On Friday, Oct. 19, Gourmet magazine threw a gala at the Time Warner Center, heralding a “Gourmet Institute” weekend during which “foodies” pay $1,400 each to hear hero-chefs like Anthony Bourdain, Thomas Keller and Charlie Palmer speak and demonstrate their craft.
Perky, petite Gourmet executive chef Sara Moulton arrived late. “I’ve just come from taping my PBS show,” she told the Transom. Based on her second cookbook, Sara’s Secrets for Weeknight Meals, it will begin airing in April.
Does Ms. Moulton consider herself the Rachael Ray of the public-television set? There was a pregnant pause, and then: “I wouldn’t put myself in the same category as that young lady,” Ms. Moulton purred. “She’s just different than I am! I’d rather see myself as Julia Child’s granddaughter. Or daughter.”
After the Transom inspected the food samples on offer (it’s a tough job, but someone’s gotta do it), we came across Gourmet editor Ruth Reichl, who was wearing a vaguely goth, all-black ensemble; it must be a relief to appear in public as herself after 30 years of reviewing in disguise. What did she think of the new crop of restaurant critics, who aren’t really bothering to go incognito? “I don’t think it’s fair to the readers,” Ms. Reichl said. “I don’t go in disguise anymore, and it’s unbelievable. When you say you’re from the press, it doesn’t matter what press it is—you never wait for a table and you always get good service. If you think that all you’re going for is the food, then it probably doesn’t make a difference, because they can only make what they make. But if you believe that a restaurant is an experience, and it’s a kind of theater, then it really matters who you are. It’s a very different experience than waiting and being anonymous, and I don’t think it’s fair to consumers.”
Ms. Reichl, who wrote about her saucy extramarital love affair with former Saveur editor Colman Andrews (now a Gourmet contributing editor) in her acclaimed second memoir, Comfort Me With Apples, recently returned from the MacDowell Colony, in New Hampshire, where she was hard at work on her new novel, which does not yet have a publisher. “I’m not talking about it,” she said. But is it food-related? “Not really.” Well, O.K., then!