Gourmet magazine celebrated food, where it came from, how it was made, but this last act of butchering was undeserved. Conde Nast decided to shutter the venerable food monthly, giving staff a week (one day, an editor reports) to clean out their desks.
Now, I understand Gourmet was losing money. But the swift axe comes as a shock, especially at a time when food writing has become elevated and the audience for such fare continues to grow. I cannot imagine that the Gourmet magazine brand would not have been worth something if re-imagined.
I am also saddened because I have worked with Gourmet on occasion and know a few people there. To just single out two, food politics writer Barry Estabrook was among the more insightful, broad-reaching and strong writers in the field. His article on virtual slave workers in Florida's tomato fields led to long-awaited reform. At the very least, his piece deserves consideration for a national magazine award. I would also single out Jane Daniels Lear, senior articles editor, for her keen editorial pencil and deft writing. Ruth Reichl needs no accolades, since she has done so much to change the way food is perceived and written about and I expect she will continue to do so in the future.
Gourmet offered a melange of stylized photo shoots and far-flung travel features; it celebrated chef menus and offered tips on fast and easy food. In short, it tried to navigate between the ideal and utilitarian. The mix worked for me, but maybe in this age of Google-your-ingredient recipes the sense of urgency was missing. With a new food site seemingly launching ever week, though, it's hard to think there isn't an appetite for this stuff. And the weird thing was, Gourmet had a lead on all of them.
I hope Gourmet lives on at its web site, still offering engaging writing and videos, giving us tips and inside stories. But if it doesn't, I imagine these talented people will land on their feet creating what Conde Nast, alas, was unwilling to envision.
- Samuel Fromartz