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City & State or ZIP Tonight, this weekend, May 5th...
City & State or ZIP

Meet your new AJC Dining Team

They’re heeeeere …

A few months ago I announced on this blog that The Atlanta Journal-Constitution was looking for local writers and bloggers to help me cover dining throughout this sprawling North Georgia population center we like to call greater Atlanta. I’m now thrilled to report we’ve retained the services of three outstanding contributors from the scores who applied.

Before we meet them, let me tell you about some key changes in the way we cover restaurants, in both print and online.

My primary review will continue to run in Friday’s Go Guide section of the newspaper and post online the same morning on the Food and More blog. You are welcome to join the blog’s increasingly lively dialogue with other readers and post your comments on the review. If you think I’m right on target — or way off base — let me know. Every Friday I will also post Behind the Review — an online-only extra that delves a bit deeper into some aspect of the review.

Our weekly Neighborhood Nosh will bite the dust. This Go Guide feature was based on one visit and was intended to be a quick introduction to a neighborhood restaurant and not a critical assessment. It seemed the right kind of article to run five years ago when people got most of their information on new restaurants from reading the paper. Today, many readers are already aware of these restaurants from online coverage and would rather have more researched opinion. Is this restaurant worth the money? That’s part of what we’re here to answer.

So, in place of Neighborhood Nosh, we will run a second full restaurant review based on at least two visits. These reviews, written by our new team of contributors, will be as critical and informative as the main review. We’ve chosen three writers who recognize good food but won’t hesitate to warn you when a restaurant doesn’t meet expectations. With each review, we’ll include a listing of similar restaurants throughout the metro area that we recommend.

As with the main review, these secondary reviews will post every Friday on the blog, and we encourage your comments at

We selected three writers who can not only write entertaining and informative reviews, but also keep things lively on the Food and More blog throughout the week with their contributions on dining, cooking, drinking and shopping for food.

They will also make The Atlanta Journal-Constitution and and the go-to place for restaurant news.

Gene, Jenny and Jon will introduce themselves this week on the Food and More blog. Their reviews will start alternating every Friday in the Go Guide and on our Food and More blog. I’m thrilled to have them on board — so thrilled I may celebrate by staying home and having a salad tonight.

– Suzanne Van Atten contributed to this column.


John Kessler, main reviewer (All cuisines)

John is once again The Atlanta Journal-Constitution’s chief dining critic, a job he held from 1997 to 2005. In the interim he worked as a food columnist, a features writer and a profile writer for the newspaper. The recipient of a passel of writing awards, Kessler graduated from Williams College in Massachusetts with a degree in the history of ideas as well as L’Academie de Cuisine culinary school near Washington. He has taught English in the Kansai region of Japan and cooked in restaurants in Washington and Denver. He lives in Decatur with his wife, three daughters and far too many house pets.

He really likes sushi, eggplant, tangerines, yogurt, crusty bread, pate and grilling unruly hunks of meat on his Big Green Egg. He doesn’t much care for macaroni salad, canned corn, cheesecake, soft dinner rolls, meatloaf or decorative baking projects that involve blue icing.

Gene Lee (International dining)

Gene Lee writes the blog Eat, Drink, Man… A Food Journal that is considered the go-to place online for foodies seeking advice on international dining in metro Atlanta and preparing it at home. He’s an expert in Asian cuisines, especially that of his Korean heritage, but he is also knowledgeable about Latin American food. He is a very precise, informative writer and a strong photographer.

Jenny Turknett (Southern and neighborhood fare)

Jenny Turknett is a former teacher who’s now a stay-at-home mom. She knows the northern suburbs like nobody’s business. She is also a former caterer and self-avowed foodie with a smart, bright writing style. She operates the blog Going Low Carb, but is an omnivore who has strong, well-supported opinions on the dining experience.

Jon Watson (Popular eats)

Jon Watson is a passionate chowhound, and it shows in his restaurant review blog Live To Feast. He makes it a point to hit the big-buzz, high-end restaurants, but he’s a classic guy’s guy with a strong appetite for burgers, pizza, wings and other forms of pub grub. And he writes about it with great energy and enthusiasm.


