Gourmet's 50 Women Game Changers in Food: # 46, Gael Greene

Gael Greene was born in Detroit, Michigan in 1933 where she says she was raised "in a cocoon of Velveeta." She attended the University of Michigan and got a BA in Literature, Science and the Arts. During college, she worked for her father in his dress shop but her heart was set on living in NYC; she thought a job she'd had as a stringer in Ann Arbor, Michgan for Time and Life and the Detroit Free Press would make it easy to get hired. But....

"No New York newspaper would hire me fresh from college in 1956—I had applied everywhere and sent countless résumés—so I was languishing at home in Detroit, Michigan, the most junior staffer at United Press."

Someone finally offered her a one-week tryout at the NY Post .  Then she got a second week, then a month, then three months, and she finally said: "Hire me, or I'm going to Italy, where the men are so wonderful," so they said, "Okay, you're hired."

Gael was at the Post for three years, as a general assignment reporter. She covered everything, features as well as murders.

"I actually covered Elvis when he passed through in a train on the way to Germany." (To read about her famous Elvis story [and a few others] in an excerpt from her memoir, Insatiable: Tales from a Life of Delicious Excess, click HERE.)

She also freelanced for Cosmopolitan, Ladies Home Journal, and McCall's. Then one day she got a call from Clay Felker (original New York Magazine Editor). He asked if she'd be the restaurant critic for New York magazine.

"I was shocked; I don't know where he got the idea except that I had written one piece on the re-opening of La Cote Basque. I said to Clay, 'I can't afford to work for you, I hear you're not paying very much until the magazine starts making money, and I'm making so much money writing.' He said, 'People are begging for this job so they can charge all their meals to us.' Before he could change his mind, I said yes."

Gael continued to freelance but her then-husband [Don Forst] said, "Why don't you stop doing all this freelance stuff and write your book." 
She'd been talking about writing a novel for ages. So she began working on Blue Skies, No Candy and pretty much stopped doing a lot of the freelancing and just worked for New York magazine. Her first novel became a best seller. 

New York
was the first city magazine and Gael's reviews were the "go-to" place for information about food and dining out. Ms. Greene documented the city's growing obsession with food. She became famous for concealing her identity from restauranteurs, reserving and using credit cards under other names, and wearing hats that covered her eyes in photographs, on television and in public appearances.

There had been editors at New York who were stung by her pronouncements on which restaurants should be accorded how much attention, and Ms. Greene is still resented by some she criticized through the decade, none of whom would agree to admit it for publication. 

In 2000, she gave up her weekly chief reviewer’s role to write the
Insatiable Critic column and run her independent Web site, InsatiableCritic.com She continued as a columnist until 2008, the magazine's 40th anniversary and then, practically without warning, was fired. Adam Moss, New York’s editor in chief, said Ms. Greene “was laid off — there is no elegant expression for it” because New York could no longer afford four food critics.

Ms. Greene said that when Mr. Moss gave her the news last Wednesday: “It was narcissistic shock: moi? I thought I was a brand at New York magazine. I’m the only editorial person on the staff left from the earliest days.”

Many were taken aback at the expulsion of the sensualist who influenced the way a generation of New Yorkers ate, and who served as a lusty narrator of restaurant life in New York for decades. (Gael plans to still have a few last words on restaurants and chefs on her website.)

Today, we're all critics and so much has happened, people take it for granted:

"It's amazing. That was Zagat's brilliance -- to figure out that people would like to be a critic and were ready to be critics. And people do eat out a lot now and they've been exposed in travel and in the sophistication of restaurants that are available... Everybody has an opinion."

In 1981 she co-founded Citymeals-on-Wheels, along with the teacher and food writer James Beard, to help fund weekend and holiday meals for homebound elderly people in New York City. She remains an active chair of the company's board, hosting an annual Power Lunch for Women.

Greene has received numerous awards for her work with Citymeals and in 1992 was honored as Humanitarian of the Year by the James Beard Foundation. She is the winner of the International Association of Cooking Professionals' magazine writing award (2000) and a Silver Spoon from Food Arts magazine.

Gael — who once wrote that “the two greatest discoveries of the 20th century were the Cuisinart and the clitoris” — said she has written about food as she has about sex: “How does it feel, how does it taste, and what is it about. If you are a sensuous eater, these things are important.”  People said I confused sex and food, but in fact, I have never confused sex and food. I like keeping them separate; they're just two great pleasures.

Ms. Greene, who says she is childless by choice, lives with her partner of 22 years, Steven Richter, a New York photographer. She also hopes to stay youthful, she said: “I work out five days a week. And use lots of blue eye shadow.”


Gael says she believes she found this recipe in the NYTimes in the 60's. The vintage recipe called for shortening in the crust, but she's substituted butter. I found the piecrust delicious and have every intention of adding pecans and grated orange rind to my old faithful piecrust recipe when I make fruit pies. The filling, however, was rather a disappointment. Too runny. I've always depended on my mother's recipe for blueberry pie, which uses flour, not cornstarch, and I have greater success with it than I did with Gael's recipe. All blueberry pies tend to be somewhat runny, but this needed way more cornstarch. I think I'll stick with Mother's recipe.

