Bon Appétit Presents Cooking, Dining as Enjoyable Work of Art

bon-appetit.jpgPull up a chair, settle in and prepare for a palatable experience. That’s the message from Bon Appétit magazine, highly regarded for its artistic photography and accessible gourmet recipes that are typically recommended by readers as the go-to resource for cooking everyday meals.

While some recipes can be a little more time-consuming, the appeal to the more experienced chef or gourmet foodie is unmistakable.

That’s not to say the magazine should intimidate the novice cook. Quick, healthy meals are included, but there is definitely an epicurean feel and focus on the cooking and dining experience as a whole.

But Bon Appétit nearly served its final course. At least that’s what industry observers and readers thought, betting the younger magazine would be the odds-on favorite to get the ax when publisher Condé Nast announced it was making cuts last year.

Instead, Gourmet magazine, an icon for 68 years, was cleared from the table. It at once drew praise from readers for offering content beyond its recipes in literature and politics, and blame for being out of touch by using hard-to-find ingredients and its lack of step-by-step instructions.

In its final days, Gourmet struggled to reach the 1 million circulation mark, while at the same time, Bon Appétit had eclipsed 1.3 million.

In terms of numbers alone, Condé Nast chief executive Charles Townsend lauded Bon Appétit as “one of the most successful” magazines for the company.

Already, some online reviewers feel Bon Appétit magazine is reaching out to a younger, jet-setting audience, in effect uninviting readers with “unfabulous” lifestyles.

Faced with absorbing Gourmet’s subscribers and readers, Bon Appétit will have a generous gap to bridge. It’s safe to say that some changes are ahead, as Condé Nast’s new VP and publishing director, Carol Smith, is charged with developing the two brands.

Change was part of the April 2010 issue with the premiere of a new column inspired by the editor’s childhood recollection of Sunday suppers that were reinvented into different meals to spice up the leftovers.

Though Bon Appétit magazine’s non-recipe content has drawn mixed reviews, the most common complaint is the growing number of lifestyle articles. These articles, however, address the entire experience (preparation, consumption, etiquette, ambiance and dining trends), a take that few other food magazines speak to so thoroughly.

For example, many April issues covered Easter and Passover recipes, but most provided recipes only. Bon Appétit magazine differed by giving readers a glimpse inside the Easter meal with one Virginia family, recipes and stunning food photography included.

Photography is what solidly sets Bon Appétit magazine apart from its contemporaries. Full-page artistic photos with angles not seen in other cooking magazines add an artistic flair. Several photos in April’s breakfast spread require a double-take, but the same can be said of much of its graphics–even its ads.

There is no doubt that, as one online reviewer stated, “Food is the star” in Bon Appétit magazine. Turn the pages, and enjoy the show.

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Michelle Ryan

About Michelle Ryan

Michelle Ryan is obsessed with good food, great shoes and Alabama football way down South in Savannah, Georgia. She hasn’t met a kitchen gadget she hasn’t at least thought about buying (trying them is another story) and devotes her time to Bikram Yoga, baking and trying to overcome long-held finicky eating habits.