New Bon Appétit EIC Adam Rapoport: ‘There Are Things I’m Having to Dive Headfirst Into’
Well, it's official: Adam Rapoport will be the next editor-in-chief of Bon Appétit, a mag that's had sort of a rocky go of it lately. So what's the editorial plan? Today Rapoport told Diner's Journal that he'd make "some tweaks," as opposed to a "major overhaul wipe-the-slate-clean thing." But when he takes over later this month, the magazine will have new offices and basically an entirely new staff: Our hunch is that his Bon App won't look or feel anything like the current edition. But who knows?! We figured he would, so we called him up.
Thanks for taking the time to talk. Kind of a busy day today, right?
I'm a little bit busy, yes. But I'm a big fan of your blog. Do we call them blogs? I'm a big fan of Grub Street, whatever you want to call it.
Thanks, and congratulations. Can you talk about your plans for the magazine? It's not exactly a relaunch, but there's a lot that will be new: new offices, new staff.
To be honest, it's a little bit hard right now. I'm obviously very excited about the job and it's something I'm confident and comfortable taking on, but I've had the job for literally two hours now. So it's hard to get into specifics about the look of the magazine or the direction of the staff just because honestly I don't know. I haven't talked to anyone yet. I haven't interviewed anyone yet. The interview process for me was an ongoing thing, and obviously there were other candidates involved, so I just found out. I know what I like in terms of food and magazines. That's how I got started in this business, as a food writer and editor. So I definitely have some firm ideas and opinions on how food should be written about, how it should be photographed. I spent a long time as an editor on all sorts of topics beyond that, and I've learned a hell of a lot in my ten years at GQ. So to be able to take something like a magazine — and I'm in the digital arm of magazines now as well — that I'm passionate and knowledgeable about, and infuse that with food coverage is exciting.
Can you talk about the timing of the transition from Barbara Fairchild to you? When will you be taking over the whole thing?
Honestly that's something that's a little unclear. I'm in my GQ office right now, and I'll probably be here for the next few weeks at least, to phase out of here and phase into Bon App. In terms of when I might have an actual issue with my name on it, probably looking for late spring. Condé Nast magazines are in their January issues right now.
Have you talked to Barbara [Fairchild] at all?
I haven't talked to Barbara yet, no. On that whole front it's still ... yeah. I wish I had more answers. I wish I had more answers for myself. But in terms of the whole issue of staffing and interviews, I know what I like when it comes to magazines and food. So I definitely have ideas. But in terms of actually realizing them and creating a magazine, that's something that will come into focus a lot more over the next several months. And this is a big company. There are a lot of different people to meet with. Being a magazine editor is no longer just putting out a magazine. From the apps, the websites, the consumer marketing, the promotions — there's a lot to learn. I can handle the edit stuff, but there are other things that I'm having to dive headfirst into.
You're moving into Gourmet's old offices on the fifth floor, right?
Technically it is on the fifth floor. We were just walking through there. There's so much reconfiguring of office spaces and who's where, though. It's on the same floor, but I don't think it's the same blueprint.
So you're not in Ruth Reichl's old office?
[Laughs.] As far as I know, no. The decorations aren't up anymore. But the test kitchens are still on the fourth floor. We'll be using those test kitchens and the digital photo studio there, which is nice. [Editors' note: The studio is basically a part of the kitchens, or at least it was when Gourmet was there.] We use it here at GQ, and it's nice when there's a shoot going on that you can just go down, see it, give the yay or nay and go back to your office, instead of having to get in a cab and go to an outside studio or something and it takes an hour just to look at something. On that front, it's exciting. But maybe the catering isn't as fancy as we get at the studios during fashion shoots. But hopefully we'll be making good food.
Well, the kitchen's right there.
Exactly. I guess first and foremost is that it's exciting. It's something, given my background and given my passions, that I'm confident about and excited about. Over the next several months we'll have a better idea.
So where did you go out to dinner this weekend?
That's a good question. I didn't go out. Friday was that kind of whirlwind day about the announcement, and I have a 3-year-old son, so there's the whole issue of babysitting and that nonsense. If you don't make plans three weeks in advance, it's tough. My very first boss in New York, Mitchell Davis, and his boyfriend Nate came over to celebrate. We opened up some Champagne and my wife made a delicious roasted-cauliflower pasta. We had a beet salad, too. It was a lot of fun. Hopefully I'll go out and do a more restaurant-proper celebration with some of my friends.
Are you anticipating being recognized in every restaurant? Your face on kitchen walls, that sort of thing?
Maybe. It's funny, my wife was talking about that. I'm not a critic, though, so I don't have to feign this anonymity, which is obviously now impossible anyway. I've done enough TV and a lot of GQ style videos. From being at the Beard Foundation and Time Out, I know most of the chefs around town just from having written about them in a non-restaurant-critic way, just doing feature pieces on them.
But now it's not just in the city, right? Now it's on a national level.
Well, yeah. That's going to be something different. But I was at the Beard Foundation from, I think, '94 to '97, and what was great about that job was that I'd just moved to New York and I basically got to meet every chef in the country, every real cookbook writer, every real food writer. And I just had a total immersion into the world on a national scale. From Santa Fe to Los Angeles, Chicago to Boston to New York: I knew all those guys and would help them cook when they came to the Beard House, and would write about them and interview them. That was a great experience. And while it was a job for three years, I felt like I should've been paying them. Just the amount that I learned and exposure I had to that world. So that's what qualified me to get the job at Time Out. And there I was able to be more of a voice on the New York City level and write about restaurants and document the dining scene here. So that enabled me to learn more as a magazine editor: how to structure a section, how to keep up on things. And that's what got me to GQ, where I continued to do food and all sorts of other things as a style editor.
Do you have any thoughts on the competitive set? Food & Wine, Food Network Magazine, Saveur, etc.
To be honest with you, not a lot. I know people at those magazines, I respect them, I like them. I think there's room out there for more than one food magazine, certainly. And I think that a lot of people that do read food magazines do read more than one. Like, at GQ I don't get caught up with what Esquire and Details are doing. I try to do the best job that I can do here. I try to do what's interesting to me and interesting to the readers. That's what matters and what's important. You can't let another magazine dictate what your content's going to be.