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Adam Rapoport on Fashion v. Food, the New Bon Appétit, and a Clean Sweep

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Adam Rapoport at Keen's Chophouse with a nice jacket
Adam Rapoport at Keen's Chophouse with a nice jacket
Photo: Joshua David Stein / Eater.com

When Adam Rapoport, 41, was tapped to become the editor-in-chief of the newly New York-based Bon Appétit, eyebrows raised into their upright and locked positions. Was he not, some wondered, the Style editor at GQ? What right had he in the hallowed position held before him by eminence grise Barbara Fairchild? Mr. Rapoport was, indeed, the style and fashion editor at GQ, but before that he was the restaurant editor at Time Out and an editor and writer for the James Beard Foundation's publications office. But make no mistake, Mr. Rapoport is still a dude. I recently met him at Keen's Chophouse, literally an old boys' club, for steak hash and seltzer. Mr. Rapoport was very proud of his new jacket. "It's a Gloverall duffel coat. This is some sort of collaboration with Fred Perry. It's got a nice plaid hood!"

How is it going?
It's going well but my life is one long series of meetings and emails.

You would be in Milan now for the men's shows?
I would be in Milan yes and then I would have just gone to Paris.

Do you ever close your eyes and glimpse the life that once was?
There are a lot of elements about the fashion world that wear on you, like going to eight shows a day. And every time you walk in it is like walking into a high school cafeteria: who is wearing what and who is talking to whom and who is sitting where.

Has the food world, thus far, felt less Heathers?
The fashion world is a scene. After ten straight days on the road you're ready to come home, order Chinese food, and turn on ESPN. In general the food world is easier going. It depends. I still think of Bon App as magazine geared more toward the home cook and what to make for dinner tonight.

Is that how you distinguish Bon App from, for instance, Saveur and Food & Wine?
We'll see how it evolves when we relaunch in May. I do think the magazine can and should evolve and it should take on its own personality in the coming years. I want to make it a magazine that has some buzz and that is relevant but at the end of the day, it needs to be about recipes, cooking advice, and it needs to work.

What's some of the crossover from being a fashion editor to being a food editor?
Both fields are things that people are passionate about but they are also intimidating. I love fashion and I get stressed out about what to wear and I try on five ties and my wife tells me I look like an idiot. I'm supposed to look good and it stresses me out.

It's the same thing when friends come over for dinner. Having a dinner party can be an extremely taxing and stressful situation. The job of the editor is to strike a tone that says to the reader, "Listen, we're there with you. We get stressed out. We're never sure of ourselves but we've learned some things over the years and here are some tips that work well for us. Whether that means how to match the width of your tie to your lapels or that using rice wine vinegar is great for a vinaigrette.

But in fashion, you're not essentially sharing. The experience, however of cooking is that it is a communal activity.
There's something about cooking that is inherently generous. Fashion is all about yourself. That is one thing that I did tire of at the men's shows. Everyone over the years — after the Sartorialist took hold — worked so hard to put their look together for the day. It got embarrassing, with their hand-tooled boots, and bandana pocket square and turned up cuffs and your vintage Rolex and the trapper hat you're wearing. It's like, "Really, dude? You're doing all of that?"

What can we expect from the relaunch in May
I'll know more once my design director and photo editor starts. I say that half jokingly. But they have not started yet. Alex Grossman who is the design director from Cookie and WSJ Magazine and Alex Pollack who was the #2 at New York magazine. I'm a firm believer that if a page doesn't look great, people aren't going to stop to read it. It needs to be a very visually driven magazine.

How much of the original team remains?
Not a heck of a lot. It's essentially an entirely new staff.

Did you want a clean sweep?
A lot of people weren't interested in uprooting and moving across the country. And I thought, yes, if we're going to make a new magazine, I wanted to hire people with whom I had a working relationship. Christine Muhlke from the New York Times, T Magazine, who is now the deputy editor, for instance, gave me my first assignment to write about food years ago, reviewing restaurants for Paper. I've hired Meghan Sutherland who was the managing editor at Teen Vogue as my deputy editor. She's my getcha-done editor.

Tell me about the May issue. What kind of stories have you assigned??
[Laughter]
I'm hesitant to talk specifically about the issue because we're very early in the pregnancy stage. It is somewhat of a travel-based issue. There will be ingredients but we're going to do our own spin on it. I want there to be a lot more voice in the magazine on the part of the editors and the columnists.

Who are the columnists?
We're bringing on Christopher Hirsheimer and Melissa Hamilton, who run The Canal House They were two of the founding editors of Saveur magazine. They'll be doing a seasonal cooking column. Jenny Rosenstrach and her husband Andy Ward, who was the executive editor at GQ and who is now a big shot at Random House. They'll be doing a sort of parenting/couple/family column. Jenny has a website called Dinner a Love Story. She used to be an editor at Cookie magazine and now she has a big book deal.

Are you only featuring couples as columnists?
Well Chris and Melissa aren't a couple. They are professional partners. But yes, it is odd.

Is it indicative of a larger project of trying to appeal to both men and women?
Food is gender neutral. Men love food. Women love food.

Yes but perhaps they love it in a different way and certainly the approach to food is different.
Certainly there is less usage of the word bro in the magazine.

Are they all white for now, the staff?
Yes, they are for now. There's a great piece in the Village Voice called "The Unbearable Whiteness of Journalism" from years ago. It's definitely a thought and a concern. That's something always notice at Condé Nast in general but it is one thing to make note of it, and it's another to practice what you preach. That's something I should be questioned about. I think ultimately as a magazine staff you want to hire people like you but you end up with a homogeneous staff.

Is it always going to be food on the cover?
I'd like to think there are other sorts of ways to tackle the world of food other than putting a slice of pie or a roast chicken on the cover. But you know, if you don't put a turkey on the cover in November, you lose your job.

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