Bon Appétit Magazine: You've Changed

Categories: The Critic

bonappetit_jayz.jpg
Bon Appétit Magazine / Facebook
Food world: Meet the celebrity world.
Bon Appétit Magazine, you've changed.

You aren't as serious as you used to be. You're using words like "awesome" in your headlines. You're writing about Jay-Z and Beyonce's vegan pledge. You made Dorito bread (?). And then when people threw shade at you for making Dorito bread, you posted a blog entitled, "Best Positive and Negative Facebook Reactions to Our Doritos Bread Video."

One reader thought your website had been hacked. Another believed this to be the work of The Onion, which made us laugh.

But some things weren't so funny -- like when you published a post about seasonal Asian cooking sponsored by P.F. Changs.

We get it. These are different times. You inhabit the same digital world as BuzzFeed's "27 Animals Who Understand Exactly How You Feel Post-Thanksgiving." And so now, there's a bit of BuzzFeed in Bon Appétit.

At BuzzFeed, you can read about the Central African Republic's descent into chaos. You can also vote on listicles with yellow-buttons like wtf, omg, and lol. BuzzFeed pays the bills with sponsored posts, which resemble regular content but are paid for by advertisers.

It's cool. Pop-ups and banner-ads can be visually offensive to readers. But as New York Magazine pointed out in a recent story on BuzzFeed, this model blurs the lines between advertising and journalism.

Which is what's happening with you, Bon Appétit. In August, editor-in-chief Adam Rapoport debuted a new website that mashes stories like "The 50 Worst Food Gifts in the World" with your recipe for pan-roasted chicken thighs. The P.F. Changs sponsored post is just a few clicks away from the magazine's famed Seal of Approval list -- a selection of food products that BA editors and writers cannot live without.

So the question is: Bon Appétit, have you sold out?

"Since you gave a recipe for Doritos bread, I think your days of telling us what we should and should not do with food are well and truly over," says reader Alyx Gille on the magazine's Facebook page.

But that's not fair. The days when food writers spoke with the divine right of kings are truly over. For years, culinary publications have treated beef stock with the same seriousness of a political column. And as the demise of print media nears, readers won't be dog-earring recipes in magazines for much longer.

So today, there's a younger generation of food writing: Lucky Peach, a quarterly mag with few ads and crazy-good writing, and Kinfolk, which is as nice-looking as it is inspiring. There are cookbooks like Andy Ricker's Pok Pok. You know you won't ever cook his 45-ingredient laap, but you sure as hell will read his stories and flip through the pretty pictures.

The key is to balance the listicles with high-quality writing.

Bon Appétit, you've lightened up. And this is a good thing. So while some people may hate your Dorito bread, we say, Rock it. Just make sure you've got enough substance to back it up.

Follow Emily on Twitter @EmilyCodik.

Follow Short Order on Facebook, Twitter @Short_Order, and Instagram @ShortOrder.


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