Food Writer & Restaurant Critic
Sylvia Rector was a talented and competitive journalist for four decades, including 23 years at the Detroit Free Press, culminating with 17 years as a restaurant critic.
She was an editor in Dallas, Minneapolis and Detroit and then pivoted to reporting. She is remembered as a mentor to a generation of journalists at the Free Press.
Rector was the preeminent restaurant critic in Michigan and evolved from print-only and dining anonymously to making TV and other public appearances. She regularly broke news. Readers saved and savored her stories.
She took thousands of photos and arguably published more print and online photos than any other reporter at the Free Press. She was one of the first Free Press reporters to work on a feature-length video.
Her reputation for integrity, fairness and knowledge of food and restaurants was established with her reviews and Restaurant of the Year and Best New Restaurants stories. That track record and shedding anonymity made possible the Free Press Top 10 Takeover dining series at top new restaurants, where Rector and the chefs answered diners’ questions.
She wrote for everyone. Her lists of best sandwiches, pizzas and hamburgers generated millions of hits.
As a food writer, she covered everything from blueberry farmers to home cooks. Her 10-part Exploring Ethnic Detroit series explained Haitian, Lebanese and other dishes. Her stories were about culture and people as well as food.
Rector joined the Free Press in 1992 as editor of the new Body & Mind section and later was food editor, food writer and restaurant critic. She wrote the first Restaurant of the Year story in 1999. Rector retired at the end of 2015. She was diagnosed with cancer shortly after retirement and passed away in December 2016.