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What's Going On At Bon Appetit? When Will Changes Come?

Is it just me or is Bon Appetit going downhill with every issue?

I mourned the loss of Gourmet and had hopes Bon Appetit would improve. I know there were changes in editor(s) and lots of other staff. I'd heard new things were coming soon. But, when is soon? I did some quick searches and all I could come up with was the hiring of the new editor, but no timeline.

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  1. you know, i got "transferred" to bon appetit after gourmet's demise, and apparently my subscription has run out. i didn't even notice the loss until you mentioned this topic. ;-).

    hey, by the way, gourmet's website is still up...and they're offering a super "italian gourmet kitchen" publication, $12.98. http://www.gourmet.com/food/2011/gour...

    1. They recently moved to Manhattan from Southern California. Too bad, we have more than enough food magazines with a New York state of mind.

      1. Wintersummer, They seemed to have jumped the shark. It's not that just the content is bad, but page design is terrible with weak photography. (If they submitted the current issue for a design class they would get an "F.") As you observe the demise of certain businesses you can see it coming; with Bon Appetit the handwriting is on the wall. Will they listen, will they change? Nope, it's a fate they have stubbornly chosen.

        12 Replies
        1. re: Leper

          I think it's part of the general malaise over the magazine industry as a whole. It's been in dire straights lately, with most brands likely to perish, at least in their current forms.

          1. re: Cherveny

            i still like southern living, garden & gun magazine and real simple. i'm hooked into traditional homes, and actually, better homes & gardens or woman's day are't bad at all. i also get wine spectator, but that is a bit too much overalll for my budget-sense.

            1. re: alkapal

              Woman's Day is now edited by Elizabeth Mayhew, who came over from Real Simple. I think you'll start to see a more sophisticated flavor there. Bon Appetit continues to get thinner and weaker, and its making Food & Wine look like a much more robust publication. I still maintain that given a choice between the two, publishers should have laid Bon Appetit to rest, and put their best efforts back into Gourmet. In terms of taking me to places I still want to go, Saveur now fills that gap completely. The photography alone is worth the cover price (Penny De Los Santos rules!)

              1. re: Cheflambo

                Seems like the May issue (The Italian issue) did bring some changes, but in a very derivative direction. They are clearly cribbing from Saveur---note photo of "authentic" (i.e. overweight) Italian woman holding tray of home-made tagliatelle--as well as *blatantly* ripping off Chowhound content in the pasta-sauce how -to piece. They say "Sorry, but you've been getting it all wrong," which is pretty much verbatim (not including the "sorry" part) from a regular online Chowhound feature, which included very similar pasta tips. Then they add annoying "in-the-know" features such as a text-messaging couple with kids improvising a 'baked-potato bar" dinner. Yikes! Desperate much?

                1. re: bella_sarda

                  "They say "Sorry, but you've been getting it all wrong,""

                  I found that article to be particularly offensive, even though the pure content was pretty good in parts. The snarky college-dude-speak style was a stupid touch. Then they outdid themselves the next month with Gwyneth Paltrow (The Other White Meat?) on the cover.

              2. re: alkapal

                garden & gun, huh? that's a new one to me!

                1. re: goodhealthgourmet

                  quality publication. making sense is the person who turned me on to it.

                  1. re: alkapal

                    well, anything with "gun" in the title definitely isn't for me...but i'm surprised i never encountered it when i was living in Georgia.

                    1. re: goodhealthgourmet

                      it is relatively new.
                      the most dangerous place for a law-abiding citizen is in a "gun-free zone." ;-).

                      1. re: alkapal

                        it's dangerous no matter what! i've been mugged at gunpoint in NYC, and narrowly escaped a carjacking in LA, and i'm still here to talk about it...and in neither case would it have helped for me to be packing. in fact, had i pulled a weapon, it might have gotten me killed. just sayin...

                        but back OT...i looked at the G&G website out of curiosity, and the other (non-gun related) content does look good.

