This past weekend I was lucky enough to grab Adam Rapoport, Editor of Bon Appetit, for some time to get to know him better through 20 questions. Adam is a very well dressed guy if you look closely. Having been the former Style Editor at GQ it’s expected but until you see what dressing well looks like – you don’t get it! What I liked about Adam is he’s very engaging and began by asking me about my recorder. He’s a very down to earth guy and it came across in how he answered some of the questions.
I also realized we have a similar sense of frustration when it comes to certain things – read pet peeves. If you follow me on twitter, I’m guessing some of you would say that could be an argument I would make. Adam’s the kind of guy you’d invite over to watch the game and have a few beers with - he’ll just be better dressed even if its shorts and a t-shirt!
Name Adam Rapoport
Married Simone Shubuck
Kids Marlon, 3
From Washington, DC
University UC Berkley with some time at UC San Diego
Twitter Handle Rapo4 – 4 was his HS basketball number
1. What did you have for lunch yesterday?
Well, I had a lunch ad meeting in a conference room. So basically, I talked for an hour. When I got out, it was 2:30 my wife and son had just gotten in from the airport. We did room service. Because I was judging Hamburger Hop, I ordered light – shrimp summer roll. And then of course I ate all my son’s fries on his grill cheese plate.
2. Place you eat out most often?
Adam: In Manhattan, much to my wife’s chagrin, I like going to a place called Gene’s. It’s an old school, neighborhood Italian place in the west village been there since 1936.
CFS: She wants more variety
Adam: Ya, you get your chicken parm and spaghetti with oil and garlic…like cheers bartender knows your name when you walk in. I like a place that knows you.
CFS: It’s that sense of comfort
3. If I gave you $10,000, how would you spend it?
Right now because our apartment just flooded a few weeks back, we’re doing the requisite insurance repairs. Of course my wife wants to redo this and that. So I’m spending it on home repairs right now.
4. First word that comes to mind when I say Michelin?
5. Favorite Charity Event that you work with?
You know that’s a big initiative I want to do with the magazine. We need to reassess what we’re doing. We’ve spent the last 6 mos re-launching the magazine and pushing it in a new direction. Now that we’re in a comfortable place, I want to get involved with a number of charities. There are so many that are worthwhile and well run…I’ll differ on that but it’s something I’m passionate about.
6. Last weekend on earth – what city are you eating in?
Adam: Can I say Italy as a country? When I worked at GQ, I would go to Milan twice a year for fashion shows. Italy as a country, I think that’s what food should be. Really great ingredients prepared simply and treated with respect. Whether it’s salumi, great cheese or wine or fresh pasta, it’s not complicated but simple food is not simple.
CFS: There’s no bullshit there
Adam: Whether its Piedmont or Puglia, I love the philosophy and spirit of cooking in that country.
7. If you weren’t in publishing, what would you do for a living?
Adam: I’ve always dreamed of opening a sandwich shop. I think I make a mean sandwich. My wife reminds me - how are you going to make a living running a sandwich shop?
CFS: Would Knowlton like your sandwiches?
Adam: Yes, Knowlton will love my sandwiches. I’ve already got the concept all thought out, I don’t have name, maybe I do have a name actually. I’ll need to get a liquor license so I can make a little more money. But that’s kind of my dream job.
8. Most exotic vacation destination that you’ve been to?
Adam: You know I don’t travel as much as my wife would like to. She could go on vacation every two weeks. Years ago, I went to Tokyo with a bunch of chefs, like Daniel Boulud, and some folks from the James Beard Foundation. The city is amazing and I know it’s not exotic like the jungle but we went to the Tsukiji fish market and the reverence they have for ingredients is amazing. The sushi is great with the care of the rice just popping with each bite. The Italian is fantastic because they all go to Italy to stage and then come back. The cocktail lounges with hand chipped ice all the stuff were doing in the State now they’ve been doing for years.
The department stores have tremendous pastry shops in the basements and when you buy a napoleon they put it in a bag with dry ice in the summer so it doesn’t melt. They have the $100 melons that are just perfect. Sorry for the long answer
CFS: They have a focus on precision…
Adam: Ya, the precision is fascinating.
9. Most embarrassing moment in your career?
Adam: At Bon Appetit or as a writer?
CFS: However you want to do it?
