A cookbook editor's take on the Food & Wine move

Food & Wine magazineIn June we learned that Food & Wine magazine was moving the bulk of its operation to Birmingham, Alabama. Even though it came as a bit of a surprise, most people like food writer Ruth Reichl understood the reasons for the relocation and viewed it in a positive light - at least the publication wasn't shuttering like many others. James Beard Award-winning cookbook editor Shaun Chavis doesn't share this optimism, however, She writes that the move is not good for America

Chavis' main argument is that the cultural attitudes in the magazine's new location do not reflect the growing diversity in the United States. She notes that while Food & Wine's sister publications have made small moves toward representing a broader range of people, magazines like Southern Living still don't feature many people of color in its pages. This is despite the fact the 55 percent of black Americans live in the South, and both Hispanic and Asian-American populations are growing rapidly there. 

The lack of diversity is reflected in Birmingham's food scene, which is not remotely comparable to cities like New York, the magazine's former home. Says Chavis, not only will Food & Wine be produced in an area where specialty ingredients are difficult to find - making it harder to do testing and development of recipes from a broad range of cultures - the region's attitudes will also stifle diverse voices. Says Chavis, "The restaurant concepts, flavors, and dishes found in a city of immigrants like New York aren't present in an environment that has produced one of the nation's most unfriendly environments toward people who aren't wealthy WASP men."

Although she does not view this move favorably, Chavis thinks that Time, Inc. (Food & Wine's parent company) can move the magazine in a positive direction. She implores the company to "Show America's diversity as its strength in more ways than one. Use food to help lead our culture to a better place."

4 Comments

  • adrienneyoung  on  11/23/2017 at 10:08 PM

    I’m with her.

  • IvyManning  on  11/24/2017 at 4:08 PM

    Perhaps Miss Chavis should look more closely at the masthead and content of Cooking Light, which is also owned by Time, Inc and is based in Birmingham. Over the years, I've noticed a sharp increase in the number of stories that included different cultures. For example, see food editor Ann Taylor Pittman's award winning story about going to Korea (her mother's birthplace) and connecting with her heritage or some of Cheryl Slocum's excellent writing for the magazine. I for one am interested in food, not chef idolatry, which is what F&W and BonAp have become. For most of America, what the hottest 20 year old chef in Brooklyn is doing is often irrelevant to what we actually cook at home. Just look at the demographics of the majority of who buys magazines. Hint: it's not 28 year old men who buy a lot of beard oil and eat out in Manhattan. It's women who can relate to Ree Drummond. Maybe that's sad, but publishing is a cut throat business and money talks. I'm keeping optimistic that the move is a steer in the right direction towards a F&W that is about good, usable, entertaining food writing instead of the insular "New York is THE city, everything else is just fly-over country" attitude it has taken on in recent years. Perhaps the answer to diversity is accepting that not everyone lives in NYC? We'll see what happens, but in the meantime, I buy indy food magazines like the Edible magazines when I want to hear a true, independent voices on food.

  • Rinshin  on  11/24/2017 at 6:59 PM

    I'm with IvyManning. Glad they moved away from NYC. Many people outside of NYC area cannot relate to these magazines anymore. It's all about NYC food culture and even for someone like me in the West Coast non-city area, I look at young 20-35 year old gathering scenes depicted in many photos and it's not who are cooking and using the magazines. They have gone done since the better days of B&A, Gourmet, F&W, and Saveure. At least, Saveure is still better than others.

  • Analyze  on  12/15/2017 at 11:17 AM

    Chavis makes a lot of negative assumptions about the culture of Birmingham, which I find appalling. I do see her point about having less ingredients available, though I don't know anything about the area.

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