Gourmet est mort, vive Gourmet!

Like most people, we were bummed to hear that Gourmet magazine was no more.  And then, out of the ashes, it has risen again in a new form, Gourmet Live.  As with any new announcement, it was greeted with immediate skepticism. Yet another iPad app?  Using repackaged content?  While the general internet consensus seems to be that they're just trying to cash in, I spent the last few days thinking about the relaunch and what it might mean. Imagine that you're Conde Nast.  You have these two amazing plants growing side by side in large pots on your rooftop terrace at 4 Times Sq.  They're both very similar plants, of the same species, and they both produce a comparable amount of fruit.  They've been sitting up there for a long time, and have survived many winters even while other plants have withered.  But the forecast for this winter is grim.  Really grim.  The whole climate of publishing is changing.  What to do?  You take one of your plants inside - choosing the oldest one with the strongest brand - and you repot it.  Shake off the roots, trim the branches, add some new soil and then genetically re-engineer the plant to thrive off the nutrients of the internet.  Gourmet est mort, vive Gourmet! Gourmet Live isn't a redesign - it is a carte blanche.  That kind of thing never happens.  And yet, here we are.  The iPad strategy of most magazines these days is to cram everything into an app.  But then the designers and art directors are doing 3x the layouts - print, web, app - and its a ton of work, and I've heard a lot of complaints about the process, from photographers all the way up to EICs.  Carte blanche means that everything is turned upside down.  Design for the new media one time only, then let the content proliferate out through the web of followers. The team behind the new Gourmet is creating an architecture to support a new kind of magazine, possibly the first of its kind.  And the team members are like a who's who of new media design. Scott Dadich.  From a recent profile on him in the NY Observer:

"He's one of those clever people who can take history and the future and merge them into the present," said Platon, a New Yorker photographer who has won two consecutive National Magazine Awards for photo portfolios and credits Mr. Dadich for giving him his start in America. "People have done that before in other genres. Miles Davis did it, Frank Lloyd Wright did that. And I think Scott has the capacity to do that."

"With a talent like Scott, magazines will never die," said George Lois, the legendary former art director of Esquire.

"He just has it," said David Remnick, the editor of The New Yorker.

"He will be the spark that ignites a conflagration," said Tom Wallace, Condé Nast's editorial director.

Florian Bachleda. Elizabeth Spiers. Anil Dash. Michael Wolf. And these are just the people I found with a small bit of research.  They're going to make an amazing platform, plain and simple.  And the best part about it, they have 60+ years of the best food writing and photographs with which to populate their new creation.  And I'm sure that is just the beginning.  Soon we'll get new commissions for the best writing, the best photos. Already we got the call for new photos - Big Leo's own Mariana Velasquez and Pamela Duncan Silver styled the cover for the new Quick Kitchen: This is a larger issue, over 100 pages of old recipes from the archive.  It will be sold at select locations and not carry ads.  It is less like a magazine per se, and more like a Special Interest Publication.  Those are very profitable and not subject to things like advertisers and subscribers.  You don't have to print as many, they don't go to the newsstand - they have great margins.  But its a red herring.  People arguing about whether this particular issue is the 'return' of Gourmet are not aware of what is really going on.  It took well over a year for the successful Wired iPad app to finally come out, and even then it was neutered by the Apple/Abobe scuffle, since all the content was designed in Creative Suite but forced to use a clumsy workaround in order to function on the iPad.  Safe to say the new Gourmet app, when it finally is released, will not have the same problem. It is a lot to think about - but the main point is that we haven't really seen what is cooking in Conde's test kitchen.  But judging by the new media chefs, by the pedigree of the the Gourmet brand, and by the collective vision of what a magazine will be 10 years from now, it smells really damn good.  My mouth is already watering.