We mean this statement in the nicest way possible, but Adam Rapoport is such a dude.
And yet, here he is, sitting in his office that overlooks the “canyon of Times Square,” getting ready to ship the June issue of Bon Appetit. It is his second as editor-in-chief of the famous food bible that no one would mistake for targeting the men’s mag set first.
How did Rapoport get here?
First of all, he boasts the necessary foodie background needed to helm the venerable publication: He served a three-year stint as Time Out New York‘s restaurant section editor, had a position as a writer and editor at the James Beard Foundation, and penned frequent pieces about culinary trends in his previous job as style editor of GQ.
Second, his old boss thought he would be great for the gig.
“[GQ‘s editor-in-chief] Jim Nelson sent me an email that said, ‘I hate to lose you, but I think you’d be really good for this job,'” an impeccably dressed Rapoport told The Wire on Wednesday afternoon. “If Jim had not sent that email, I wouldn’t be sitting here.”
The University of California, Berkeley grad applied for the job, had numerous interviews with various Conde executives, and eventually impressed Si Newhouse and the rest of the company enough for them to offer him the position.
Now comes the difficult part, adding life and energy to a book that many feel has lost its way while not alienating (too many) of the fans who love the 1.5 million-circulation publication.
The cover of the first issue — a simple, elegant bowl of pasta al pomodoro with grated Parmesan — points in the direction Rapoport hopes to take.
“I do like just clean, modern, graphic composition,” he said. “I don’t like it too homey or too busy. That’s the look I lean towards. If you look throughout this magazine, it’s clean, it’s modern, it’s graphic, but it’s also real.”
While the initial effort looks a bit like GQ-gone-food, he and his staff will continue to refine the look as they move forward. The June issue features new typefaces and font sizes as well as other subtle changes. They are taking into account reader feedback, trying to satisfy the majority of the readers, but also knowing that you can’t please all the people all the time. (Or if you do, you “are not taking a stand on anything.”)
One of the biggest changes in Rapoport’s job is a new focus on the business aspect of magazine publishing.
“That was made explicitly clear to me from Day 1, even before I had the job,” he said.
“In terms of business, it’s a huge part of the job but also nowadays a very explicit part of the job. Conde Nast let’s you know from the get go that we’re in a very different business landscape than we were five years ago. You are partners with your publisher. You are a brand manager. This is a business that you have to run. You have to know the numbers.”
That means sitting in on quarterly business meetings, developing ideas that will help generate revenue, and running a successful business, not just publishing an attractive, artistic venture.
And then there is the expansion of the Bon Appetit brand to television. It’s simple: In the new media landscape, a successful food magazine needs a show. Rapoport, who enjoys appearing on TV, and members of his staff are investigating the options and trying to find the appropriate outlet. There have been discussions about specific ideas but nothing concrete yet.
“We need a more focused project,” he said. “Is that straight cooking? Lifestyle? Dining out? Dining in? We’re trying to find a way to do it correctly.”
So there you have it: Adam Rapoport, total dude and food magazine editor-in-chief. The mix works. He fits in his new job perfectly, but that guy who “walks the GQ walk” will not disappear, especially if his sock choice says anything.
“They are Saint James, kind of thick but also stretchy. I could go on about this all day,” he said proudly with a smile and conviction that makes you believe him.
But what will he wear on his feet when the weather warms?
“Usually I go sockless in the summer, but I have yet to figure that out for this year,” he said.
He would sit and contemplate, but there is an olive oil tasting in the next room and his presence is needed. You get the sense that is where he would rather be anyway.