each filing every week — especially given that Chodan previously suggested that the newspaper might cut back on reviews.

The reason for keeping on with restaurant reviews seems pretty obvious, Chodan notes that readers urged the newspaper to continue on with them.

For the first set of dispatches from the new food team, Fox reviewed Villeray restaurant Moccione, the type of restaurant that would have previously fallen into Chesterman’s beat, and the review follows the Chesterman format fairly closely, complete with ratings out of four stars. Meanwhile, Tousignant offered up five new ice cream suggestions to try, while Watson profiled a West Island sushi restaurant.

The writers will also work on a rotating schedule, filing two to three times per month, but will each stick to a beat. As critic, Fox will do reviews every two weeks, Watson will do a more editorial-style piece every two weeks, and Tousignant will do a set of recommendations three times per month.

Correction: An earlier version of this piece stated that the Gazette’s food critic role would rotate weekly between the writers. That is incorrect — only Joanna Fox will write restaurant reviews. The article also mistakenly named Bill Brownstein as the Gazette’s wine writer — that would be Bill Zacharkiw.

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