Thursday, October 8, 2009

Gourmet Magazine: Requiescat in Pace

1968. It might have been the summer of love or the year of all things psychedelic to some, but for me, 1968 was the year that I started reading Gourmet magazine on a monthly basis. I probably owe the writers whose prose graced the magazine a great debt, for no doubt, I learned a vast amount of vocabulary reading their works. I certainly owe them for their insight into food, cooking techniques, and cultures.

In those days, the magazine was the tale of two cities, New York and Paris, but to a kid from Virginia those places might have well been the moon. As a kid, I remember reading Along the Avenues (all things New York) and Paris Journal (ditto Paris) and wondering what it must be like to experience such things as I read.

Gourmet followed me through high school and to college where—it may surprise you to learn—that the small format magazine with its gorgeous food photos stood in stark opposition to all the copies of Hugh Heffner's finest laying around in the dorm. It was fitting to have Gourmet and Playboy on the same table, for Gourmet's photographers were the originators of what we now call "food porn." Many of the photographers, and Romulo Yanes foremost, are geniuses at what they do and I am happy that Gourmet provided a forum for their work. My life is richer for having looked at their pictures.

After I left high school, Gourmet went through a muddled phase in which it couldn't decide whether it was food journal or lifestyle magazine and yet the sparse food writing was often so brilliant that I couldn't stop reading it, despite the near decimation of the magazine after Condé Nast bought it.

Gourmet had an ugly period in which it became all advertising and little content in the early Condé Nast period, yet there was that one inspired article about kebabs in Afghanistan that kept me coming back month after month.

And in the last decade, Ruth Reichl had seemingly wrested the magazine back to a steady course and had finally made the magazine relevant again. The column Kitchen Notebook always spoke to my heart as a chef. Though it was not always so over the decades, in the last five years, I have looked forward to reading the magazine each month. Kudos, Ruth.

And now we must say goodbye. My profession dictates that I am not a great follower of the news and I learn much of what goes on outside my restaurant kitchen from my employees. And yesterday when one of my line cooks told me of the demise of Gourmet, I was in disbelief.

Gourmet has been one of the constants in my life. I'm 47 now and have been reading it for 41 of those years. I'm profoundly saddened by this turn of events in a way similar to when Julia Child died. I owe both much for my culinary formation. Requiescant in pace.


  1. Thanks for sharing this Ed. I passed along your thoughts to a few friends.

    You might also enjoy NPR's commentary:

    Goodbye Gourmet Magazine

  2. Ok, only a bit of a shameless plug for where I work. But several of the Gourmet editors/writers have ended up at:

    ...which is an AOL site. No idea how well they'll do with the new format, but thought I'd pass it along.