Blueberry Pie with Orange-Nut Crust
From Insatiable: Tales from a Life of Delicious Excess, by Gael Greene


For the crust:

2 cups flour
1/4 teaspoon salt
2 teaspoons sugar
8 ounces unsalted butter, cold
2 teaspoons grated orange rind
1/2 cup finely chopped pecans or almonds
5 tablespoons ice water 
For the filling:

4 cups blueberries
1/2 cup sugar
2 tablespoons cornstarch


Preheat oven to 375. If you have a pizza stone, place it on the bottom rack.
Mix flour, salt and sugar in a processor. Cut the butter in small pieces and add. Pulse 10 or 12 times until butter is the size of a pea. Sprinkle 3 tablespoons sice water over and pulse until dough comes together. You may need to add more water one tablespoon at a time. Divide dough in half, cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate one hour.
Remove one pastry disk 20 minutes before rolling. Roll out to fit a 9" pie plate. Freeze while making the blueberries and remaining pastry.
Pick over the berries, then gently toss with the sugar and cornstarch. Pour into the pastry-lined plate.
Roll out the remaining pastry. If you are going to do a lattice top, cut into strips. If you are going to do a solid top, cut 3 or 4 slits in the top. Moisten the edges and crimp to seal.
Place on the bottom rack for 20 minutes. Reduce heat to 350 and move the pie to the middle rack and bake for another 20 minutes. The pie is done when the juices start to bubble and the crust is brown on the edges.

Join Mary from One Perfect Bite and all the other participants in this fun series.


  1. This comment has been removed by the author.

  2. "Hire me, or I'm going to Italy, where the men are so wonderful"

    outstanding, love her even more . . . too bad about the runny blueberries, kudos to you for being a pie baker to know how to fix it! i don't have the patience yet, also why i'm not a golfer or a poker player lol

  3. Great post. I never knew about Gael and Elvis... what a story... a little creepy to be a sacrificial offering, Elvis or not.
    She is a character still. I was never a big NYMag girl... more NYer, so I missed many of her reviews. Still, those that I read I usually agreed with. She was certainly a colorful writer. Good job on the pie... the crust does sound good...what is the flour secret with your pie???

  4. An interesting life. Thanks for the honest review of the pie!

  5. You make one lovely pie. The idea of the orange crust is so appealing. If you have an extra moment, would you link this beauty to Bake with Bizzy?

  6. What a wonderful humanitarian!

    The pie crust does sound delicious and I appreciate your honest review of the filling.

    Another very informative post!

  7. this post is really interesting Barbara andsorry the recipe dont be perfect

  8. A lovely pie nonetheless... That is a fabulous combination of flavors.



  9. You've brought another great woman to light Barbara with your beautifully written post. I really enjoy reading about the struggles that women overcame when we weren't treated as equals in the early days. We've come a long way in a man's world.

    Love the idea of nuts and orange in this crust. Happy weekend.

  10. I want a career like hers!

  11. Love your well written review of Gael Greene. What a fascinating woman. I too love the idea of that pie crust.

  12. Interesting about the filling. It happens! But have taken note of the pie crust. I have yet to perfect one.

  13. Wow, what an amazing lady and life!

  14. The crust sounds really interesting and worth a try. It's a shame that the filling was not all that you hoped. The pie you made looks beautiful and is a testament to your skill as a cook. I hope you have a great weekend. Blessings...Mary

  15. Blueberries..so gorgeous, but you never know about them! Pie, me oh my, I love pie! Happy Friday.

  16. Sissy needs blueberries for her eyesight and can't have cornstarch. Would you share your mother's recipe, so that I can bake one treat for humans and the most spoiled dogs EVER?

  17. What an interstin' life that Miss Gael has had. Thanks for brinin' her to us sweetie!

    What a great post and pie too!!! I'm overjoyed!!!

    I just wanted to pop in and thank you for your visit and hoppin' on my blog. I sure hope ya enjoy the ride.

    God bless and please, drop in often. The door of the Ponderosa is always open. Heck, I'll even leave ya on a light. Heeehehehe!

    Have a beautiful weekend sweetie! :o)

  18. I wish I could speak of an interesting life to write about, but alas I cannot! This pie sounds great, wish I could have been there when it came out of the oven!

  19. I almost made this pie this week...I do love the sound of the blueberries, pecans, and orange together. I'll keep in mind your notes if I do get around to trying it one of these days!

  20. Wow, your crust is just gorgeous :)

  21. Your pie looks too pretty to eat! Gael was a good read.

  22. i honestly never really liked her a guest judge on my good ol' chef shows, but this pie sounds lovely!

  23. Your pie looks delicious, runny or not, I'd still love to have a piece. What an interesting character, Gael is. It was fun reading about her.

  24. Now, you've really tempted me for more tart & pies. Yummmm....

  25. Ms. Greene, the brassy lady in the hat, did make an indelible mark as a critic, and no doubt has a wealth of stories.

    Orange-nut crust sounds divine.

    I always appreciate your honesty when you try a recipe, and point out the bad with the good.

  26. What a life! Lady's got guts, and it sure paid off. The color on that crust is gorgeous! I just bought a bunch of blueberries today. Hmmmm. :)



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