                    2. re: goodhealthgourmet

                      A friend of mine brought me a couple of issues of Garden & Gun a few months back. It seems to be well-produced, but I have less and less time for magazines these days.

              3. I also sort of replaced Gourmet with Saveur. I kind of thought Bon Appetit is slipping--but thought that was just my opinion until I saw this. I just got a renewal notice, I may not go for it.

                1. the most recent issue of BA is the worst yet...the design changes are awful. that pointless icon in the upper left corner of each page in the "starters" section is distracting and clunky, and the photography has definitely gone downhill.

                  i usually sit down and read my food mags from cover to cover when they arrive...this one has been on the table for over a week and i'm still only about 2/3 of the way through it.

                  7 Replies
                    1. re: goodhealthgourmet

                      Agreed, so glad to come on here and find out I'm not the only one that felt so let down by this latest issue. I found some pages almost impossible to read, they were so busy with bad photos and too many fonts. Magazines will do better if they show off the ways they can be better than the internet, rather than trying to be a paper version of the internet.

                      1. re: centralpadiner

                        I found some pages almost impossible to read, they were so busy with bad photos and too many fonts.
                        yes! at first i thought they gave Andrew Knowlton the boot because i didn't see his "BA Foodist" column anywhere...turns out it was buried among product review pages - all with the same hideous faux-vintage/old-style font.

                        1. re: goodhealthgourmet

                          Actually, wasn't sure it was still him, since that feature was so minimized in the latest issue, it also took me a second read through to find it. Frustrating, to say the least. I know that times are hard, but I feel like quality is diminishing in so many things, some days I just wonder where it will stop.

                          1. re: centralpadiner

                            Maybe it's a result of being too old and having bought and read too many annual "Italy" issues of food magazines, but this BA issue is notable for its clumsy look, simplistic and tired tone and content, and desperate attempt to catchup to a sensibility they think the rest of the media world wants.

                            1. re: bob96

                              You said it better than me. I refuse to believe the "too old" part ;) but have definitely read too many Italy issues. Either way, our description of the issue is spot on.

                      2. I felt like it was going downhill over the past year. I've always been partial to Gourmet though. I just got a $12 annual subscription to Food & Wine because a friend is always sending me recipes from it so I'll give it a try but I don't have high hopes.

                        3 Replies
                        1. re: lynnlato

                          F&W has also gone a bit downhill over the past few years, but it's definitely better than BA.

                          1. re: goodhealthgourmet

                            Hey You!

                            Yea, I had a subscription to it a looong time ago and lost interest. For $12 bucks it can definitely get me through a few soccer practices. ;-)

                            1. re: lynnlato

                              hey yourself! i was going to e-mail you last week to make sure you got through the storms & tornadoes okay...then i saw you reply to thread so i figured if you were chatting on CH everything was fine :)

                              you'll notice that F&W contains more overall content than BA...and they usually have reliable recommendations for solid, affordable wines. enjoy!

                        2. I'm just getting to the Italy issue and I have to say I really don't mind it - Gourmet and Saveur it ain't but it's a hell of a lot better than the past year's BA rags in my opinion.

                          18 Replies
                          1. re: buttertart

                            I agree. First issue that I spent more than 10 minutes on in a long time.

                            1. re: buttertart

                              The Italy issue wasn't too bad, but our dreams of the old Gourmet are just smoke...like the old New Yorker: literature! Maybe magazines are just on the way out. We do have infinite resources on the 'net. What will we read in the doctor's office?

                              1. re: mnosyne

                                I commute by train and have noticed recently it's quite unusual to see someone with an actual BOOK or MAGAZINE as opposed to an e-reader or phone...everyone used to carry books. I'm as guilty as the others on the commute, but the house is stuffed with books and magazines - I hope they will always be around. (Ah, le Gourmet d'antan...say about 25 years ago or before.)

                                1. re: buttertart

                                  I never thought I'd jettison my old Gourmet mags, but after two coast to coast and three house moves, I gave in. Makes me sad. Unfortunately I have a bit of a hoarding tendency so I have to keep a tight rein. Glad to know I'm not alone in 'nostalgie'.

