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The Detroit News Has a New Restaurant Critic

Starred reviews are here to stay in the paper’s dining section

A hand places a plastic cup of coffee in front of a customer seated at a metal counter. Michelle and Chris Gerard
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.

There’s a new food critic at the Detroit News, though her name might be familiar to folks who follow the paper’s dining section. Features reporter Melody Baetens announced on Wednesday that she’ll be taking over the the role of writing restaurant reviews, following the retirement of critic Molly Abraham last fall.

Baetens, who also co-owns Small’s bar in Hamtramck, has worked for Detroit News for the last 20 years covering the entertainment beat. During that time the Detroit’s restaurant landscape has evolved, she’s seen her position go from one focused on music coverage to one increasingly devoted to the local dining and bar scene. Baetens’ food coverage made her a natural choice to succeed Abraham’s long-standing weekly column. Baetens writes of her approach to criticism:

As your new restaurant critic, I want to feature a variety of cuisines from all over Metro Detroit, from fine dining steakhouses to hole-in-the-wall neighborhood favorites. I want to be useful to you, the reader, reporting not only how things taste, but also about the best way to approach the spot and the story behind it. I want to shine a light on chefs and business owners who deserve attention but who may not have the resources for a publicist or marketing strategist.

Baetens plans to preserve Abraham’s starred review system for “most reviews,” with one star standing for “notable in some way, but otherwise routine,” and four stars being reserved for only the most “extraordinary” restaurants.

Baetens’ new critic position will further expand her overall role at the News. Currently she’s not only responsible for dining calendars and restaurant news, but also contributes regularly to the paper’s arts and entertainment coverage. Baetens confirms in an email to Eater that she’ll continue to cover those diverse restaurant and entertainment topics throughout the week with “something food-related from me each Thursday in the paper.” All that’s left to do now is wait for the first review.

Update: This post has been updated with comments from Baetens.

Melody Baetens Named Detroit News Restaurant Critic [Detroit News]