When I learned that Gourmet magazine is closing its doors after the November 2009 issue, I was only slightly surprised. Yes, it’s a sign of the times, but not just on the economic front. In my 20 or so years as a subscriber, I’ve watched as the magazine went from being upscale to being academic and taking itself all too seriously. Somewhere along the line, Gourmet forgot how to ENJOY food and wine, and was designed into a corner.
I make this observation based on my knowledge of food and wine, as an avid reader of food and wine publications, and also as the owner of a design agency (www.spotteddoggraphics.com) that specializes in food and wine branding. We’ve branded many companies and help them achieve success in the highly competitive arena of food and wine. I understand the power of the brand, and all of its visual communication, and the dangers of diluting the message. Gourmet’s shift came in the late 90s as the food memoir genre exploded in the publishing world, and brainy books about the meaning of food and wine filled the shelves. People were talking about food like they would art or literature. So I can see why Gourmet wanted to shift to a more academic style and a “smart” ode to food. But this soon became tiresome, and everyone wants a little sizzle with their steaks every once in a while. The content, as well as the art direction, was dry, and the written word was king, at the expense of the ingredients, the chef, and the original inspiration, the food.
Not everything has to be “dumbed down” for the consumer, but a better balance of photography, content and layout could have enticed more readers. If you look at the lineup of food magazines, you have Bon Appetit and Cooking Light at the entry level, then Food and Wine for the foodie and the oenophile—a smart and slick magazine that doesn’t forget how to enjoy the food, or how to sell it. Then you have Saveur, which is more academic in its approach, but extremely authentic without being pedantic.
Yes, this does seem like a lot of Monday morning quarterbacking, and it does make me sad to see Gourmet magazine shut down after 68 years of publication. I just hope that all the other food magazines can learn a lesson from it. Balance is a must—and in this case, the balance sheet.
Angela Camacho, a certified sommelier and author of a best selling wine tool, The Wine Wheel®, shares her obsession with wine and food.