Well, Bon Appétit magazine‘s second issue under its new leadership is out, and you can add another to that long list of things you just don’t do. Don’t mess with Texas. Don’t tug on Superman’s cape. Don’t spit into the wind. And, whatever you do, don’t put anything but food on a food magazine cover–that courtesy of an overwhelming majority of Bon Appétit readers.
When the once revered cooking magazine posted on its Facebook fan page this week that actress/rock star wife/singer/cook Gwyneth Paltrow was its June 2011 cover girl, let’s just say that fans–and those teetering on the fence as a result–didn’t hold back.
Among the proclamations of disappointment and the threats of canceling subscriptions, there were a handful (maybe even less) of readers who said they liked Bon Appetit’s new look or praised Paltrow’s cookbook, “My Father’s Daughter” ($30, Grand Central Life and Style). But the risky move of putting a celebrity on its cover for the first time was met with criticism, lots and lots of criticism.
Why not a “real” foodie instead of a celebrity, they asked. We can see stars everywhere, but cooking magazine covers are nearly the last sacred ground that spare us from them, they countered. Don’t trust someone who doesn’t look like she eats, they warned. “Spaghetti again? How original,” reminded one fan of the similarities between May’s Pasta al Pomodoro cover dish followed by June’s Roasted Tomato and Anchovy Oreganata Pasta.
Perhaps anticipating some backlash, new editor-in-chief Adam Rapoport used his letter in the latest issue to justify this unorthodox decision. “Food is never just about food,” he writes. “It’s about the people in your life. So putting people on our covers is something we feel good about. It’s something we’ll do a few times a year.”
Of course, that intention was announced well before readers weighed in, so it’s too soon to tell how (or if) those comments will factor into Bon Appétit’s future cover plans. But, based on this experiment, it’s pretty clear readers are willing to take cover–quite passionately–from too much change.