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Latin Flavor Spices General Market

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NEW YORK Call it the Latinization of American food and lifestyle. Consumer magazines, cable and network TV entertaining and dining shows and other media in the general market are serving up Hispanic-themed content and diverse talent.

On newsstands this week, the editors of the upscale epicurean magazine Gourmet have devoted the September issue to the exploration, taste and celebration of Latino cuisine.

The magazine showcases the voices and food-loving adventures of Latino writers Junot Diaz, who takes readers inside his Dominican New York, and Ana Menendez, who offers a tour of the Cuban culinary scene in Miami.

In the pages of food and lifestyle title Every Day With Rachael Ray, the energetic talk show host in the September issue introduces two new contributors, both Puerto Ricans: chef and author Daisy Martinez and interior designer and home improvement maven Evette Rios.

On the tube, cable's Food Network has ordered an additional 13 episodes of its daytime entertaining and food program Simply Delicioso, hosted by Colombian-born lifestyle aficionada Ingrid Hoffman. The show airs Saturdays on the cable food channel at 11:30 a.m. Eastern time.

Hoffman, who also serves as host of the Spanish-language show Delicioso on Galavision/Univision, is considered to be the first TV host to have two Latino lifestyle programs in two languages playing on two cable networks.

Hoffman's cookbook, Simply Delicioso: A Collection of Everyday Recipes With a Latin Twist, is being published by Clarkson Potter/Random House and is scheduled for release in February 2008.

Industry watchers say the increasing interest in the Hispanic market and its homegrown talent and culture is a direct result of the explosive growth of the Latino population. Yet others are asking, what's taken so long?

After all, sales of salsa surpassed those of ketchup back in 1991, and domestic tortilla sales reached $5.7 billion, capturing 32 percent of the bread market in 2002, according to the Tortilla Industry Association.

"Latino cuisine has become a big part of the American repertoire," said Gourmet editor-in-chief Ruth Reichl. "Given the demographics of the United States, one would be crazy to think that Latin cuisine isn't going to be dominant in our culture."

Producing the special Latin food issue was a yearlong, top-secret project for Gourmet editors and writers, who hit the streets in search of authentic foods reflective of the nation's diverse Latino population.

Gourmet's issue boasts enticing cover lines such as "The 20 Tacos You Must Taste" and spotlights essays on favorite street foods, taco trucks and roadside eateries in places least likely to be considered the epicenter of Latin cuisine such as Scottsbluff, Neb., a Mexican-food destination for nearly a century.

"There are few places in America where the influence of the people who have come here from Mexico, Puerto Rico, El Salvador, Cuba, the Dominican Republic, Guatemala, Colombia, Ecuador and Peru is not being felt," Reichl writes in her editor's letter, "Food Without Borders."

The magazine for gourmands reported a circulation of 969,308, according to the Audit Bureau of Circulation's Fas-Fax Report for the first half of 2007.

Reichl was quick to point out, however, that "nobody's really given Latin food the kind of respect it deserves," admitting that among her own staff few editors were confident they knew and understood the origins of the foods and history of the various ingredients and spices that give Latino cuisine its vibrant flavors.

Still, Reichl said the positive response to the issue confirms the magazine's readers and the public are hungry for content that mirrors their interests in Latino culture and food, which the magazine has describes as "America's fastest-rising cuisine."

And with good reason: Hispanics are the largest minority and fastest growing group in the U.S. By 2010, Latinos will number nearly 50 million and have a combined buying power exceeding $1 trillion. And by 2050, the U.S. Hispanic population will exceed 100 million. That is, one in every four Americans will be Hispanic.

Editors and other decision-makers contacted for this story said they hope the efforts of their publications to make their coverage more diverse will ultimately translate into increased sales at the newsstand and within the marketplace. No Hispanic-targeted promotions were planned with the launch of the Latino-themed magazines and TV shows, said spokespersons for the respective groups.

It's no wonder that it's significant news when Every Day With Rachael Ray, a magazine with a guaranteed rate base of 1.5 million, announces it will add two Latinas to its lineup of monthly contributors.

Martinez, whom Ray often describes as her "spicy, saucy amiga," will write the "Mucho Gusto" ("With Pleasure") column about Latino food and the importance of bringing family and friends to the table. Her recipes will be made available to the public in English and Spanish on www.RachaelRayMag.com.

Rios, who often appears with Ray on her weekday syndicated network talk show, will write the "Kitchen Fix" column in the magazine, chronicling the improvements she makes for homeowners.

"Daisy and Evette are perfect fits for the magazine. They both are super high energy and they have this real can-do attitude, which is what we're all about," said Maile Carpenter, executive editor of Every Day With Rachel Ray. "This is our way of literally bringing everyone to the table."