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Jay Rayner

Jason Matthew Rayner (born 14 September 1966) is an English journalist and food critic.

Early life

Jason Matthew Rayner was born on 14 September 1966. He is the younger son of Desmond Rayner and journalist Claire Rayner. His family is Jewish. He was raised in the Sudbury Hill area of Harrow and attended the independent Haberdashers' Aske's Boys' School. He studied politics at the University of Leeds, where he was editor of the Leeds Student newspaper, graduating in 1988.


Rayner worked as a freelance journalist after graduating, writing for newspapers including The Observer and The Independent on Sunday. In 1992, he was named Young Journalist of the Year in the British Press Awards. He worked as a feature writer for The Guardian, The Mail on Sunday, and The Observer before becoming the Observer restaurant critic in 1999. During the COVID-19 pandemic in 2020, when many restaurants were forced to close, Rayner announced he would no longer publish negative reviews. He wrote: "That doesn't mean giving good reviews to bad places, or not including criticisms. It just means that if I can't be generally positive, I won't review and will move on."

He has also written for magazines, including GQ, Esquire, Cosmopolitan, the New Statesman and Granta.

His first novel The Marble Kiss, published in 1994, was shortlisted for the Author's Club First Novel Award and his second, Day of Atonement (1998) was shortlisted for the Jewish Quarterly Prize for Fiction. His first non-fiction book, Stardust Falling, was published in 2002; this was followed by his third novel The Apologist, published in the US as Eating Crow, in 2004.

In 1997 he won a Sony Radio Award for Papertalk, BBC Radio Five Live's magazine programme about the newspaper business, which he presented. He chairs a BBC Radio 4 programme called The Kitchen Cabinet.

He was one of the panel of critics who made up the eponymous "enemy" on the daytime cookery show Eating with the Enemy, and performs a similar role on the UK version of MasterChef. He is the food reporter on the BBC magazine programme The One Show, and was on the panel of judges on the American programme Top Chef Masters. He appeared as a guest judge on the "UK" episode of The Final Table, season 1.

Rayner hosts the Out to Lunch podcast in which he interviews a celebrity guest in each episode.

Personal life

He was awarded the title Beard of the Year for 2011 by the Beard Liberation Front. He plays piano with his jazz ensemble the Jay Rayner Quartet.

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