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A New Flavor for Bon Appétit

From Julia Moskin, New York Times: ONE would think that after the first day on the job, the new editor in chief of Bon Appétit magazine would be entitled to a soft chair and a stiff drink. But no. On Monday night, Adam Rapoport was bouncing between a backyard grill covered with lamb chops and a bubbling potful of corn oil and French fries.
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Adam Rapoport is cool in the kitchen, a quality that will help him in the high echelons of the magazine world.

Rashly (and graciously), he had agreed to feed dinner to a total stranger, under the merciless eyes of his 2-year-old son, his wife and a photographer. He seemed unafraid, a quality that will stand him in good stead in the high echelons of the magazine business, which he entered Monday as the head of Condé Nast’s second-largest-circulation magazine. (The largest is Glamour.) Mr. Rapoport, 40 and for the last decade an editor at GQ magazine, may be in for a bumpy ride.

Just over a year ago, Condé Nast abruptly shuttered Gourmet magazine, dismissed many of its employees, and began sending its subscribers Bon Appétit instead, a move still bitterly mourned by some Gourmet loyalists.

Since then, television-based food magazines like Every Day with Rachael Ray and Food Network magazine have rapidly gained readers. Both publications also have highly developed and well-branded Web sites, neither of which can be said of Bon Appétit. Now, Bon Appétit is the biggest old-guard food magazine left standing, at a time when monthly magazines overall are struggling, but food, most definitely, is thriving.

The magazine he took over this week “can and should build on the massive interest in food in this country,” said Mr. Rapoport, prodding the lamb chops for doneness with increasing urgency. The French fries were already cooling on paper towels, proving that Mr. Rapoport, like most excellent home cooks, is not immune to the perils of timing a meal. “My idea of a good time is to stand around the grill with my friends, drinks in hand, staring at a big piece of meat and talking about it,” he said.

The madeleines afterward were perfectly done; then again, they were made not by Mr. Rapoport but by his wife, Simone Shubuck, an artist and occasional contributor to T: The Times Style Magazine’s blog. She also does the flowers at the restaurant Babbo (where they met). It was clear from the verbal shorthand that they cook often and comfortably together. (Though less often since the arrival of Marlon in 2007, a cheese enthusiast whose jailbreaks from his crib were being tracked on a grainy video monitor.)

Among friends, Mr. Rapoport is known for producing a lot of simple, stylish food, occasionally at a very late hour. “I don’t think anyone cares as much about what he eats as Adam,” said Mitchell Davis, the head of publications for the James Beard Foundation. At GQ, Mr. Rapoport covered food in his role as style editor, which also involved regular attendance at men’s fashion shows in Milan, Paris and London, and the occasional round of golf with Justin Timberlake. “It definitely sends a message,” Mr. Davis said of Mr. Rapoport’s selection. “Putting a GQ-style editor in the Bon Appétit job confirms that food is part of being an informed, stylish, with-it kind of person.”

Being that kind of person is clearly important to Mr. Rapoport, who name-checked the brand of socks he was wearing (St. James) and revealed a deeply held longing to look like a member of the Clash.

In both food and fashion, he said, “you can be pretentious over the top, or you can be interested and entertained in a way that improves your quality of life,” he said. “I’m definitely of the school that believes that a nice dinner with your wife on a Tuesday night can make your day.”

The change in editors follows Condé Nast’s announcement in September that Bon Appétit’s offices would move to New York from Los Angeles. Barbara Fairchild, the editor in chief, declined to make the move; she has worked for the magazine for more than 30 years. The fate of Bon Appétit’s other Los Angeles employees is to be determined.

As recently as five years ago, the landscape of food magazines seemed clearly drawn. Bon Appétit was accessible, highly professional, and in the business of providing recipes, recipes, and more recipes, largely devoid of text and context. “It was the fairly cosmopolitan cooking magazine: not as chef-y as Food and Wine, not as rootsy as Saveur, not as complex as Gourmet, which had stories about Christmas cookies alongside reporting on tomato workers in Florida,” said Colman Andrews, a co-founder of Saveur and formerly a contributing editor at Gourmet. “Now, it’s almost impossible to say which direction a monthly magazine should go.” Mr. Andrews is the editorial director of a food and drink Web site, TheDailyMeal.com. “Maybe it should go all digital and rename itself Bon App.”

In 1994, Mr. Rapoport got his first job involving food when he was hired as an assistant in the publications office of the James Beard Foundation, giving him access to chefs like Daniel Boulud and Joël Robuchon (who developed the French-fry method Mr. Rapoport was using). In 1997, when Time Out New York needed a dedicated editor for food and restaurants, Mr. Rapoport got that job, then moved to GQ in 2000.

Read more at New York Times

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