Over the weekend, the buzziest gossip in the food world was about the move of the magazine Food & Wine from its longtime offices in midtown Manhattan down to the new Time Inc. headquarters near Battery Park. Would the test kitchen be as splendid? Would the new open seating plan turn out to be pleasant? And more important — where would everyone go for lunch?
The happiest moment in the first hours in the new digs seemed to be when the staff discovered the new M&M machine. Because M&Ms.
But the move seemed almost secondary a few minutes later when Dana Cowin, for 21 years the editor in chief of Food & Wine, announced that she would be leaving the magazine to become an executive at Chefs Club International, a company with restaurants in Aspen, Colo., and New York, affiliated with but not owned by Food & Wine, that serve almost as recital halls for chefs visiting from around the world.
“Gabriele Bonci from [Rome’s] Pizzarium was at the New York Chefs Club Friday, cooking with Nick Anderer from Marta,” Cowin said from her new office this morning. “Gabriele’s pizza carbonara was good, but that whole pork shoulder baked inside pizza dough — oh my God!”
Cowin will stay at the magazine through March, and is expected to be part of the search process for her successor. Along with Christopher Kimball’s separation from `America’s Test Kitchen,’ Mark Bittman’s leaving the New York Times for the Purple Carrot and Russ Parson’s forthcoming departure from these pages, the moment is seen as something of a sea change in food journalism.
“Before I came to the magazine I had been at HG for four years and Mademoiselle for one,” Cowin said. “I thought Food & Wine would be a good place to land for a while, a good thing to have on my resume. I liked food but it wasn’t particularly my field of expertise.
“But once I got here and realized how deep and wonderful the food world was, I didn’t want to go anywhere. Food culture is so different from the way it was 20 years ago, so different from the old idea of fine dining, and people are so passionate about this beer or that vegetable farmer or this new coffee — it is always so inspiring.”
At Food & Wine, always the most chef-oriented of the major food magazines, Cowin was instrumental in changing the food culture. “When Dana got there, the magazine was all soft-focus pictures; things like chicken ‘round the world,’” said Kate Krader, Food & Wine’s longtime restaurant editor. “But when she got hold of a salmon story, there was a box on farmed versus wild salmon, cooking tips from fish mongers, and really sharp recipes. Lots of boxes and layers of information. Everyone has copied that, but it’s her.”
The magazine’s annual best new chefs awards have become perhaps the most definitive of their kind under her purview, sparking the reputations of young chefs at precisely the moment when it is most vital to their careers.
Recent winners from the Los Angeles area have included Carlos Salgados from Costa Mesa’s Taco Maria, Ori Menashe from Bestia, Ricardo Zarate, late of Mo-Chica, Kogi’s Roy Choi, and Bryant Ng, now at Cassia.
“We’ve identified a lot of compelling chefs over the years,” Cowin said. “At Food & Wine, we can expose and encourage them.
“At Chefs Club, which is set for significant expansion over the next several years, we can be more hands on — and for New Yorkers, it means that you may no longer necessarily have to go to Los Gatos to see what David Kinch is up to, or to Hong Kong to taste the cooking of Jowett Yu. It’s a way to put all this incredible creativity into context, and it seemed like a logical next step.”