Time for a change…

I’ve had a terrific run at the Ottawa Citizen. I’m grateful for the twenty-year platform it’s provided for my freelance columns. But today I must tell you that the Citizen and I have parted company.

This week I received an email from my publisher explaining his decision to provide Citizen readers with a new voice and perspective on Ottawa’s dining out scene. He felt it was time.

And he’s probably right. Columns have life spans, and mine has had a long one.

It’s been a privilege to report on Ottawa’s restaurants over the last two decades. From my inaugural review of The Green Valley in 1993, to the pleasure of watching, just two weeks ago, the team at Atelier – a wee 22-seat boite that is Canada’s only restaurant with a tasting menu of molecular cuisine – win handily at the Canadian Culinary Championships, it’s been a marvellous ride.

But here’s the thing: after more than a thousand restaurant reviews, I still find myself hungry.

So after I’ve taken some time to digest this bit of news, I think I’ll just carry on writing about a subject I find irresistible, right here, in this blog. And, as always, I hope you’ll keep in touch. [email protected]








57 responses to “Time for a change…”

  1. Lisa Avatar

    Thank you Ms. Desbrisay for so many years of reflective, enticing, descriptive and always respectful reviews of the local restaurant scene. I cannot name how many restaurants my friends and I have visited as a direct result of a positive comment from you: New Mee Fung on Booth, the Wellington Gastropub, Black Cat Bistro, I could go on and on. No doubt you have witnessed quite the gastronomic evolution in Ottawa over the years. Your column will be missed but I’m happy to read that you will continue writing about that which you love and are passionate about; as they say: do what you love. Bravo to you.

    1. Normajean Barry Avatar
      Normajean Barry

      While I am very sorry, not to be able to read your column in the Citizen any longer,
      I am very pleased to know that I can still acess your views in this blog.
      I must admit that I did not take your advice on many of the restaurants you reviewed, BUT I always looked forward to them, the wit, and the information you always conveyed to us , the reader. Good luck, and keep eating and telling all us Ottawans what to look out for.
      Cheers Normajean Barry

  2. Ross Avatar

    Hello Anne,
    I am both sad and happy to read your news.
    I am sad for you, as you are facing a change that you did not seek or desire.
    However, I am happy to have rediscovered you through the magic of Twitter today. I moved to Ottawa to begin my second university degree in 1990, and lived there until moving to Niagara in 2003. I read every review you wrote while I lived there, I am sure, and I credit you with introducing me to some of my favourites. When I left, and although I do return a couple of times a year, I no longer followed the Citizen, and I missed your reviews.
    Today, I followed a tweet to this blog, on this of all days, and have rediscovered you. I am your 67th follower on Twitter, with surely many more followers to come, and will look forward to reading about where I should eat on my next trip to lovely Ottawa. So I thought that you might want to hear that although you have lost one media platform today, you have regained at least one reader.
    Good luck and best wishes.

    1. Anne Avatar

      I did want to hear that. Thank you for your best wishes, Ross.

  3. Karl Wells Avatar

    Glad to hear your voice will continue to be heard through your great blog. Ottawa’s dining scene would not be the same without it. Congratulations on a brilliant 20 years with the Citizen.
    Karl Wells

    1. Anne Avatar

      Thank you, dear Karl. How’s things in gorgeous Newfoundland?

  4. @amwaters Avatar

    I am taken back a bit with this news, Anne. Really, really disappointed actually. I am 3000 miles from home and today I shared with a great chef how lucky we are in Ottawa to have such a talented food critic as you in our midst. You have many fans. What I have grown to appreciate, is your thoughtfulness when doing a review. The care you take to be thorough, through multiple visits, as you frame the real story behind our many eating establishments. I think if people used one word to describe you, many would pick TRUST. I am not sure what the Citizen has in mind for the next wave, but I do hope it will keep to your high standard. It has been a delight to see your work show up in Ottawa Magazine and also in Taste and Travel to name a few. I am sure there are many that still want to hear what you have to say when it comes to food. After all, it is so darn ubiquitous!

