Q: I was a massive fan of the old Bon Appétit and was sad when I heard it was going to have a revamp. On the heels of Gourmet going down, it was almost too much to bear. But I love what you have done to the place! It feels very bold and modern. How did you formulate what your new approach would be?
"I'm gonna answer this question in two parts, if that’s okay:
1. I've always believed that if you want to do something well and create something worthwhile, you've got to do it your way. You've got to commit to it and believe in yourself. As a writer, whenever you try to write in someone else’s style or voice—or give the editor what you *think* he or she wants instead of what you want—it always turns out badly. You should do what you think is right and interesting and fun and cool. When people approach things this way, good stuff can happen. It's why we have game-changing chefs like Fergus Henderson and David Chang.
2. When I got this job, the mandate from Condé Nast was essentially, 'Give us a new magazine.' They wanted the brand to be refreshed and reinvigorated. And when the food media got wind that the company was moving the editorial offices from LA to NYC, and hiring a new editor and a new staff, they began expecting something new and different. But as a reader, it can be tough when a magazine you subscribe to shows up in your mailbox one day looking and reading completely differently. And while we've received a ton of really positive feedback (via hand-written notes, Twitter, emails etc), we’ve also received our share of comments in the vein of 'What the hell is going on!' And I can understand that. But, to be honest, that feedback has helped us a lot. We just shipped our fourth issue (August), and each issue we've made lots of small tweaks and adjustments based on reader comments, so the magazine will not only look great, but will be easy to navigate, enjoyable to read and most importantly, fun to cook with."
Q: Did you feel any trepidation about the choices you were making?
"Not when I was making them, no. The notion was, 'Let's make a magazine about things we love.' If we, as a staff, feature foods and people that we're passionate about—and we write about them smartly and photograph them beautifully—then chances are, the reader will dig them too."
Q: How was it to take on so much responsibility with a very young child at home?
"I've always been a 9-to-5 (or 6 or 7 or 8) guy; my wife, Simone, is self-employed as an artist and restaurant florist. She works from home, and the brunt of raising Marlon, our three and a half year old son, and renovating our new apartment has fallen on her. And as anyone who's done either knows, both are a huge burden. She's done a phenomenal job at them, but it's been far from easy, and she's had to make tremendous sacrifices to her career. I try to spend as much time with Marlon as I can on weekends, and I rarely go out straight from the office, so I'm usually home to give him a bath and put him down at night."
Q: Do you still have time to cook?
"In New York City, whether you have kids or not, you tend to eat out and order in more than most people in the States. On a typical week, Simone and I will cook a few times, once or twice on the weekend, and at least once during the work week. She usually takes charge of the mid-week meal (she does the flowers at Babbo and has a very Batali-esque hand at pastas and creative salads) and I'll usually take over the range or the grill on weekends. If it’s warm out, we’ll definitely be grilling. If I have time, I’ll do dry-rubbed spare ribs with homemade slaw. Otherwise, it’s usually dry-aged rib eye steaks, tagliata style, sliced over a bed of arugula with lemon and olive oil. And Maldon sea salt, of course."
Q: Do you cook with your son?
"Marlon eats like he’s carbo-loading for a marathon, but of course there’s no marathon on his calendar. Lots of pasta, cheese, some eggs, cereal. Fortunately, he drinks lots of smoothies that Simone makes and she packs them with as much fruit and vegetables as possible. He’s doing alright. He’s basically built like a linebacker and already weighs over 50 pounds. We’re trying to get him more into cooking—sometimes he’ll help Simone make waffles in the morning—but for now, he’d rather be playing Thomas than beating eggs."
Q: When did you start cooking and why do you like it?
"When I was a real little kid, and my older brother and sister were off doing stuff, I always wanted to be around my mom, and my mom always happened to be in the kitchen. She’s a great home cook; she knows that seasoning is key—nothing should ever be bland. So I started cooking fairly young. When I was in 9th grade, and we were allowed off campus for lunch, I’d invite a gang of friends over and I’d make everyone omelets (my dad’s specialty). It made me realize that food was a great way to bring people together."
Q: Do you have any favorite websites/food blogs?
"I’m afraid to admit that the website I go to most is espn.com. I’m an editor of a food magazine, but I’m still a guy—I love sports."
Q: Have you read Man with a Pan?
"I haven’t yet, but I was emailing the other day with its author, John Donahue, who’s an editor at the New Yorker."
Q: How has having a child changed your approach to food, if at all?
"Well, we eat a lot later. By the time we get Marlon down and we’re able to open a bottle of wine and make dinner, we’re sitting down at, like, 10pm. I might as well live in Barcelona."
Q: I read in your first Letter from the Editor how eating great food with people you love is pretty much the road to happiness. I agree. Can you tell me about a recent moment with your family when this was crystal clear?
"A couple of weeks ago, I was in upstate New York at my parents’ house with Simone and Marlon, my brother Andy, and my parents, Dan and Maxine. We were grilling up skirt steaks with chimichurri on the Weber (I’m a charcoal purist), I was hitting some golf balls into the pond, watching the sun set and having a beer or two (or three). It doesn’t get much better than that."
Q: Oh, and how do you juggle fatherhood with such a major job? How do you get the QT in?
"I think it’s a challenge for every parent—whether they’ve got a full-time gig or whether they stay home to raise the kids (which can be incredibly draining). You try to balance things as best you can, and you learn to say no to the job-related requests that aren’t totally necessary so you can see more of your family. None of us really have it figured out, but we try."
The July issue of Bon Appétit is currently on stands.