Who Nilou Motamed
New gig Editor in chief, Epicurious
Old gig Features director and senior correspondent, Travel + Leisure
How did you get started as a food writer?
I actually never covered food before I got to Travel + Leisure, but I had always been super interested in food. I grew up traveling—I lived in Paris, in Iran and then in the U.S.—and my mom is a great cook, so I just had a passion for it. When I got to Travel + Leisure 14 years ago, the person who had been handling the food beat was leaving. They’d never had a dedicated food editor. I was in charge of editing some of the food writers, and the more my interest and appreciation for it grew, the more I took on.
What was your first goal when you joined Epicurious last year?
I think my first goal was to figure out how to take a brand that had so much brand equity and loyalty with its users and to evolve it so it would feel modern and relevant in its 20th year.
You’ve said that you want to expand Epicurious from a recipe hub to a lifestyle destination. How are you doing that?
We’ve been doing a redesign that is going to be unveiled very soon. First and foremost, we wanted to make sure we were thinking about mobile first because that’s one of our biggest areas of growth, as it is with everybody. In terms of the content that we’re adding, we’re really thinking of ourselves as the online home for the food-obsessive. Depending on the time of day, we will offer them different things. So if they come to us in the morning looking for news and pop culture, we can deliver that. If they come to us in the evening looking for recipes or a long read about culture or travel, we will be there for them. We’re also bringing on more international stringers because I think it’s important for us to be looking more broadly at what’s going on around the world.
Epicurious has also been producing more lifestyle-focused print special interest publications. As a digital brand, why put resources into print?
Digital allows us to be nimble, but I think that for inspiration, for that lean-back moment, magazines are really fantastic. People still love to have something that’s a keepsake. We actually call them “cookazines” because they’re something between a cookbook and a magazine.
In what ways has food coverage changed since you first started at Travel + Leisure?
When I started there, food was just an ancillary interest. There was certainly no Instagramming your dinner, and there wasn’t as much competitiveness about where you’d eaten. Now, everybody has become a voice in the food world. It’s a pretty crowded space.
You have a lot of TV experience, and even co-hosted a Travel Channel show. How important is it for editors nowadays to be comfortable on camera?
I think it’s very important for everybody to be comfortable on camera. When you’re marketing your brand, you have to be able to shout from every rooftop, and video is certainly a big way to do that. I think that media trainers out there are going to be pretty busy.
Epicurious, along with the rest of Condé Nast, is moving to 1 World Trade Center later this year. What downtown lunch spots would you recommend to your colleagues?
Shake Shack! We can’t do it all the time, but I think there’s going to be a lot of Condé Nast folks waiting in line there.
Photo: Alfred Maskeroni