What you can expect each week from our expanded dining coverage, both in print in The Atlanta Journal-Constitution and online on

In print

  • Wednesday Living section: First Look — A quick, noncritical introduction to a new restaurant. We’ll tell you what to expect on the menu and in the dining room.
  • Friday Go Guide: Two dining reviews — One written by chief dining critic John Kessler and another by one of our contributing critics: Gene Lee, Jenny Turknett and Jon Watson. Both critical reviews will carry star ratings, based on multiple visits.
  • Friday Go Guide: What’s New — A weekly roundup of restaurant openings, closings and other dining and food news.
  • Friday Go Guide: If You Like… — Suggested dining options in metro Atlanta if the reviewed restaurant isn’t convenient for you.
  • Sunday Living & Arts section: Kessler’s Food and More column about dining, cooking and other consuming passions.
  • Sunday Living & Arts section: Capsules of recent restaurant reviews.

Online, on this blog

Look for frequent postings from the dining team — great food finds, discussion topics, breaking news — as well as specific fare.

  • Sunday: Kessler’s Food and More column
  • Monday: Kessler’s weekly morning post.
  • Tuesday: Turknett’s weekly morning post.
  • Wednesday: Gene Lee’s weekly morning post.
  • Thursday: Jon Watson’s weekly morning post.
  • Friday: Both weekly dining reviews will post along with Behind the Review — Kessler’s deeper dive into issues surrounding his lead review.

29 comments Add your comment


October 17th, 2010
4:02 pm

What about Bob Townsend? I love his stuff!

[...] This post was mentioned on Twitter by ajcdinecritic and Jimmy, John Kessler. John Kessler said: Meet your new AJC Dining Team [...]

[...] This post was mentioned on Twitter by Michael Erickson, Michael Erickson. Michael Erickson said: Meet your new @AJC Dining Team! [...]

Dunwoody Don

October 17th, 2010
5:42 pm

Sounds great. I look forward to the new format. Btw – when you say a second review “based on at least two visits,” do you mean (a) separate visits by more than one reviewer or (b) one reviewer visiting more than once? I would rely more heavily on the former, assuming two tongues are better than one.

Rachael Lee

October 17th, 2010
6:12 pm

Congratulations Gene!!! Miss you!


October 17th, 2010
6:23 pm

I’m hoping with the additional help that there will be a bit more moderation/interaction with these blogs. I love John’s musings but I often feel that he tosses the proverbial “bone” into the yard and leaves for the day leaving us to rant, rave and meander to all sorts of different places that have nothing to do with the original post. It’s kind of like some of the sports blogs on the AJC that are oft filled with nothing more than who can post “first”; it’s downright annoying and most times mindless. I read this blog because I enjoy the topics and desire meaningful conversation about the topics at hand… If I want to be annoyed, I’ll just get in my car and venture out onto Atlanta’s freeways.


October 17th, 2010
8:24 pm

Looking forward to the fresh “meat” so to speak.

Chief Wiggum

October 17th, 2010
10:20 pm

Thanks for the addition of Jon Watson for “Popular Eats”. I know a lot of foodies turn their nose up at anything that may be a franchise or a chain, but a lot of us (frankly, a majority) who read the AJC are “regular eaters”, and are more likely to do something like Applebee’s with friends after a softball game than some fancy place. I think it makes the food section more inclusive.

Theresa Walsh Giarrusso

October 17th, 2010
10:47 pm

Looks great John! I can’t wait to read all the new coverage!


October 17th, 2010
11:46 pm

@ Chief Wiggum — Like you, I was encouraged about the same thing in theory. After looking over the writer’s blog however, a lot less so. Seems like mostly the same obscure food & same obscure restaurants, just with a considerably more down-to-earth writing style.


October 18th, 2010
8:14 am

Chief Wiggum and BehindEnemyLines,
I don’t have any issues with franchises or chains, but why would you want a restaurant reviewer to review Applebees or Chili’s? I think the vast majority of Americans know what these places taste like without a reviewer sharing their reviews. Would you also like McDonalds and Burger King to be reviewed here as well?