    1. Anne Avatar

      3000 miles away… sounds pretty nice right about now! Safe travels, and thanks for your kind words.

  5. Kelly @ The Gouda Life Avatar

    Hi Anne,

    So sad to see you leave, but am happy to hear we’ll still be able to hear your thoughts via Capital Dining!


    1. Anne Avatar

      Thank you Kelly.

  6. Don (@foodiePrints) Avatar

    After noticing your account of the Culinary Championships published in an Ottawa Magazine property and not an Ottawa Citizen’s, I was wondering whether our local newspaper had any understanding of the value of first person observation, especially from one of the judges of the event.

    I now wonder if the newspaper has any idea the trust your words engender or how difficult it is to build such relationships with readers.

    I have followed your reviews since I first set foot in a finer dining establishment and they have always provided value, both good insight and objectivity. I cannot convey the respect I have for you or your body of work in this comment. Yours has always been an example of journalistic integrity.

    I can only wish you good luck on your future endeavors. Any publication, local or national, should count themselves lucky to have your words grace their pages, print or otherwise.

    1. Anne Avatar

      Thanks Don.

  7. charlotte Avatar

    Thank you for all the exciting and emotional reading the past years in ottawa. And thank you for saying nice things about me and the crew, my very first review. Ill never forget looking at my sous and saying ” Anne is here, make this food the best we have ever made it” and than after that being nervous for about 2 weeks or more wondering how it all went. That was a great experience. Cheers and good luck with your future endeavours which im sure will be delicious

    1. Anne Avatar

      Thanks Charlotte. Hope Toronto is treating you well. You are missed.

  8. Corinna Avatar

    Dear Ms. DesBrisay,
    Although we have never met, I like many new to Ottawa, came to know the local restaurant scene through your reviews. Capital Dining was among my first purchases when I arrived two years ago. I empathize, as I know all too well how change, that you didn’t see coming, can shock the scenes. I hope that you will take some time for yourself; time to expand and explore and FEED the soul.

    As my Grandmother used to say “every knock is a boost”. I have always found that when change has come unannounced, it has offered opportunities that before I never thought possible. So instead of luck, I wish you… wings.
    Corinna Horton

    1. Anne Avatar

      We must be cousins. We shared the same granny. Thanks Corinna.

  9. Pam @writewrds Avatar

    In our household, we’ve ready many many (many, many) of your restaurant reviews over the years. We’ve really enjoyed them and looked to them in making choices.
    Honestly, it’s great (even better) to now discover your website. I can follow you here and on twitter.

    1. Anne Avatar

      Please do! Thanks Pam…. Anne

  10. Mark W Avatar

    I don’t know the details of course, but on the surface this seems to have been a particularly boneheaded move by the Ottawa Citizen. They operate in a world where old media dinosaurs are at great risk of extinction, and to extinguish their brightest beacon makes no sense whatsoever.

    Perhaps presciently, I haven’t been reading the Citizen at all for a few years now, choosing instead to follow your reviews here on the Capital Dining blog. I look forward to continuing to do so as I consider the quality and acuity of your reviews to be unsurpassed in the industry.

    While I love your positive reviews and discoveries of new gems, I have to admit to deriving great pleasure from your lambasting of The Mill several years ago. 😉

    Best wishes to you!

    1. Anne Avatar

      Grist for the Mill: it haunts me still. Thanks for your kind note, Mark.

  11. Terry Fitzpatrick Avatar
    Terry Fitzpatrick

    I always looked forward to reading your reviews; you will be missed…

    1. Anne Avatar

      Thank you Terry.

  12. Carol Avatar

    Hi Anne,

    There is always a rush at our house on Thursday’s to see what restaurant you’d be reviewing. After that lots of discussion with family and friends about the review. Thursday will not be the same without you.

    I think e-mail is a great tool, but….feel your publisher should have spoken to you in person.