Adam: What gets me is when you don’t do your research. I was interviewing Camilo Villegas, the PGA pro, from Columbia and I was talking soccer with him. I asked him if he was a Diego Maradona fan. But Diego Maradona is –
Adam: Yes, so he’s not from Columbia. He’s like - what do you mean? I felt like a total jackass. It’s one of those things that remind you to do your homework.
10. Person you would most like to go to dinner with alive or dead?
Adam: Someone asked me that once…I know answers are always, Bill Clinton, Keith Richards. Honestly, it sounds corny; I’d rather have dinner with good friends. Give me a great steak, vodka soda and some good friends and I’m happy.
CFS: The answers have been very diverse like Julius Caesar to my mom…
Adam: You know, but maybe Julius Caesar is a dick, who knows? (Laughter) Bill Clinton who’s fascinating - from what I’ve heard, from people who have eaten with him. But for three hours you’re sitting there listening to him talk. It’s fascinating but it’s not a conversation
CFS: It’s like going to a seminar with food.
11. What is the biggest issue facing the Publishing industry?
The answer is creating great content. The question is how do we get it out there? Is it apps, print magazine, websites? The jury is still out. We’re at a change moment. From all those fronts let’s do a good job and be consistent across the board. It used to be a one horse race - make a magazine and go have lunch at the Four Seasons. Now it’s, make a magazine and get a salad at your desk – make an app, make a cookbook.
12. What are you most excited about right now?
Adam: I’m not excited about my Washington Redskins, Daniel Snyder is –
CFS: You have sexy Rexy as your QB. He’s 2-0.
Adam: It’s a team, that as a franchise, that doesn’t have a strategy or identity or had one since Jack Kent Cook died, back when they won four super bowls and they were awesome. So, that’s what I’m not excited about. But, I am excited about making a magazine, that we as a staff believe in and excites us, and we have a company that will fund that and allow us to come up with an idea and go make it happen. That is an incredible luxury.
13. Do you have any pet peeves?
Adam: I have a lot of pet peeves. Uh, well I can’t mention brand names that will get me in trouble with my advertising side. I was just tweeting about this the other day actually. We have these rotating, conveyor belt toasters in the Conde Naste cafeteria and it usually takes two passes to toast the bread. So, this is going to sound sexist but it is mostly the women who do this, they put the toast in and when they do it a second time, their own piece of toast, they use tongs. (I’m laughing.) I’m like – what’s with the tongs? Would you ever use tongs at home? It’s not like you’re picking up someone else’s toast. You’re picking up your toast.
CFS: It’s not like the toast is that hot yet?
Adam: It’s TOAST! It’s not molten lava. Just pick up the piece of wheat bread and put it back in again. And they’re fiddling with the tongs; they can’t really get it, drops on the floor. You’re just sitting there waiting, thinking - going get out of the way I just want my toast with peanut butter. What are you doing? That drives me insane. I have about 40 more like that.
14. Karaoke song?
Adam: I used to do, in NYC, live punk rock Karaoke on the Lower East Side. You would sing with the live band. I often would do – “I Wanna Rock” by Twisted Sister. I would jump around a lot. I had good stage presence but I can’t sing.
CFS: So you looked good?
Adam: Ya, I looked good but I can’t sing…my wife’s constantly telling me to shut up since I can’t remember lyrics and I’m tone deaf.
15. It’s the second year of the Bon Appetit partnership with Chicago Gourmet. How do you see this year being different then last?
Well I wasn’t here last year. This is my first year. I’m just amazed at how well run of an event it is. Last night at Hamburger Hop you had 700-800 people come to the event. It’s incredible how smoothly that event was run and today. There’s enough food, the lines are moving, the variety of food and beverage. The tenting, the signage - I know that sounds mundane but if that doesn’t work, the event doesn’t work. How fluid it all is for an event of this magnitude is incredible. And the music’s been good. The first song they played today was Steve Earl which is one of my favorites. And I just heard a Strokes song, so I’m good.
16. What for you makes a good restaurant dining experience?
Adam: Two things: going back to the previous question it needs to be well run. They need to be on top of their game getting the food out. Waiters who get it. What I like about a restaurant, is a well-balanced restaurant in terms of food. I think a lot of restaurants every dish is full-on intense and aggressive. That’s great if there’s one of them but if its’ every dish on the menu you feel beaten up by the end of the meal
CFS: There’s no subtlety.
