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New SF Chronicle Critic Prepares to Take On Bay Area Food Scene

Get to know Soleil Ho

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The San Francisco Chronicle’s new restaurant critic is here, and she’s eating things.

Soleil Ho went on KQED’s Forum this morning to chat with host Michael Krasny and listeners about subjects as varied as cultural appropriation, tech companies vacuuming up culinary talent, and Studio Ghibli’s depictions of food. Here are a few insights gleaned from the interview that Bay Area chefs and restaurateurs might want to note. (Spoiler: Her preferences stray far from former Chron critic Michael Bauer’s, and neither tasting menus nor Cal-Italian food were discussed.)

  • Ho hasn’t been in the Bay Area long, but she mentioned already eating at Dyafa, Reem Assil’s Middle Eastern restaurant in Oakland; Slanted Door (“I do prefer the little Vietnamese restaurants, no offense to Charles”); and Beauty’s Bagels (“pretty good”).
  • She’s definitely not bothering with the anonymous thing. “I am a millennial and I’ve been on the internet for 15 years and it’s really hard to cover up my tracks at this point,” she said. “It’s out there, my face is out there.”
  • She loves regional Chinese cuisine, especially Xian-style food, which she finds “really compelling and delicious. I just love a wheat bun.”
  • She’s also a big fan of Ethiopian food — lucky for her, Oakland and Berkeley are loaded with great options. “I love all food you can eat with your hands,” she said. “I find that really refreshing.”
  • Climate change weighs heavily on Ho’s mind, which will play a part in her restaurant reviews. “I think vegan food and vegetarian food is going to be more important going forward,” she said. “When I go to a restaurant, I’m very interested in seeing what the vegetarian options are. Even at a lot of good restaurants, there’s one salad and one pasta that’s pretty mediocre, and that’s really disappointing.”
  • One listener specifically asked Ho if she’ll pay more attention to restaurants on the Peninsula, given the relative lack of food coverage in the area. Ho said yes. “I’m really excited to check that out.” She’s also mentioned being very interested in covering the East Bay, an area Bauer didn’t frequent much either.
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  • SF Chronicle Announces New Food Critic [ESF]