This post originally appeared on March 23, 2019, in Amanda Kludt’s newsletter “From the Editor,” a roundup of the most vital news and stories in the food world each week. Read the archives and subscribe now.
This week I got the chance to interview Ruth Reichl, along with my co-host Daniel Geneen, for our podcast, the Eater Upsell. I asked Ruth to come on the show because I completely devoured the preview copy of her new memoir, Save Me the Plums, which covers her decade at Gourmet magazine. Starting with her recruitment by James Truman and S.I. Newhouse back in 1999, when she was the restaurant critic at the New York Times, and ending with the magazine’s surprise closure in 2009 in the midst of the recession, the book covers her evolution as a boss and editor as well as the evolution of food media and the food world as a whole.
Like Tina Brown’s recent dishy doorstop The Vanity Fair Diaries, this takes place (at the beginning, at least) during the golden age of Condé Nast, with its high salaries, clothing allowances, black cars, and outlandish budgets. While Reichl doesn’t share Brown’s unbridled confidence — she seems to give credit to everyone but herself — or desire to share all the gossip from within 4 Times Square (you can tell she has more juicy stories), she does successfully portray the journey of turning an iconic yet fusty magazine into something relevant and impactful. (It’s also a third the length of Brown’s book and includes a pancake recipe.)
This book hit a little close to home for me as someone in a relatable role. I actually underlined so many revealing passages that I wouldn’t let a co-worker borrow my copy.
- She grapples with overseeing a large team of people and how to be a collaborative, non-hierarchical boss.
- She wants to push the boundaries of what a food publication can and is expected to be.
- She must balance the needs of the editorial and business sides, learning when to compromise and when to stand firm.
- She questions her inclination to follow the rules, to not be a squeaky wheel.
- She has to raise her profile enough to help the publication without sacrificing too much of herself.
She also makes ungodly amounts of money and has an office and a bathroom for the office, and a driver, and stays in the nicest hotels in Paris while on assignment, and hobnobs with David Remnick and S.I. Newhouse. So I can’t say it’s like looking in a mirror. But a good read for people in and outside of food and media.
- Intel: Gordon Ramsay caught flack in London for announcing his first restaurant there in five years would be an “authentic Asian eating house” called Lucky Cat, featuring a drink called Lucky Geisha; James Kent, formerly of EMP and the Nomad, has a new NYC restaurant called... Crown Shy; beloved LA food scribe Bill Esparza will launch a new taco fest in June; souffle pancakes have made their way to Atlanta; the latest season of Queer Eye sent droves of fans to buy barbecue sauce from Jones Bar-B-Q in Kansas City; pizza legend Chris Bianco opened his new (pizza-free) LA restaurant Alameda Supper Club; the chef from my favorite Mexico City restaurant (Nicos) is the “concept chef” (??) at a D.C. spot called Tacos, Tortas, and Tequila and Buena Vida; Chicago chef Stephanie Izard is getting close to opening her latest, Cabra; a Bourdain memorial book is in the works; fine dining chef Dave Beran will open a large a la carte restaurant called Pasjoli, recreating “the height of fun French dining” in Santa Monica; Beto O’Rourke loves standing on counters at restaurants; Massimo Bottura opened a restaurant in Dubai that celebrates 1960s Italy; the Chef’s Table creators are working on a new Netflix show about street food; New Jersey is joining the growing trend of banning cashless operations; Google’s Waze app can now suggest riders reroute to a McDonald’s after passing a billboard for the fast-food giant; Andrew Carmellini’s fried chicken stand and beer hall opened in Detroit, and it’s a lot; Pizzeria Beddia 2.0 is open in Philly; and Texas sushi chainlet Uchi will open in Miami.
- I think Rey Lopez should get an award for the food photography from Estuary and the Voltaggios should get one for the little crabby plantain chips (above).
- The best cookbook releases this spring.
- I love Hillary Dixler Canavan’s conversation with chef Kwame Onwuachi, whose memoir questions the idea of young chefs needing to “pay dues.”
- To buy: a tamagoyaki pan to make perfect rolled Japanese omelets.
- If you live in LA, please join Eater and Farley Elliott in a discussion of how older restaurants remain relevant.
- Giving up meat is futile. Please don’t radicalize burgers.
- Trend to watch: tinned seafood on restaurant menus.
- Billionaire Evan Williams tapped food writer Mark Bittman (and his... daughter) to run a new food publication at Medium. It was named Salty, until a small feminist magazine called out the two men for using their name and logo. Bittman apologized (in a Twitter reply, not on his main feed). In other news, Bittman said he liked partnering with Medium because “It’s like someone is awake there,” while Ev called Bittman “cutting edge in his category.”
- Why crisps are so perfect for solo diners or big groups. [Taste]
- The best food at Hudson Yards comes from a street cart. [NYP]
- Why you never saw Hillary eat the way Beto eats on the campaign trail. [@JohnBuysse]
- LOLOLOL to Facebook being worried about news deserts. [Facebook]
- Reminder that Chick-fil-A still donates to anti-LGBTQ groups. [Think Progress]
- The mock pork that could change the way China eats. [WaPo]
- A beautifully rendered piece of service journalism on dealing with lead in an old house. [Curbed]
- Just a ton of videos of behind-the-scenes restaurant spills. [@borboagrant]
- Recognizing segregation in restaurant dining rooms and what we can all do about it. [The site formerly known as Salty]