    All the best to you,


    1. Anne Avatar

      Yes, it is a great tool… And yes, it has its limits! Thanks Carol. All best, Anne

  13. scott younghusband Avatar
    scott younghusband

    Thoroughly enjoyed reading your reviews. They were always insightful and respectful of the establishments and staff. Keep up the great work in your blog. Best wishes.

    1. Anne Avatar

      Thanks Scott.

  14. Steve Beckta Avatar
    Steve Beckta

    Hi Anne: I’m obviously not alone in feeling sad and disappointed to hear the news of The Citizen’s decision to replace you as long-time food critic. Sad for the end of an extraordinary era for Ottawa diners, chefs and restaurateurs under your watch, and disappointed at the abruptness in which it came. Many of my generation have never known another serious food critic, and it’s hard to appreciate in our little bubble what your writing and insights have meant to this city. Beyond anything, your reviews have always been fair and balanced, always seeking the good in any overlooked hole-in-the-wall place as much as any flashy newcomer, and always giving everyone their fair shake. You have been an extraordinary champion of the people in this industry who toil in hopes of pleasing diners and and offering their own unique sense of hospitality. I hope that you will continue to use your wisdom and influence to encourage the remarkable gifts that the restaurant industry can add to the fabric of everyday life. And finally, I want to thank you for all that you have done for me and my team, and the whole restaurant community in general through your reviews; encouraging what we have tried to add to the dining scene, while prodding us to to do better when you knew we were capable. That champion will be greatly missed.

    1. Anne Avatar

      Thank you Steve. Best of luck with the third!!!

    2. Leslie Avatar

      Like your blog response to Anne’s going away letter. As a retired restaurateur, I would also like to express my sadness at her retirement from The Ottawa Citzen and give her my best wishes.

  15. Andy Avatar

    It was with sadness that I read of your leaving The Citizen on ottawafoodies.com after so many years of really excellent reviews informing us of the wide ranges of food, service and decor in Ottawa/Hull/Gatineau restaurants, both good and bad and, indeed, beyond good and bad. I too have a long history with The Citizen, starting by reading the comics, then delivering the paper in the McKellar Park area, then subscribing to the paper in the 70’s where the food section became my favourite section and was instrumental in my food education and development of a love for cooking and eating and dining out on what were “exotic” cuisines. The paper has a history of good food writers and excellent restaurant reviewers – Kathleen Walker comes to mind – but you made the job yours when you took over and I learned to believe what you wrote – your passion, your caring, your attention to detail all came through in your writing. Thank you for all of that, a job well done and done well – cheers!

    So, I will miss your reviews in the paper but will read them online if you continue to post them, and I will look in the food section of The Ottawa Citizen for reviews by the new reviewer, but he/she has awfully big work boots to fill.

    1. Anne Avatar

      How lovely to read Kathleen’s name in your generous and thoughtful note, Andy. She was a great inspiration to me!

  16. M Avatar


    Just a short note to thank you personally for a quick conversation we had in Kelowna last year. It gave me what i believe all your reviews have provided…a much needed perspective. Looking forward to our next opportunity to chat.


    1. Anne Avatar

      As am I. Thanks M.

  17. Andrew Avatar

    All the best to you Anne! I always enjoy reading your reviews. I appreciate that you visit a restaurant more than once to get your review prepared- a restaurant could have an off night, so a normally wonderful place may not be at its best or in parallel, a restaurant could have a night where all the stars miraculously align covering up weaknesses in a restaurant that has got some work to do. I think the Ottawa culinary scene has grown leaps and bounds in the decade I’ve been living here and thanks to people like you helping to spread the word that Ottawa has got some great places to eat. PS I share your sentiments about Atelier, Marc and his team are so super creative and they are most deserving of their Gold Plates win!

    1. Anne Avatar

      Indeed they are, and were! Thank you Andrew.

