Former Chicago Magazine Chief Dining Critic Jeff Ruby Talks About What's Next

man with red hair and beard
Former Chicago magazine chief dining critic starts a new adventure. Photo by Erielle Bakkum.

To the surprise of many, Jeff Ruby recently resigned from his role as chief dining critic at Chicago magazine, announcing the departure via Facebook.

During his 11-year tenure at Chicago, Jeff reviewed hundreds of Chicagoland restaurants, shared dozens of humorous stories, and profiled everyone from Bob Odenkirk to a forensic pathologist.

He's also produced three books--one all about pizza, another centered around an imaginary world atop an ice cube, and a third that helps locals and visitors to Chicago find the best bars.

We wanted to know more. What lead Jeff to Chicago in the first place? Why did he decide to leave the magazine? And, what are his plans for the future?

How did you end up as the chief dining critic at Chicago magazine?

I always wrote for fun and kept a journal every day, but I did not plan on becoming a writer. I got an undergraduate degree in philosophy, and lo and behold, when I graduated, I did not find a job in the philosophy world.

So, I went back to school and studied journalism at the University of Kansas. I grew up in Wichita, Kansas. I wasn’t ever a great reporter. I remember my professor telling me, “Ruby, your reporting is shit, but you’ve got a good voice.”

Instead of being insulted, I was really thrilled that he said I had a good voice. And I was like, what exactly does that mean? And he encouraged me to start writing humor columns for the University of Kansas newspaper. When I did, a little light bulb went off, like, this might be my thing.

I moved to Chicago in 1997 for a girl, which didn’t go well, but I ended up sending in my resume to Chicago magazine in August of ’97.