Former Gourmet Editor-in-Chief, Author Ruth Reichl Dishes on the Art of Recipe Testing at Miami Book Fair

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Jackie Sayet
Judge this book by its cover.
Last night was one of many funerals for a fallen hero taken before its time, Gourmet magazine. Ruth Reichl, its jilted guardian, gave a remarkably candid and emotional eulogy for her final book tour appearance.

The remarkably (yet not surprisingly) composed former editor-in-chief addressed what she later tweeted as a "smart crowd" at the free Miami Book Fair event in downtown Miami. The profound sense of loss was palpable in the packed ballroom, as was the disbelief still lingering in her delivery. 

This was expected. Fully digesting that something so respected and loved is gone forever takes time, and the news is still so fresh, with the last vestige of the epicurean media icon -- its final issue -- still on stands.

But like most funerals this one was like semisweet chocolate, bitter at times but mostly sweet.  Reichl recalled "insane" recipe testing practices, where even a three ingredient recipe for Roman Pasta with Pecorino and Pepper was repeated 11 times.

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Jackie Sayet
A grateful and empathetic crowd salutes Reichl.
To keep the magazine's recipe development on the top of its game, she made a deal with her staff: They were allowed to cook any recipes they wanted from the books they received for its Cookbook Club, and she would cover the cost of the ingredients.  The resulting rush conjured 40 to 50 recipes per book, as well as shock when the recipes never worked.

"There was nothing like Gourmet's process," she divulged.  "You won't have [recipes that don't work] with this book."

The book is Gourmet TODAY, a contemporary bible of 1,000 recipes and what Reichl referred to as the magazine's "legacy."  Her staff spent five years and countless testing hours to compile the tome, now available for purchase at your neighborhood bookseller like Fair-spearheading Books & Books or discount e-seller, Amazon.

Reichl marked 10 years at the magazine this year.  She and her staff were informed of the magazine's shuttering in early October.  More Reichl Book Fair revelations on her son Nick, her popular new PBS Show Gourmet Travels with Ruth, and publisher Conde Nast's take on selling the magazine in posts to come, but listen here for a great interview with Reichl on NPR shortly after receiving the bad news.

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Jackie Sayet
Who's got that empty feeling?


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