                                  1. re: mnosyne

                                    Nope, you're not, I bought 2 years' worth on eBay because they were significant years in my life and I wanted to revisit them - and Gourmet was a constant throughout my life until its demise from the time I was 16 or so.

                                    1. re: buttertart

                                      I'm hanging on to about 3 years of Gourmet. I just can't give them up! I miss that magazine so much.

                              2. re: buttertart

                                I surprised myself and even enjoyed the Gabrielle Hamilton article.

                                1. re: buttertart

                                  Having said that - and quite enjoyed the mag (the egg poaching method sneaked in at the back is especially useful) - reading the Mexico issue of Saveur immediately afterwards points up how BA is still not truly hitting the nerve. The main article in Saveur about going home to one's mother's home town in Mexico and finding community and home through food is much more engaging and real than the travelling to Italy with the kids blather in BA.

                                  1. re: buttertart

                                    I, too, have been poaching eggs like crazy! What a great method.

                                      1. re: buttertart

                                        Even more amazing: husband poached his own egg!

                                        1. re: mnosyne

                                          That's one for the record books! I love things like this, that seem so obvious but only once someone thinks them up.

                                      2. re: mnosyne

                                        Are you talking about the microwave method? That's what I was able to google up.

                                        1. re: mnosyne

                                          I was excited by that, but I wound up w/ a hard boiled egg. I guess my microwave is too powerful. I'll have to try it for a shorter time.

                                          And I'll just toss in here a note to say how much I despise the "Foodist".

                                        2. re: buttertart

                                          i confess, despite my "issues" with BA, this egg poaching trick was a terrific find...for me it ranks up there with thew's oven-baked polenta.

                                            1. re: goodhealthgourmet

                                              Had to look this up, to share: Microwave poached egg method (I must try once I have a working MW): http://www.bonappetit.com/blogsandfor...

                                          1. re: Mother of four

                                            Yes, lots of ads, but without them there would be very few magazines at all.

                                            1. re: roxlet

                                              It isn't just the fact that there are ads, but the products they are selling, mostly prepared foods, are the antithesis of the home cooking line of thinking (IMO). Gourmet, Saveur, BA, and the like wanted us to learn to prepare from scratch; now they are pandering things like Philly cream sauce. I'd say the line has been crossed.

                                              1. re: mnosyne

                                                i guess the processed food manufacturers are the ones who need to advertise the most -- and have the budgets. i'd bet winning the "cruciferous vegetables producers association" advertising account isn't going to get one a big promotion. LOL.

                                                1. re: mnosyne

                                                  Again, advertising revenue pays for the magazine. Unless an ad is obscene, most magazines will accept all comers.

                                                  1. re: roxlet

                                                    January 1981 Gourmet at hand, advertisers: Waterford (inside front cover), Maupintours India sidebar b&w, Godiva full-page color, Hennessy full-page color, Cunard full-page b&w (QE2), Cuisinart DLC-7E full-page color, San Juan Hilton half-page color, 23 pages without advertisements (including an article on doughnuts I made the glazed ones from for M when we were in Taipei, articles on skiiing in the Basque Pyrenees, Quito, saffron, Baden-Baden, "Cuisine Courante" NYE dinner...), Panasonic micro/convection/conventional oven full-page b&w, Parliaments full-page color, Stouffer's crepes (!) - one stuffed with "beef burgundy" - full-page color, Christian Bros cream sherry half-page color, b&w sidebar split between Little Switzerland St Thomas - St Croix - St Martin advertising Waterford and "Floating Through Europe" barge tours, White Flower farms half-page b&w, Martini & Rossi "The Italian you won't forget" featuring a handsome putatively Italian model full-page color, Gourmet's Menus (NY Day buffet), Hemphill Harris "Journeys to the Far East" b&w sidebar, Beverly Wilshire and !!! Debrett Ancestry Research sharing a b&w sidebar, 3M silver protector strips half-page b&w, Etoile de Champagne barge tours and Calphalon pots sharing half-page b&w, Wente Bros and Delta Line Cruises to South America ditto (the Delta Line hits me where I live, a friend was working for them when they went belly-up), Gourmet cookbooks full-page color, Omaha Steaks and Epirotiki Lines sharing half-page b&w (hereafter sh hp b&w), Elbow Beach Hotel in Bermuda and Talbot's clothes (sh hp b&w), Hawaii condominiums and archeological expeditions to China (sh sidebar b&w), article continuation, then small ads for hotels, publish your own cookbooks, a French cooking school, Horchow, etc etc etc. Most of the businesses are still in operation. The only "cooking creme" type of thing is the Stouffer's ad. Quite a different world in 1981...