October 18th, 2010
8:52 am

It’s so wonderful that we are getting an international dining writer! I feel like there’s a gleam of hope that one day we’ll be able to go beyond the East-Asian-and-a-bit-Latin thing. Those are great cuisines, but there’s so much more out there…

Jon Watson

October 18th, 2010
9:34 am

@ FromBehindEnemyLines – The restaurants that I cover for the AJC will differ from those that I have been covering on my blog. All of the fine dining will fall to John Kessler to review while I will only be covering “regular food” such as burger joints, pizza places, and BBQ. My plan is to give more coverage to the kinds of places that most of our readers can afford to visit without having to fork over a mortgage payment. So, for the purposes of the AJC blog, you won’t be seeing more of “the same” from me.

And if you have any suggestions on restaurants you want to see reviewed, don’t hesitate to send them over!

– Jon W.

John Kessler

October 18th, 2010
10:01 am

Huh – Bob is still our great beer guru, and his column and beer recommendations alternate each week in the Food section and on the Drink blog ( Bob is also writing the pithy First Look feature that runs in the paper each Wednesday.

Don – It’s one reviewer, two or more visits. I think once you get to know a critic’s palate, then you can judge the ways in which your tastes and his or hers are similar or different.

Art – Each reviewer will be responsible for moderation his or her own blog posts as he/she sees fit.

K – If you have any recommendations for Gene, please let him know!

[...] You can read the complete AJC blog post about the new dining team and our responsibilities on AJC’s Food and More here: [...]

Ima Glutton

October 18th, 2010
12:08 pm

I’m eager to see the new, expanded coverage, especially the areas that Jenny will be visiting.

My wife and I attended the Taste of Roswell on Saturday and enjoyed it thouroughly. Kudos to NOLA for their absolutely sublime Gumbo; and to The Bridge for the Chicken Hausteca, YUM!


October 18th, 2010
1:07 pm

Well you already did a Persian roundup – thanks (again) for that!

Another one that I discovered for myself and that is quite well represented in Atlanta is Ethiopian. Nothing like finishing the sauce soaked injera, yum!

Indian, Arabic, Turkish, Eastern European – those are some of my favorites, and they are also well represented here.

Then you could go even more exotic. Like up in Lawrenceville I found a new African place that serves Ghanaian, Liberian, Cameroonian and Nigerian food. Hall of Fame I think was the name of it.


October 18th, 2010
1:10 pm

Another idea would be to do a particular dish roundup. Like right now I’m trying every mofongo I can find around.

John Kessler

October 18th, 2010
1:34 pm

Awesome, K! Gene, you taking note?

[...] more: Meet Your New Dining Team | Food and More with John Kessler Uncategorized chosen-three, contributions, keep-things, only-write, recognize-good, [...]


October 18th, 2010
3:11 pm

K – thanks for that african food idea. My best friend has spent quite a lot of time in Africa (Sierre Leone, Niger, and a few others) in the Peace Corps, and now for her doctoral degree, and when she comes back here, she’s always looking for a taste of there. :)

John – really excited. Thanks for keeping us updated. I really look forward to this.


October 18th, 2010
3:37 pm

Thanks John!

Jenny Turknett

October 18th, 2010
5:59 pm

Ima Glutton – I was at The Taste of Roswell, as well. You’re right – NOLA’s gumbo was one of the highlights. And now I’m sorry I didn’t get to the Chicken Huasteca!

Gene Lee

October 18th, 2010
8:13 pm

@K, Let me reply more formally so you really know it’s me. I’m excited to be getting into all of those cuisines either in print or on this blog. I will keep Hall of Fame on my radar, thanks!


October 19th, 2010
8:44 am

Re mofongo — nothing beats Cueva del Chicken Inn (that’s its name!) in Hato Rey. Mofongo con caldo — or your own.


October 19th, 2010
9:40 am

I so wish Hato Rey were just a couple of exits away… :) Especially now that winter is coming.


October 19th, 2010
2:22 pm

Jon, welcome aboard. Hit up Village Burger; Dunwoody’s newest hotspot.

Midtown Marty

October 20th, 2010
6:34 am

Who’s covering the Flying Biscuit?


October 20th, 2010
3:26 pm

What ever happened to Merdith Ford Goldentoes?????