Amanda Hesser Sets Us Straight About Her Plans for the Future

Amanda Hesser left the Times on her own terms.
Amanda Hesser left the Times on her own terms. Photo: Robert Maxwell/Courtesy of Amanda Hesser

Last week we expressed some skepticism about New York Times food editor Amanda Hesser’s career change. In retrospect, we overstepped the mark in insinuating that Hesser had somehow been forced to take a buyout, and we should have called to get her side of the story. We acknowledge the error and turn the floor over to Hesser, who wrote in to let us know how her new digital company is connected to her career as a food writer and editor:

For the record, I was neither fired nor quietly shown the door. I applied for the buyout — which was offered to every Times employee in the newsroom — after deciding that I wanted to do something different from editing the food section of the magazine. However, I’m going to continue writing my column Recipe Redux for the Times Magazine, I have a book (“Eat, Memory”) that I edited for the Times coming out this fall, and I’ll be completing a cookbook (4 years in the works) for the company.

In the 11 years that I’ve been at the Times, the company has been incredibly supportive of my work, and I have really loved working there. As food editor of the Times Magazine, I get to guide the coverage, work with great writers, photographers and designers, and occasionally write myself. So does that mean that I should stay there until I’m 70? Does that mean that I should have no other interests or skills?

I wanted to take a risk, and I believe that I have a very good idea. You expressed skepticism about the digital life business that I’m starting, saying it’s unrelated to any of my skills or interests. Since you didn’t connect the dots, let me do it for you. This may come as a surprise to you but I studied economics and finance before I began my studies of cooking. That’s the business part.

I have written and edited four (the 3rd will be out this fall, the 4th is in process) books that, while focused on food, are also about history and memory. That’s the life part.

I, like you, use a computer every day. That’s the digital part.

As you can see, a business involving people’s digital lives isn’t much of a stretch. This company, which I’m starting with two partners, is called Seawinkle. We’re going to help people deal with the overwhelming amount of digital information they create. (If you want to be reassured that it’s not a sudden shift in professional strategy, and that I have done my homework on the industry, here’s how long I’ve owned the domain name Seawinkle: since 2004.)

We stand corrected.

Earlier: Amanda Hesser Blows Her Own Internet Bubble

Amanda Hesser Sets Us Straight About Her Plans for the Future