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Drinks with Barbara Fairchild of Bon Appetit

Posted by Sheryl Julian  May 21, 2010 11:10 AM

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BFairchild.jpgBarbara Fairchild (pictured here) is the editor-in-chief of Bon Appetit magazine, probably better known right now as the editor who survived when Conde Nast decided to close Gourmet and other magazines.

Fairchild was in town this week with Belvedere vodka (she threw a big dinner last night at L'Espalier, which some of Boston's top chefs attended).

We settle in on a rainy night in a little corner of what the restaurant calls its Salon. I ask Fairchild how she got the news about Conde Nast closing Gourmet. She was on vacation in Mexico, she said, and her boss called. It was after the fact. She was relieved that she had a couple of days to collect herself before returning to the office.

I don't know enough about the business of magazines to say what I would have done if I were at the helm of Conde Nast and knew I needed to cut something. Gourmet had wonderful, timely articles but seemed slightly out of touch with people cooking in regular kitchens. I appreciate Bon Appetit reaching out to harried cooks who like good food, want to know what's going on, and need to get dinner on the table.

To that end, the April issue introduced a Sunday Suppers column in which you make a dish for family and friends and use what's left to make another dish. The Globe launched this concept (identical!) in early December. OK, so I guess now everyone's cooking on Sunday night and eating well the rest of the week.

Back to Fairchild. She's thinking about how the magazine looks, what the photography is like, what goes into the online edition. BA's demographics are all over the place, she says, and she knows the number of younger readers is rising. So she hired one of her favorite bloggers, Molly Wizenberg of orangette to write a column.

In some ways, I wonder if Fairchild herself is a typical BA reader. She's very down-to-earth compared to Gourmet's Ruth Reichl. Fairchild goes on vacations with her two sisters and all their families, along with their mother. She can't concentrate when she works at home because of all the distractions ("Did anyone pick up the dry cleaning?" she says she wonders). Earlier in the day that we're talking, she got caught in the rain on the way from the train to the hotel and her hair looked like someone had thrown a bucket at it. But she came bouncing in, friendly, and happy to chat. I enjoyed her immensely and wish her and Bon Appetit well.

About Dishing

What's cooking in the world of food.


Sheryl Julian, the Globe's Food Editor, writes regularly for the Food section.

Devra First is the Globe's food reporter and restaurant critic. Her reviews appear weekly in the Food section.

Ellen Bhang reviews Cheap Eats restaurants for the Globe and writes about wine.

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