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Adam Rapoport Dishes on Bon Appétit

With his first issue set to debut, the editor in chief talks about his vision for the magazine.

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Adam Rapoport

Photo By John Aquino

NEW YORK — Adam Rapoport’s first cover as editor in chief of Bon Appétit features a simple bowl of pasta al pomodoro with grated parmesan. It’s a classic dish, one that certainly doesn’t signal a major rethinking of the title.

Which is precisely the point.

“This is a magazine with a 1.5 million circulation,” said Rapoport, who joined Bon Appétit in November from GQ. “This is no V Man or Visionaire. The first issue is not going to change too much. We want to retain readers and win new readers. I don’t think you’ll get everything done in one issue.”

During a breakfast of buttermilk biscuits, eggs and avocado at Peels on the Bowery, Rapoport maintained the suspense as long as possible before revealing the issue. First he talked about the overhaul, about hiring new editors (Christine Muhlke from The New York Times Magazine, for example) and how Bon Appétit will stand apart from a crowded category of food titles that seem to find success as of late, from associations with foodie celebrities and reality TV. He said his magazine’s positioning is solid, tested recipes; cooking techniques and, of course, beautiful photography.

“If you don’t have the magazine around a month from now, it’s OK because you’ll have the skills you need from the magazine to put together a meal,” he said. “We want to do more than teach people to read a recipe.”

But is that enough these days? Food & Wine has benefited from its association with Bravo’s “Top Chef,” as do Rachael Ray and Martha Stewart, with cross promotion between their respective TV shows and magazines. Hearst’s Food Network Magazine, which encourages readers to “cook like a star” with New York’s first girlfriend, Sandra Lee (and even Eva Longoria on the cover), was up 5 percent during the last six months of 2010 at the newsstand. Bon Appétit was down 27 percent during the same period.

“We should be selling more on the newsstand and making it pop more,” Rapoport said.

The title draws an overwhelming portion of its rate base from subscriptions, but readers have spoken at the newsstand and what’s clear from the magazine’s decline there is that they appear to like a side of celebrity with their pasta al pomodoro. Perhaps that’s why Bon Appétit’s next cover will be Gwyneth Paltrow, as reported by the New York Post.

Rapoport said publishing director Bill Wackermann is also exploring TV opportunities for the magazine. “These days, you’re not a magazine editor as much as a brand manager,” Rapoport noted, ever careful to separate Bon Appétit from the pack yet speaking in the jargon of the modern-day magazine editor who now use the word “brand” as easily as they once proclaimed “editorial.” “I don’t want to make a magazine where chefs are treated as celebrities,” he said, a statement that definitely goes against the tide. “Chefs are incredibly talented, knowledgeable people that we are lucky to have access to but what we’ll do is take their techniques and adapt for the home cook. How to make pasta like Mario Batali or an omlette like Daniel Boulud.”

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