  18. Haz Avatar

    Hi Anne,
    Thanks for the years of outstanding insight into the restaurant business in Ottawa. From the Green Valley review to Grist for the Mill, to support for young chefs and new restaurants. You have watched over Ottawa’s dining scene during a time of the business growing up or coming into its own and competing with Montreal, Vancouver and Toronto dining scenes. I have always found your reviews to be balanced and fair while managing to gain a real insight into the restaurant from just a few visits. This abilty to see if staff are happy, working well together, “showing people the love” or not as the case might be, is truly a gift that you have kindly shared with Ottawa. I want to also thank you for your comments on service which is often overlooked by reviewers. You understand that good service is a key ingredient to a successful operation. You will be greatly missed.

    1. Anne Avatar

      Thank you Haz.

  19. Maryse Lepage Avatar

    Thank you for all these years of service to Ottawa food lovers. You are the one critic I find is always right on, being able to recognize the efforts and great work of restaurants, their ups and downs – expensive ones and modest ones alike. I hope you will continue regaling us with more reviews in the future. All the best in continuing to love and appreciate great cuisine.

    1. Anne Avatar

      I plan to keep eating, Maryse. Once a glutton… Thanks for your kind words.

  20. Martha Avatar

    Dear Anne,
    I like an earler poster’s use of the word “boneheaded” on this decision! Your reviews will be truly missed. Glad you are not retiring though! Will follow you regardless!
    All the best,

    1. Anne Avatar

      Hi Martha… thanks for your note. Too hungry to retire.

  21. Donald MacLeod Avatar
    Donald MacLeod

    Thank you for your years of thoughtful reviewing of Ottawa area restaurants. I have always found them fair and informative. Your standards have sometimes been more exacting than mine but I don’t think I have ever been disappointed in a restaurant you have reviewed positively. I will miss your regular contributions to The Ottawa Citizen but I am pleased to discover Capital Dining. I have bookmarked it and will now use it as my primary guide to eating in and around Ottawa.

  22. Tina Avatar

    So sorry to hear! Will definitely check back here for your reviews which I’ve always enjoyed.

  23. Helen Toews Avatar

    I personally applaud your grace at this time with your remarks to the Ottawa Citizen. You captured our hearts, not just by educating our palates through your reviews but by helping us join in the larger dining experience in our nations capital. We did not just dine with greater courage to explore the new, but we met the people who created and presented new experiences by their personal passions as restauranteurs.
    You directed us by your writing to new experiences and gave us guidance when needed to make special occasions truly memorable by your reviews.
    We had the privilege to get to know you and your ‘boys’ , and saw the compassionate and very real side of the folk behind the plates in front of us when we make our reservations.
    I have personally shared your books ‘Capital Dining’ and given them liberally to friends because I could trust your expertise to lead and guide.
    Please don’t stop writing and sharing your passion. Also, don’t be surprised when your ‘gift’ will take you to a global audience – you are very loved and your input through the Citizen will be greatly missed! Helen

    1. Anne Avatar

      As my youngest boy said, with panic in his voice: Mum, will there still be leftovers?
      Thanks Helen for such a sweet note.

  24. Geneviève (@BrissonGen) Avatar
    Geneviève (@BrissonGen)

    Hello Ms. DesBrisay,

    I am saddened by the news of you leaving the Ottawa Citizen. Your reviews were always one the main reasons I rushed out to purchase the Thursday paper. I look forward to following you here on this blog, as I have always put great trust in your fair, balanced and always thorough reviews.

    These are certainly exciting times for Ottawa’s food scene, and I hope that you will keep feeding your appetite by partaking in it.

    Please keep doing what you love!

    All the best,


  25. Catherine Avatar

    I for one am extremely happy that you are too hungry to retire. Your reviews were always what I looked for on the Citizen site and what I’ll be watching out for on your website, and I’ll be looking forward to your next review as I’ve looked forward to all your past ones.

    All the best to you as you strike out on your own!

  26. Elsie Avatar

    At the rate the Citizen is going, I don’t know why they simply don’t stop publishing the Food section. I always looked forward to your reviews and thanks to you, some places have become very familiar haunts. There was only one review out of all the reviews that you did that I did not agree with. The others were spot on, and I thank you for them. Due to the Citizen’s never ending quest to slide further into food mediocrity, I decided to let my feelings be known. I have written to cneustaedter (whomever he/she may be) to indicate my displeasure at the continuing dumbing down of the Food section. Best wishes to you, thank you so much for all your reviews.

