Food & Wine's surprising benefactor

Food & Wine magazine 

You may have seen the news that Hugh Hefner, the founder of Playboy magazine, died yesterday at the age of 91. "What's that got to do with food?" you may wonder. As it turns out, a great deal: Hefner was instrumental in launching Food & Wine Magazine

Food & Wine was first published as a "preview issue" tucked inside the March 1978 issue of Playboy. Two months later, the first stand-alone edition hit newsstands. The founders of Food & Wine, Robert and Lindy Kenyon, Michael and Ariane Batterberry (who would later go on to run the much beloved Food Arts), and Peter Jones convinced Hefner that "there was an opportunity to create a magazine for an emerging passion group: Epicureans."

The magazine's founders had found it difficult to raise funds to launch their new publication. Investors were not convinced that Americans would care enough about food to support such a venture, and it took the group seven years to pull together enough money to begin operations. One of the entities the founders approached to back their idea was Playboy. Ariane Batterberry recalls working with Hefner, whom she says "was wonderful to work with. He was really an editor, he really loved the editorial. And he respected that it was our magazine and left us alone-he really liked Food & Wine." 

That preview issue included a quote from James Beard on the cover: "At last, a magazine about food in all its aspects." The inside was no less impressive, featuring writing by top food writers and journalists. Articles included essays by George Plimpton and others, tips on souffles from Jacques Pépin (who at the time was a personal chef), and a rating of canned tuna. 

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