'Gourmet' Magazine: 1941–2009

"For me Gourmet has always been the gold standard for food magazines."


The editor's letter from the premiere issue (January 1941) of Gourmet magazine.

By now you've all read the shocking news this morning, courtesy of the New York Times, that Gourmet is going to cease publication with its upcoming November issue. The news hit anyone with a love for great writing and seriously delicious food hard. Really hard. For many of us Gourmet symbolized much of what we love about food journalism: terrific writing, careful editing, and beautiful photos. In recent years Gourmet editor-in-chief Ruth Reichl has also added food politics and harder food news reporting into the magazine's editorial mix, which was much appreciated by me, at least.

With the uber-consulting firm McKinsey snooping around Condé Nast headquarters for the last three months, rumors have been swirling about the future of Gourmet and its sister publication, Bon Appétit. Although some people have expressed surprise that the powers that be at Condé Nast (that would be the Newhouses) decided to axe Gourmet instead of Bon App, I had always heard that Bon Appétit was in fact the more profitable magazine. When the bean counters are counting beans at a company like Condé Nast, the magazine with the biggest pile of beans behind the masthead is generally the one left standing. Even Reichl's undeniable rock star food-writer status could not stand in the bean counters' way.

"I can't talk about it now, it's too raw. I've got to pack up my office." —Ruth Reichl, on L.A. Times' Daily Dish

Some will undoubtedly point the finger at the popularity of the web as the principal reason for Gourmet's demise. I am sure it did play a role, but, truth be told, Condé Nast owners the Newhouses have never exactly embraced the digital world, so any finger-pointing in this situation would have to start with them. The reality is that Gourmet was built in a different time (1941 to be exact) for a very different sort of media universe. (See our post where we look at the first issue of Gourmet.)

For me Gourmet has always been the gold standard for food magazines. I remember how insanely proud I was when my byline first appeared in Gourmet. I have gotten to know many of the editors and writers at Gourmet over the years, starting with Ruth Reichl predecessor Gail Zweigenthal, and I have found them to be an extraordinarily talented and savvy bunch, a group that was equally passionate in discussing pizza and hamburgers as foie gras and caviar.

RIP, Gourmet. Serious eaters everywhere lament your passing.