After 39 years in New York City, Food & Wine magazine will move its headquarters to Birmingham, Alabama, the Time Inc. publication has announced.
As part of the transition, Food & Wine’s editor in chief Nilou Motamed will be replaced by Hunter Lewis, currently the editor of Cooking Light, which is already based out of Time Inc.’s massive test kitchen complex in Birmingham, a multimillion-dollar project completed in 2015. Motamed, who served as Food & Wine’s EIC for less than two years, replaced Dana Cowin, previously the magazine’s editor of more than 20 years. It’s unclear how the magazine will ultimately be divided, but Food & Wine is expected to maintain a partial presence in its Lower Manhattan offices.
The move, while surprising to some, marks a significant shift in the world of food media. While restaurant culture, celebrity chef-dom, and food trends once seemed to originate, or at least become solidified, in New York and then extend to the rest of the country, an increasingly digital and fluid media world has changed the way that ideas travel. In a way, decentralization has been a long time coming—just look at the locavore movement for proof.
In reality, the decision also reflects a truth that restaurateurs and chefs have known firsthand for the last several years—setting up shop in New York can be an impossible financial burden, and the more popular a business becomes, the more likely its rent is to rise. The strain has already driven plenty of New York-trained chefs to scatter, often spending a few years in Manhattan before returning to a smaller hometown to open a more affordable concept, with sleek ideas and techniques in tow.
For proof of food culture’s extended wingspan, just look at the way The New York Times has adapted. Last fall, the paper announced that its restaurant critic, Pete Wells, would begin covering restaurants on a national scale, starting with California. Cowin, too, left F&W for the opportunity to look beyond New York for culinary experiences, becoming the chief creative officer of the restaurant group Chefs Club International.
“The media, and particularly the food media, is facing an inflection point, and so are the restaurants we cover,” Lewis told the Times. “You can create and do business in food anywhere now, and this move is a reflection of the hybrid approach we’re going to take to covering food.”
Moreover, the magazine’s migration points to its recognition of another shift in the food industry that has allowed Food52 and our peers to flourish: While chefs may be the face of food culture, home cooks are its beating heart and soul—and we live everywhere and converge online.