I hate to cook, but I would gladly have worked at Gourmet magazine under the editorial leadership of Ruth Reichl. It sounds like such fun—the exotic travel, the best restaurants, the top-notch writers, and of course, the test kitchen that was always turning out something yummy. Even the gossipy, hothouse world of Condé Nast sounds, if not fun, at least exhilarating.
Ms. Reichl is so closely associated with Gourmet that it comes as a shock to read that she did not possess any of the traditional qualifications for the position of Editor in chief. In 1998, Ms. Reichl was the restaurant critic for The New York Times, a powerful position in the foody world, but miles away from running a venerable magazine with a staff of sixty and a Condé Nast size budget. Surprising even herself, Reichl was a brilliant choice; she made Gourmet readable, relevant, and a bit revolutionary.
The real revolution, however, was lurking just around the corner as the Internet humbled even the mighty Condé Nast. In the Fall of 2009, Si Newhouse gave Gourmet’s staff one day’s notice that the magazine was closing. The company didn’t even bother to publish the December issue, which was already at the printer.
It was an ignominious end for the sixty-eight-year-old publication, but thanks to Reichl it went out with a bang.
Ruth Reichl is the author of several memoirs, including Tender at the Bone, Comfort Me with Apples, and Garlic and Sapphires.