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Sylvia Rector, Retired Free Press Restaurant Critic, Has Died

She was 66

Brenna Houck is a Cities Manager for the Eater network. She previously edited Eater Detroit and reported for Eater. You can follow her on the internet at @brennahouck.

The Detroit restaurant world has lost one of its most prolific and beloved writers. Longtime Detroit Free Press critic Sylvia Rector died Tuesday afternoon at the age of 66. As her former colleagues at the Free Press report, Rector had been diagnosed with colon cancer not long after leaving her post as restaurant critic.

Rector was an employee at the daily for 23 years, 17 of which she spent chronicling the complex and dynamic Detroit dining scene. In her final message to readers, she expressed a passion not just for writing reviews (a small part of many modern food writing jobs) but also for interacting with people in the industry. “An equally satisfying part of the job was interviewing, and eventually coming to know, many of Michigan's best chefs and restaurateurs: men and women who made time to tell me — and thus, you — their stories,” she wrote.

Speaking with the Free Press, several prominent chefs expressed their appreciation for Rector’s support and criticism. “She wasn’t the first person ever to write a story about the Root, but she certainly broke us regionally and nationally. ... I was 27, in White Lake, coming off the worst recession. I was battling so much anxiety. She kind of was a breath of fresh air and gave me the confidence boost I needed,” says James Rigato of Mabel Gray.

In another remembrance, Selden Standard’s chef Andy Holiday says he respected her opinion. “She’s just such a warm, sweet person. But she was a fair critic, too. When things weren’t right, she had a nice way of saying it without sugar-coating it too much.” Other industry veterans and restaurants turned to social media to express their condolences and share memories.

We weren’t always on the lookout for Sylvia Rector because of her pen… no, the chefs and managers and servers and...

Posted by Union Woodshop on Tuesday, December 20, 2016

Rector retired from the paper in December, accepting a buyout from parent company Gannett. According to the Detroit News a memorial service date and location is still to be determined.

Sylvia Rector, Longtime Free Press Restaurant Critic, Dies at Age 66 [Freep]

Longtime Free Press Food Critic Sylvia Rector, Dies [Detroit News]

'Detroit Free Press' Critic Sylvia Rector Signs Off [ED]

All The Critics Coverage [ED]