Cook’s Country Gets a New Editor: “We Can Use Food to Build Bridges.”

Toni Tipton-Martin

From a New York Times story by Kim Severson headlined “Cook’s Country Gets a New Editor”:

Toni Tipton-Martin, the longtime food editor and writer whose books “The Jemima Code” and “Jubilee” redefined the story of Black cooks in America, will become the new editor in chief of Cook’s Country.

The magazine and its public television show are part of the America’s Test Kitchen franchise, which includes Cook’s Illustrated, cookbooks and a robust digital platform. Ms. Tipton-Martin will replace Tucker Shaw, who was the Cook’s Country editor for nearly seven years. Mr. Shaw is leaving to complete a novel. . . .

Ms. Tipton-Martin, 61, started her newspaper career writing about nutrition for the Los Angeles Times in the 1980s. She became the first African-American editor of a major American newspaper food section when she took over the cooking pages at The Cleveland Plain Dealer in 1991.

During her interviews for the Cook’s Country job, “I explained that my vision would be identical to my approach at The Plain Dealer, which was to investigate the cooking of every single, solitary culture in the city until we hit everybody,” she said. “We can begin to talk more about where a dish comes from, and talk more about its history. I think that will go a long way to building bridges using food.”

With her appointment at Cook’s Country, a homey magazine with a predominately white staff that built its reputation on a certain definition of classic American dishes, Ms. Tipton-Martin is part of a wave of management changes in food and other media that reflect a larger reckoning about race in America, and specifically Black representation.

This month, Simone Oliver was named the global editor in chief of Refinery29, a fashion and beauty site whose previous top editor resigned under pressure in June. Dawn Davis, a prominent book executive, will take over as editor in chief of Bon Appétit in November. . . .

Ms. Tipton-Martin was one of several people of color who were considered for the top Bon Appétit job, she said. She met with Anna Wintour, Condé Nast’s artistic director and the chairwoman of its diversity and inclusion council.

Ms. Tipton-Martin, who will start the Cook’s Country job in November, is writing a memoir that will be published in 2021 by the University of Texas Press, and she recently secured a two-book deal with Clarkson Potter that builds on “Jubilee.” The first is “Juke Joints, Jazz Clubs and Juice: Cocktails from Two Centuries of African American Mixology.” The second is a baking book.

Cook’s Country began in 2005 as part of America’s Test Kitchen, which is based in the Boston area. With videos once shot in a home in Vermont, tens of thousands of volunteer recipe testers and reviews of bottled teriyaki sauce and shredded cheese, it’s a cuddlier, more accessible sibling to the cerebral Cook’s Illustrated, whose circulation is nearly three times as large. .  . .

Like many print products in the digital age, Cook’s Country has struggled, but its circulation has been rising of late. It now has 274,374 subscribers, and its television show has a weekly audience of about two million, said Jack Bishop, the chief creative officer at America’s Test Kitchen.

Mr. Bishop said the organization began a concerted effort to broaden the demographic makeup of its staff and content four years ago. By 2021, the company hopes to have increased the number of Black, Indigenous and other people of color who work there by 50 percent.

“We asked, ‘How can we build a company that looks like our audience?’” he said. “Public television has probably the most diverse television audience out there.”

In February, the food stylist Elle Simone Scott, the inclusion leader at America’s Test Kitchen as well as an executive editor and a TV cast member, invited Ms. Tipton-Martin to visit the company’s offices and studio to speak with the staff as part of Ms. Tipton-Martin’s book tour. Although she didn’t know it then, that visit would sow the seeds for her new position.

“I made an irreverent remark on the set of Cook’s Country that this would be a wonderful place for retelling the American food story through a modern lens,” she said. “I was not naïve in thinking that A.T.K. would need to make some structural changes to improve its outreach to people of color, but I had no idea they were already making progress toward those changes.”

Ms. Tipton-Martin’s job is likely to include plenty of time in front of the camera. She plans to help create a new podcast and build on the Cook’s Country mission, which is collecting recipes from the American table and telling the stories behind them through the voices of the nation’s cooks.

“She’s a scholar, she’s a journalist, she’s an educator and she’s a cook,” Mr. Bishop said. “Those are all things we value tremendously.”

Kim Severson is a Southern-based correspondent who covers the nation’s food culture and contributes to NYT Cooking. She has written four books and was part of a team that won a Pulitzer Prize in 2018 for public service for reporting on workplace sexual harassment.

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