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Ruth Reichl recently spoke to the International Association of Culinary Professionals about Gourmet’s demise, and whether the venerable magazine could have been saved. “I probably should have seen the end coming,” she acknowledged, “but I didn’t.”
High-end advertisers in the travel, financial services, automotive, jewelry and luxury appliance industries provided gas for the editorial engine, and when that gas ran dry on a national scale, it took Gourmet with it. But Reichl said it didn’t have to be that way. The magazine could have shifted models, relying for funds not on struggling advertisers, but on its vast pool of fiercely loyal subscribers, who may have ponied up higher subscription fees had they simply been asked. “My solution,” she said, “would have been to change not the magazine, but the model.”
Reichl also spoke out about the shifting food landscape, one dominated by a generation that cares less about caviar and champagne and more about how their food is produced. “Today’s young people,” she said, “have adventurous palates, and a taste for ethics.” Even today’s up and coming chefs define their audiences differently. “They want to serve their peers, not the wealthy,” she said.
And so the conversation moves forward, Reichl still at the helm. The fact that she’s no longer backed by a glossy magazine hasn’t diminished her influence. In some ways, she may be more influential now than ever before.