                                                    1. re: buttertart

                                                      i know...the luxury ads were so prominent. sort of like town & country these days, but with more hennessy, less jewelry, more bernadaud & spode, less "sondra and james'" nuptials.

                                                      1. re: alkapal

                                                        The blocks of text w/o ads were nice too. I remember thinking uh oh, I'm almost finished reading the magazine when I got past them (because there wouldn't be anything of the sort available until the next month).
                                                        Nice fairly adventuresome travel articles too - how long has it been since you've seen one on Quito for example?

                                                        It was just an all-round classier rag then. Aspirational reading never hurt anybody.

                                            2. Just wondering, what do you feel has gone downhill at BA, or, what do you feel Gourmet did better than BA? I'm really curious, and would love to hear some opinions!

                                              1. Gwyneth Paltrow is on the cover of the June issue. The new editor certainly didn't waste anytime revamping the cover, at least.

                                                One thing I find irritating: why is every other piece filled with numbered paragraphs? 20 reasons for this, a 10 point primer on that. Is that the latest trend? People can't read articles anymore?

                                                3 Replies
                                                1. re: emily

                                                  That, I really truly hate. Blame Mark Bittman with his useless 100 appetizer-type waste of time articles in the NYT food section. "No. 48: Put cheese (any kind, your choice) on cracker (ditto)" division.

                                                  1. re: emily

                                                    Welcome to the wonderful world of "listicles"!

                                                    1. re: emily

                                                      My issue came yesterday, and I paged through it. This morning I saw it on the counter, and I had to stop for a second to remember if I had read it. I didn't remember a single thing in it. I agree with you bt on the Mark Bittman thing. Maybe his style does encourage some people to cook, but it has taken over the food journalism world, a bad thing for those of us who like to peruse and think about a good recipe.

                                                    2. I was going to reserve judgment until I just saw on twitter that they linked to a story about Arby's vs. Subway's chicken salad. REALLY? COME ON.

                                                      1 Reply
                                                      1. I am so glad that I stumbled upon this thread, because I was wondering if I was the only one that has become bored with BA. When I saw Gwyneth Paltrow on the cover, I did a double take!! I enjoy reading the celeb q&a on the last page, but I don't want them on the cover! This is a FOOD magazine, I want gorgeous, mouth watering, inspiring food pics on the cover!

                                                        1. *Phew*
                                                          I thought I was going crazy. I was really liking BA for a while (I get it as a Christmas present each year from my spare grandma - I send her Saveur). Loved Molly Wizenberg's column - which is now GONE.

                                                          It's near impossible to tell the difference between the copy and the ads and when I read the 'article' about cooking pasta and sauce, I was saying to myself "I do all that already!"

                                                          And if I subscribe to a food mag, it's because I want to read about food. I really really don't care what Gwyneth is cooking. I was horrified to see her on the cover - I've had my fill of her lately. I'd much rather read about a working mom who manages to get a healthy, tasty meal on the table with her limited time, budget and lack of nanny.

                                                          1 Reply
                                                          1. re: CurlieGlamourGirlie

                                                            The past year has not improved matters. In the May 2012 issue there is an article on $600 sandals. Not sure how you cook those, perhaps Charlie Chaplin's rustic preparation for boiled boot would work?