Commentary

Effete Home Alabama: 'Food & Wine' Heads South

Don’t worry, New Yorkers, the Big Apple is still the capital of the center of the universe and everyone would still gladly give up a lung and a kidney to live there.

But the funny thing is, sometimes a city becomes so desirable the things that help make it interesting can no longer afford to stay there.

This is the paradoxical situation facing some big publishers, like Time Inc., which find themselves forced to relocate some of their operations to less-expensive climes to make room for more artisanal tea enema cat cafes or whatever you lunatics are into now.

On that note, Food & Wine, the standard-bearer for fancy eats ever since the demise of Gourmet in 2009, is moving its editorial operations from New York City for new digs in Birmingham, Alabama, where rents are still calculated in square feet, not inches. Ad sales and marketing are staying put in lower Manhattan.

The move is part of a larger cost-cutting campaign, aiming to trim $100 million from Time Inc.’s expense this year, according to The New York Times, which first reported the move. However, it is also intended to help widen the magazine’s coverage and appeal beyond the rarefied New York City scene.

As part of the move, Cooking Light editor Hunter Lewis will assume the role of editor-in-chief at Food & Wine; Nilou Motamed, who previously held the top spot, is leaving the company. In an email obtained by the NYT, she referred to the obvious hurdle for editorial staffers: “Leaving is a difficult decision, but my life is in New York, and the future of the brand lies elsewhere.”

The move actually makes sense, as Food & Wine’s editorial staff will gain access to the huge test kitchens built by Time Inc. for its publications, including sister food and lifestyle titles Cooking Light, Southern Living and Coastal Living, which are also based in Birmingham.

The facility boasts 28 test kitchens and 13 photo and video production spaces. The publication’s existing test kitchen and production spaces in New York will still be in use after the relocation.

Time Inc. is also investing in new online properties to fend off competition from a growing crop of pure-play digital competitors. Back in March, it launched Well Done, a social video food brand, which produces daily videos of new recipes, food explainers, hacks and food news geared to a social and mobile audience.

Well Done launched from the MyRecipes Facebook page, with Kraft Heinz Foods Company’s Cracker Barrel Macaroni & Cheese signing on as a launch sponsor not long after. Another social brand, The Barrel, focused on wine, cocktail, beer and beverages, is supposed to launch by the end of the year.

On the licensing and merchandising front, Southern Living launched a line of ready-to-eat meals called “Southern Living Kitchen” in select stores across the South on April 24. The meals are inspired by traditional Southern comfort food and readers’ favorite Southern Living recipes. Cooking Light also has a line of ready-to-eat meals.

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