Jay Rayner is an award-winning writer, journalist and broadcaster. He was born in London in 1966 and has written extensively across the British and international media as both feature writer and columnist on everything from crime and politics, to the arts and fashion. He now writes for the Observer, where he is a feature writer and has been the restaurant critic for the last 20 years.
After studying politics at Leeds University, where he edited the student newspaper, he entered national newspaper journalism. In 1992 he was named Young Journalist of the Year in the British Press Awards, and has since been nominated for many more of the prestigious awards including as Food and Drink writer for three years in a row. In 2006 he won again, as Critic of the Year. He has been nominated for three Glenfiddich Food and Drink Awards and in 2001 was named restaurant critic of the year. In 2013 he received the Derek Cooper Award for Investigative and Campaigning Journalism from the Guild of Food Writers. His broadcasting work as a presenter for the BBC has brought him two Sony radio award nominations and a Sony gold, as anchor of Papertalk, a programme about the British newspaper business. He has also been nominated in the Commission for Racial Equality’s Race in the Media Awards, for his reporting of race crime in Britain, and for the Mental Health Media awards, for his work on mental health issues. As well as working for newspapers Jay has written for numerous magazines, including Granta, Esquire, GQ and Cosmopolitan and has contributed to both Gourmet and Saveur in the US. His feature writing is regularly syndicated across the world, and has been translated into more than a dozen languages.
His varied television work includes appearances as a judge in multiple series of Masterchef, and as part of the panel on BBC2’s Eating With The Enemy. He has presented two editions of Dispatches for Channel 4 and in the US he was a part of the expert panel on Top Chef Masters for Bravo, a spinoff from the hit TV show Top Chef. From 2009 to 2016 he was also the resident food pundit for The One Show. In 2012 he became the host of the award-nominated food panel show The Kitchen Cabinet for BBC Radio 4, which regularly receives audiences of over two million. He now presents his own podcast called Out To Lunch, in which he has interviewed the likes of Richard E Grant, Stanley Tucci and Mel C, in a fabulous restaurant.
He is the author of four novels and five works of non-fiction. The Marble Kiss, published in 1994, was nominated for the Author’s Club of Great Britain First Novel Award. His second, Day of Atonement, published in 1998, was nominated for the Jewish Quarterly’s international prize for Jewish fiction. Both have since been published as eBook specials through Studio 28, the publishing arm of literary agency Curtis Brown Ltd, which represents Jay for all his writing. Star Dust Falling, the true story of an ill-fated airliner which disappeared over the Andes is 1947, was published on both sides of the Atlantic in 2002, followed in 2004 by The Apologist. Rights were sold to Germany, the Netherlands, Canada, the US, Poland and Russia. His last novel, The Oyster House Siege, was published in March 2007 and was followed in 2008 by The Man Who Ate The World, a non-fiction account of his pursuit of the perfect meal in the new breed of luxury restaurants that have spread around the globe. His latest full length book, A Greedy Man in a Hungry World, about the challenges of food security in the 21st Century, was published in spring 2013. It became the basis for his one man show of the same name, which toured Britain for 18 months until mid-2015, and resulted in Jay being called to give evidence to the House of Commons Select Committee on Food, the Environment and Rural Affairs.
In 2013 he published My Dining Hell: Twenty Ways To Have a Lousy Night Out, an eBook of his most scathing reviews. In 2015 it was published in paperback format as a companion to his new one man show of the same name, which has played across Britain to packed houses and even been performed in New York. That was followed in 2016 by the Ten (food) Commandments and the accompanying show, which continues to tour Britain, and has been performed in Australia and New Zealand. In 2018, he published a second volume of negative reviews called Wasted Calories and Ruined Nights.
Jay has long played the piano. In 2012 he formed the Jay Rayner Quartet and began gigging around the country, playing a repertoire from the Great American songbook, including tunes around the theme of food and drink. The quartet have been regulars at the Crazy Coqs, the highly regarded cabaret venue inside London’s Brasserie Zedel, and in November 2015 they performed at the legendary Ronnie Scott’s jazz club for the first time, to which they now return each year. Their engagements since then have included the Buxton Festival, The Petworth Festival and The Snape Prom at Snape Maltings, Cadogan Hall as part of the EFG London Jazz Festival and Tom Kerridge’s Pub In The Park. Their first live album, A night of Food and Agony, is released in November of 2017.
In 2019 Jay’s latest book, My Last Supper, about his pursuit of his final meal on earth, will be published by Guardian Faber, and accompanied by a live show which will tour the UK.
Jay lives in London with his wife, Pat, and their sons, Eddie and Dan, and spends whatever spare time he has brushing up his jazz piano skills.