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Outliers: @RuthBourdain unmasked as ex-hospital worker

By Modern Healthcare
Posted: July 20, 2013 - 12:01 am ET

The staff of the Hospital for Special Surgery in New York know Josh Friedland as their former director of communications turned food blogger.

But after he left healthcare he assumed a secret identity as @RuthBourdain, author of a parody Twitter account begun in 2010 that sends up Ruth Reichl, former Gourmet editor, and celebrity chef Anthony Bourdain. Friedland's identity was recently revealed in a New York Times article.

And @RuthBourdain is more than a joke pairing the imagined appetites and profane musings of Bourdain with Reichl's poetic syntax. As @RuthBourdain, Friedland won a James Beard Foundation Award for humorous food writing and published a book, Comfort me with Offal.

Friedland's blog, the Food Section, which he launched in 2003, was swiftly spotted by Gourmet, which praised the website as the “consummate gastronomic blog.” Other news outlets and food magazines took notice as well. Eventually, the blog and food writing demanded more of Friedland's time. He began to curb his hours at the hospital, which was “very accommodating,” he says. In 2007, his writing career, a move and a growing family prompted him to leave.

The @RuthBourdain tweets occasionally riff off current events. Posted Dec. 31: “I think I just went over the Mezcal Cliff. Let the Tequestration begin. Hic.” Others parody Reichl's sometimes florid tweet style: “Home. Tiny, barely legal scallops debauched with onions, lemon, butter (and a money shot of Sherry). Smoking a puree of watercress and grass.” Many are a haze of food, weather reports, mood-altering substances (including zest) and allusions to sex.

Friedland said @RuthBourdain would follow Reichl's tweets within hours, and with little effort. “The more you think about it, the less likely you would even post it,” he said. “You just have to go with the inspiration.”

Follow Outliers on Twitter: @MHOutliers

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