Is Ruth Reichl Selling Out at Gilt Taste?

Earlier this year, former Gourmet Editor-in-Chief Ruth Reichl began her consulting gig (rumored to be worth $250,000 annually) at Gilt Taste, a high end web food store that’s paying her to advise on food writing on its website.

Gilt Taste is a new kind of media for Reichl, one that blurs the line between advertising and editorial. That’s a sea change from her days at Gourmet, the New York Times and the Los Angeles Times. To my surprise, she welcomed the switch.

“The notion of the wall between advertising and editorial,” she begins in an interview with Eater, “If you’re dependent on sales and you only have things you are really proud of, there’s no need for that wall and there’s no reason to be embarrassed by saying a product is great and this is why it’s great.”

Really? My eyes widened. So she’s assigning advertorial now, where a company pays to get an enthusiastic article that looks and smells like regular journalism? And her big name freelancers are going for this? The former magazine editor in me got ready to protest.

No, no, and no. It’s so much tamer than that. Some of the stories have links to products Gilt Taste sells. That’s it. Links.

(Here are two examples. For a recipe by New York Times regular freelancer Melissa Clark on steak and potatoes, the words “boneless ribeye steaks” are hot, and they link to a catalog item for $127.95 for four [Read more…]

Of Course Food is Just like Fashion

bacon-cupcakesTut-tutting erupted earlier this week when the soon-to-be publisher of Bon Appetit told an interviewer she didn’t see much difference between food and fashion.

In an interview in Women’s Wear Daily, Carol Smith, senior vice president and chief brand officer of Elle Group, said she was lured from her current job while having a drink with future boss Thomas A. Florio, Condé Nast’s senior vice president and publishing director:

“He said, ‘Could you ever see yourself doing for food what you did for fashion with Elle?’” Smith recalled. “I had never even thought about it….Then I started to think, you know, what’s the difference between [Read more…]

Help! My Gourmet is Now Bon Appetit

march_10_cover_vThe postcard inside the plastic-wrapped package advised “…we will be sending you Bon Appetit for the duration of your remaining Gourmet subscription term.”

And there it was, my non-Gourmet. First I got sad about Gourmet’s passing all over again. I like the way Elissa Altman summed up its demise: “Gourmet folded because it had a direct competitor under the same roof in the same genre geared to more practical and commercial endeavors, it made more money, and one of them had to go…End of discussion.”

Once I got over the fact that it was not Gourmet, I was curious to see how Bon Appetit was different. Content, for one thing. Bon Appetit is all about entertaining. Tone, for another. It’s all about ease: world-class dining made simple.

Yet most of the recipes didn’t look that easy. In fact, I got the biggest laugh from [Read more…]

"Consider the Lobster," a Gourmet Classic

Photo from Gourmet articlePhoto from Gourmet article, 2004

The other day I sent out a Tweet about a list of best food books of the decade at the UK Guardian. Amy Sherman replied she found the list strange because of two books on Indian food, but then, the British now say they like curry more than fish & chips.

I enjoyed that exchange, but actually, Indian cookbooks were not what I found odd — and ultimately wonderful — about the article. It was because it said, a few paragraphs in, “We had an interesting nomination… David Foster Wallace’s essay Consider the Lobster, written originally for the now defunct [Read more…]

How the Net Influences Print Restaurant Reviewing

Two leaders in print food writing have acknowledged the power of online restaurant reviews. They’re not about to say they value the opinions, but it’s a start.

imagesSam Sifton, the new restaurant critic for the New York Times, says the net can add value where newspapers cannot. Answering questions about his new post on Diner’s Journal, he said,  “The biggest change in restaurant criticism since my days at NYPress is — hands down — the Internet. I don’t know that I trust the opinion of that guy who loved the sandwiches at Xie Xie and wrote about it on his blog, or Yelp, or Eater, or Midtown Lunch. (Why prevaricate? I don’t trust his opinion.) But boy oh boy do I like the photographs he’s posted, the menu he’s scanned, the information he’s provided for all to share. For myself, I look forward to joining that discussion.”

(By the way, he failed to provide links to Yelp, Eater or Midtown Lunch.)

The announcement about the nation’s most powerful restaurant reviewer prompted some to ask if that title is still relevant, now that anyone can write a restaurant review online, whether a rabid  citizen reviewer or a well-known blogger.

I’m biased enough to think the answer is yes, with a background as a print journalist. I can’t think of a single online reviewer with his influence, when it comes to the fancy restaurants. Can you?

images-1Back in 2006, Gourmet Editor Ruth Reichl said that restaurant reviews in her magazine no longer make sense, because online reviews appear immediately. National magazines often work six months in advance, so scooping the net would be a “ridiculous” proposition. Now the magazine focuses on trend stories, adding depth and insights that online posts do not, and posts reviews only on its website.

She made these comments about print versus online food writing during a New York radio show about “Amateur Gastronomes,” otherwise known as food bloggers. Bloggers Josh Friedland of (who just did what used to be unforgivable: posted a mugshot of Sifton August 10), Jennifer Leuzzi of, and Regina Schrambling of were also on the show. It’s worth a listen.