How Food & Wine’s New Editor Is Bringing Her Own Flavor to the Brand

Nilou Motamed talks travel, talent and and Top Chef


Specs
Current gig Editor of Food & Wine
Previous gig Director of inspiration for Conrad Hotels
Age 45
Twitter @NilouMotamed

Adweek: Food & Wine's last editor, Dana Cowin, had been with the brand for more than two decades when she stepped down earlier this year. What's it like stepping into her shoes?
Nilou Motamed: Dana left the brand in great shape. I would say that there's been really a seismic shift in how editors work. Perhaps when Dana became editor, and until recently, you were more of a magazine editor. But I think that one shift as I go forward is having the entire brand under my purview and collaborating really closely with our publisher.

What are you bringing to Food & Wine that's new and different?
I'm of international descent—I grew up in Iran and in Paris and the U.S.—and I'm a big traveler, so that's certainly important to me. We've always done travel at Food & Wine, but I think we'll do more international travel, more food destinations through the lens of travel. Perhaps because we do so many recipes, we've spent a lot of time focusing inside of the home, but as the Food & Wine lifestyle evolves, it really transcends just being at home and cooking and becomes the lens through which you look at the world, so I want to showcase that more clearly. That means more narratives, more voices. In our September and October issues, we'll have [food writer] Francis Lam and Lauren Collins from The New Yorker.

Over the past few years, Time Inc. has been fostering more collaboration between brands. Do you have plans to work with other titles?
We collaborated with Travel + Leisure back in the days when I worked there, which is part of the reason I know [Food & Wine publisher] Christina Grdovic and the team so well. Our goal is to do more. Since I've been here, I've talked to the editor of Fortune, the editor of [Entertainment Weekly], Will Lee from People.com and even one of the editors of Sports Illustrated about ways we can collaborate. Food is one of the hottest verticals, and when you look at any of the content that any of our sister publications curate, it eventually comes down to food. So we're happy to be the foodie family member.

The annual Food & Wine Classic in Aspen is coming up later this month. How are you planning to build on the brand's events business? 
We have 15 festivals and events throughout the U.S. and around the globe, and we have a great opportunity to figure out how to expand on those, how to create more content around those that can come back to our different platforms. I think Facebook Live will definitely be a huge part of what we do in Aspen. And we're going to keep on thinking and ideating on how we can give more people access to that very special, very exclusive event even if they can't be there, and make it feel more inclusive.

What changes will readers see in the July issue?
Well, I'm going to be on the masthead! I'll be curious to see if our readers will be able to see maybe a little bit of a tonal shift, a little bit of a change in our headlines and in our display type, maybe a little bit of change in our photography.

Are you going to be on the new season of Top Chef?
Yes! Unless I get down there and they're not into it [laughs]. When I was buying a dress [for an upcoming Top Chef shoot], I was honestly thinking, "I need extra room in this dress for eating." I'll be doing a quick-fire challenge, so there's lots of tasting to be done.

This story first appeared in the June 6, 2016 issue of Adweek magazine.
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