First Mover: Ruth Reichl

The former Gourmet editor on food bubbles, love, and Gilt Taste, the online shop for foodies

After being editor-in-chief of Gourmet for 10 years, how is editing a website different?

The engine that runs Gilt Taste is a platform. You’re surrounded by these engineers—20-, 30-somethings—they have this amazing energy, they can do anything. It’s a very different kind of energy than I’m used to in editorial. There’s this sense of possibilities and excitement, this being really new, that you don’t have in print.

You’re also involved in e-commerce now.

Your burden is different than it is at a magazine. At a magazine, you’ve got this real firewall. Here, you have to stand behind everything. You have to live and die behind how good these products are.

Are you tasting everything personally?

I wish I were. It’s not because they don’t want me to. We’re supposed to have 4,000 products by the end of the summer. We’re putting in new products every day.

People are buying $100 steaks and the like. Are we in a food bubble?

We in America have gotten addicted to cheap food. The result of that is antibiotic-laden fish, foods that are bred to be portable. If you’re going to raise animals at farms, it’s more expensive. There’s no way around that. It’s odd to me that people think nothing of spending $1,000 on a dress but think it’s too much to spend $12 on bacon. These are affordable luxuries.

But $100 steaks?

Certainly this is not meant to be a supermarket. For special occasions, if you want to get the very best, this is where you can get it. One of the effects of cheap food is, we have food that is so unsatisfactory. We need to go back to flavor.

What’d you have for breakfast?

I had tofu—really cold tofu—it was really hot and muggy, and I shaved ginger on it and put some scallions and chili pepper on top. It was really refreshing. I love breakfast, and I don’t see any reason it has to be cereal and eggs and toast.

Do you miss Gourmet?

Oh, I miss the magazine. We all still see each other a lot. To me, it was like a really magical 10 years, in a company that let me do what I wanted.

You just finished the third season as a judge on Top Chef Masters. Have you liked doing reality TV?

We’re doing a fourth season. I was really surprised at how real it was. I thought the other judges would say, “It would be better if so and so won,” or interfered. They’re incredibly respectful of the process.

You’re working on some books.

Two books, with a third to come. One is a novel and one is a book off my Twitter feed.

Talk about that. Your tweets have been compared to haiku.

I love the discipline. It reminds me of that quote, “I write long because I didn’t have time to write short.”

What’s the connection between food and love?

For me, cooking is a way to try and please people and tell them I love them. When I fall in love with someone, I want to feed them as well. What’s more romantic than going out to eat with someone?

Any food trends you’d like to see go away?

I would like not to keep going into restaurants and have flashbulbs go off when people are taking pictures of their food. People aren’t tasting it any more. Just eat your food!

Publish date: July 11, 2011 © 2020 Adweek, LLC. - All Rights Reserved and NOT FOR REPRINT