Adam: None at all. If that’s one dish I get it, but going back to Italian food the meal makes sense from the primi to the segundi to the pasta to the vegetables to the main course. There needs to be balance. Not every dish needs to be an all-star. It’s like a sports team. You can have your all-stars but you need your supporting players to. You don’t need 5 Michael Jordan’s, you just need one…that’s a Chicago reference!
17. The Midwestern charm seems to have you nervous. Do you think the politeness is one of the big differentiators for us to NYC?
I think you notice that often when you travel anywhere outside of NYC, especially the Midwest. I was at Intelligentsia coffee and they were so accommodating – sure we’ll get you more ice, do you want more milk? Very often if you go to the indie/cool places in NYC, the barista’s have the tattoos and the wax mustaches, and they’re lecturing you what you can and can’t have. No we don’t do ice coffee or this or that…so for them to be so agreeable was very disarming
18. Are you happy with the Bon Appetit evolution the visuals have really been a nice change. Are you happy with that so far?
Oh ya, as an editor, I’ve always been involved in the visuals. If the magazine doesn’t look great people don’t read it unless it’s the New Yorker. For people to pay you a compliment people say - it looks great. We had an idea where we wanted to take the magazine and we’re only 5-6 issues in now but it’s still only 5-6 issues in. You’re always making changes and playing with it. You’re constantly trying to get the mix right. My art department works their asses off and I’m very proud of them. Not only does the magazine look great but it has to work great, it has to navigate. People are using it which is different than reading it just for pleasure.
19. Who has better style you or Andrew Knowlton?
Me – Knowlton is better looking than I am. But the kid hasn’t tucked in his shirt or put on a tie in like 6 years.
20. What do you think men should focus on when it comes to style?
Adam: It’s all about fit. It doesn’t matter if you have a $200 suit from H&M or a $2,000 suit from Marc Jacobs it has to fit. Know your size, if it doesn’t fit in the shoulders it won’t fit period. Don’t be one of those guys with the cuffs coming half way down your thumb.
CFS: You look like you’re going to your first communion or bar mitzvah.
Adam: Exactly, they should stop at the hinge of your wrist. You want to show a half inch of cuff and the width of your tie should be in proportion to your lapels. Flat fronts – I don’t even want to bring up the whole pleats thing.
21. With Hamburger Hop being the kick-event. What do you prefer on your burger and where do you go out for one?
I like my burgers simple - salt and pepper with squishy potato roll. On a griddle, so it gets all greasy and crispy. In NYC JG Melon, if I’m in California, I’m going to In-n-Out. And I like mayo on my burger.
22. I asked around if anyone had questions, their only question was can I help them get a job with you. So my question is can I do 20 or 10 questions in Bon Appetit?
Adam: That’s a good question. Uh, the question is, interesting, where do you put it…
CFS: You can put it at the end, I don’t care.
Adam: I know, I’m trying to think…we have the back of the napkin at the back of the magazine but we ask questions in the front. Maybe that’s negotiable since we’d have to change the format since that’s not the format we have. Question is can you fit 20 questions in a magazine like this on one page?
CFS: I think only 10 - more short answer
Adam: You can do it in Vanity Fair like...
Adam: You’ll take Vanity Fair. I tell you, you’ll get paid more.
CFS: (Laughing) For me, it’s all about what frames best for mom? It’s all about what makes her happy. Think about it…
Adam: So that’s one of those things where you’re constrained by the 8.5x11 piece of paper, whereas the digital side with apps or web you’re not. The borders are being taken down and you’re able to be more creative.
CFS: So it’s a maybe
Adam: It’s a maybe, a positive maybe, a strong maybe
CFS: I’ll take that…
Adam thanks for playing 20 questions, it was a pleasure. I hope your Redskins play a bit better for ya. I’ll also be in touch about that possible freelance job!
If you liked these 20 questions, check out the how Ryan Poli, Francis Brenna, Giuseppe Tentori, Charlie McKenna, Chris Pandel , Michael Muser, Curtis Duffy , Rob Katz/Kevin Boehm, Michael Taus, Chris Curren, Patricio Sandoval, Bill Terlato, Matthias Merges , Vic Perdue, and Sheila O'Grady answered.
Joe Campagna is the Chicago Food Snob. A former restaurant General Manager, Server and Chef you can find him on twitter @chifoodsnob. You can reach him through email at firstname.lastname@example.org. Joe is retained as a compensated blogger by Pei Wei Asian Diner. and contributes to Eater Chicago.