It was Sam Sifton’s first visit to “the island,” and he ate at Chez Jean-Pierre. “It’s a real restaurant,” he said. “Every single component was fully realized. You’d be surprised to the extent that that’s not true. There are real cooks there doing real work.” He had the veal Milanese. Sifton knows what he’s talking about, having been the New York Times’ food critic from 2009 to 2011, and now the food editor.
His career also includes stints as the newspaper’s national editor and culture editor, but his passion is working with and covering food. “Food criticism is the way to document the nation,” he explained. “Every important interaction takes place in the presence of food and drink. I feel lucky to be able to document it.”
The gaggle of folks at the Kips Bay Palm Beach Showhouse strolled around to ogle the beautifully decorated rooms. But in the kitchen (with the $42,000 stove!), was a man most in this crowd think of as a close friend—based solely on the fact that he sends them a recipe-loaded email every day. Sifton started NYT Cooking in 2014, an online recipe site that allows subscribers to browse years of recipes, as well as receive new ideas hot off the griddle. (Regular NYT subscribers have free access to this, or a separate subscription is available.)
“I’m a pretty good cook,” said Sifton. “But I’m a much better reporter, and I have access to amazing kitchens and chefs that can make recipes available to our readers.”
Most memorable meal? “Oh, at Le Coucou (in New York). I think I had my best meal of the year there.”
Trends you’re tired of? “I’d like tablecloths to come back. There’s a certain formality I enjoy. And the No. 1 complaint I hear about is noise in restaurants. I think part of what’s led to noise is the absence of tablecloths. That and the high, industrial spaces with sound bouncing around.”
Sifton displayed 11 different butters, along with bits of bread for tasting, and asked the group to try a few. “I use Plugra unsalted for sautéing. But I eat my toast with Kerrygold salted.” He’s not a fan of the new trend that calls for putting butter in coffee, however.
The Kips Bay Palm Beach Show House, at 196 Belmonte Road, West Palm Beach, is on display through Dec. 19. Hours are Monday-Saturday, 11 a.m. to 5 p.m.; Sunday, noon to 5 p.m. Cost: $35. All proceeds go to Kips Bay Boys & Girls Club and Palm Beach County Boys & Girls Clubs.
Lynn Kalber was raised in Boca Raton and has spent her life working in Palm Beach and Broward counties. She is a career journalist, with 26 years at The Palm Beach Post alone, where she wrote feature and food articles, edited the food section and wrote about wine as part of the Swirl Girls. She lives in West Palm Beach with her husband, writer and author Scott Eyman.