  27. George Avatar


    I learned of your departure today while reading the electronic version of the Citizen from Texas. The way we read the news may change, but we still need talented writers like yourself to write the news.

    I know you are too classy of a lady to let us know the real story, but it sure looks to me like a company just trying to save a few bucks. Who replaces a person who is good at their job and has 20 years experience?

    Just to let you know, I always read and enjoyed your reviews although I did not always agree 100%. Of course if you ever read Tripdavisor it is very hard for a group of people to agree on anything.

    What I really like about your reviews is how you personalize them. I felt I know you and your family even though I have not met any of you. Your reviews were always truthful and not mean spirited. You called a spade a spade.

    I know you don’t need your job at the Citizen to survive, you have many other outlets for your creativity. Unfortunately the readers of the Citizen are the losers. Luckily we can all still follow you on your website.

    All the best !

    1. Anne Avatar

      Thanks George from Texas. Much appreciated.

  28. RuthAnne Avatar

    Anne, once I am over my disgust at the Ottawa Citizen for emailing a dismissal to a brilliant food critic, I will accept that I can continue to follow you, learn from you, chuckle at your sense of humor, marvel in the mediocrity you have spared me from, and the dollars you have saved me from spending. Sign me up for your next endeavor, I can’t wait.
    Best, RuthAnne

  29. Beverley Ann Chartrand Avatar
    Beverley Ann Chartrand

    Dumb move by the Citizen, in my opinion. Ms. DesBrisay, there is one review in particular I’d like to thank you for, because I would never have tried the delightful Huong Vietnamese Bistro if you have not written about it, or known what to order. I never tire of going there. Very relieved to know I can find you here.

    1. Anne Avatar

      Huong’s is a find, I agree! Thanks Beverley Ann.

  30. marnie Avatar

    Anne, I agree with the comments written here about your dining reviews in the Citizen. Your column was great. I have an important point to add. I loved your sense of humour! You never failed to see the funny side of a situation. It was great to see excellent writing coupled with humour. My Thursday food section read will not be the same . I am glad to have found your blog as I need a regular DesBrisay fix to brighten my week. All the best, Marnie

  31. Danielle Vinette Avatar
    Danielle Vinette

    I don’t understand the Citizen anymore. I am a subscriber, yet I find the quality of the paper to be declining. How sad to learn that you will no longer write for them. I have enjoyed your reviews throughout the years: well written, sharp, entertaining…. and obviously written by someone with great expertise in food. I’m glad I found you after I searched for a good restaurant in Ottawa to go with my visiting Italian relatives. Thank you for your reviews. I thoroughly enjoyed them, and am happy that I’ll continue to be able to do so through your blog.

  32. Jeff Robertson Avatar
    Jeff Robertson

    I’m very sorry to learn of your dismissal. I always enjoyed your reviews, even if I never made it out to most of the places you reviewed. Your evisceration of the Mill will live in my memory. I hope if the Citizen recognizes their error you’d be willing to return. You were the best part of the Thursday paper.

  33. Julie Z T Avatar
    Julie Z T

    I had wondered what happened while I was out of the country ?! And finally I just googled you to find out. I am pleased that I did find as part of the search the lovely testimonial on the Citizen site from Stephen Beckta.
    I too am sad to no longer be able to read your reviews in the newspaper. No matter what type of restaurant, or even if I did not like that style of food, I always read the review. On more than one occasion, my mouth watered and I had to rally down to the restaurant!!
    But on top of the food review, I did enjoy chuckling at the comments you included concerning your meal-mates, especially your family of males.
    I am a “paper” person, though I do read more on line now, and until I did the search I did not realize there were so many food sites in ottawa, ~~~ nor that you had a blog, that I will now definitely follow.
    Good luck on your next adventure(s) … as I am sure there will be more!

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