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Janice Okun, the Only Restaurant Critic in the History of the Buffalo News, Retires (Kinda)

Her career began at The Buffalo News in 1974. She “retired” in 2009 but it seems that retirement was figurative as she continued to write the restaurant reviews in addition to another weekly column. Now, after 38 years and hundreds of restaurant reviews, Okun has decided to “step down” according to a column by editor Margaret Sullivan

Now, this isn’t exactly a retirement either. Instead, Okun is stepping down from the restaurant review column. Okun will still have a byline at The News as she’ll continue with her column for the Wednesday Taste section of the paper. 

So, for those of you keeping score at home, this is Okun’s second announced departure and she hasn’t actually departed. Yes, it has a Favre-ian quality to it. 

Okun has become something of a social media punching bag. Her most recent reviews have been maligned for oversights that are shocking given the scope and resources at the disposal of The News. Most notably, Okun helped give flight to the now infamous Valenti’s saga. 
Specifically, in her review of the North Tonawanda Italian restaurant, she repeated “Chef” Terry Valenti’s claims that he graduated from the Culinary Institute of America, served as head chef at Mama Leone’s in Manhattan and, get this, appeared on Iron Chef. Oh, and he said he won his Iron Chef battle by beating Bobby Flay. All of these claims are false. Most remarkably, it only took a minimal amount of time using Google to prove the silliness of those claims. 
The Buffalo News subsequently removed references to these claims though the 2.5 star review remains on their site. Less than two months after Okun’s review, the restaurant has been shuttered and the the owners have been evicted. Buffalo Pundit wrote extensively about the Valenti’s saga if you’re interested. 
With Okun leaving the restaurant review column, Andrew Galarneau will take over. You can follow him on Twitter here
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