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Will the Real @RuthBourdain Stand Up? I Don’t Think So.

@RuthBourdain – or RuBo as, he/she is called – is the creation of an anonymous tweeter that combines the personalities – and avatars – of food writers and icons @ruthreichl and Anthony Bourdain (@NoReservations).

Many in the industry enjoy the antics of such a person, as both Ruth and Tony are smart, outspoken folks that have a lot of influence in the way food is accepted and written about.

Tom Colicchio, the Chef of Craft says, “You are a shining star out there in [the] twitterverse.” And Chef @eric ripert, writes, “At Le bernardin we love you so much you earn the title of ‘La Madame’.” Even Ruth and Tony find the humour in it:

“It is kind of genius. I love it. I’m a total addict. I’m hooked already and, frankly, flattered and disturbed in equal measure.” – AB

“Hilarious.” -RR

But not everyone is on board. Michael @ruhlman said, “You are truly a scary creation,” and Chef Daniel Patterson of Coi agrees, “I don’t know what’s more disturbing: the avatar, the tweets or the whole damn idea.”

Recently, @ruthbourdain was nominated for a James Beard Award, one of the most coveted awards in the food industry , honouring top food journalists, TV hosts and producers and cookbook authors. Upon being nominated for Humour writing, a new category at this year’s James Beard Foundation Book, Broadcast & Journalism Awards Dinner, @ruthbourdain posted “I’m incredibly flattered. James Beard and I smoked a shitload of tarragon back in the day, so this means a great deal to me. What a great day for journalism.”

This kind of drug-filled expletive rant is just de rigeur for RB, but not everyone thinks it’s funny. And not everyone thinks someone who’s anonymous, pretending to speak in the voice of others, is award-worthy.

Food writer Dianne Jacob (@diannej) wrote on Wednesday, “There’s been lots of hand-wringing in the press about this nomination, because RuBo is anonymous. Also because the category is for a journalism award. I mean, are tweets journalism?” @diannej weighs in – “As for me, I think her tweets are entertainment, not journalism. Yes, RuBo’s a hoot, maybe food writers could use a good laugh, and she should get kudos for her ability to fashion a hilarious tweet. On the other hand, if I ever submitted a piece of journalism for a Beard award, I’d like the judges to take my essay seriously: the writing, concept, lead, research, revelations, structure, flow, conclusion — and the humor.”

There is something safe in being anonymous. Just like making nasty comments on someone’s blog, you can say things you wouldn’t necessarily say in person. And by taking on these two big personalities that have no qualms about being brutality honest, this anonymous person can hide behind them and not have to live up to being funny on their own, without the cozy crutch of celebrity.

If @ruthbourdain wins the award, don’t be surprised if he or she doesn’t climb aboard the stage. They aren’t ready to come out of hiding just yet.

The winners of the James Beard Awards will be announced Friday, May 6 in New York City.

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