Interview with Keith Reeves, Editor of In Search of Taste

By Sunday, April 12, 2015 Permalink 1
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by Cynthia D. Bertelsen

Something very exciting is happening this month. A brand-new food magazine – In Search of Taste – is due out in Britain. Forget any stereotypes of British food that you’re hauling around in your mind.

International in scope, In Search of Taste promises stunning imagery, artistic nuances, and a sense of beauty in a world fraught with terror and suffering and pain, reminding us of the very things that makes us so human: cooking and cuisine and culture.

The following interview with In Search of Taste’s editor, Keith Reeves, offers us a taste of what we can expect. As Reeves so rightly says, “Eating and drinking are the most important things anyone must do, and selecting what to eat and drink is the most important decision we all undertake.” 

What prompted you to start In Search of Taste? Tell us a little about the background. Was there an epiphany moment or did the idea come slowly?

Epiphany carries far too many connotations of urgency and divine inspiration. Intermittent revelations better describe the magazine’s journey, with gathering flickers rather than one blinding light. But we’re still en route!

I initially felt that there were more than enough column inches written on the subject of food and wine and to attempt further comment was perhaps foolhardy. But when I looked closer, simple and direct dialogue seemed scarce. There appeared to be something of a drift towards entertainment and a move away from straightforward and helpful information.

The available barrage of revised recipes and trite wine commentary showed little empathy with the reader, and I began to find much of it quite insulting. Sounds rather arrogant, I know, but I felt that people were being short-changed by many publications out there. There’re only so many Caesar salads, crèmes brûlées or “summertime” rosés you need to revisit.

At the same time, I began to meet some wonderful writers, many of whom were simply not getting the coverage they deserved. Social media platforms may provide a global reach, but writers, photographers and illustrators still need to pay the rent. They also deserve to have their work more anchored, less fleeting.

And so I thought the time had arrived for a new platform, one that asked independent writers to speak from personal experience and to share their quest for authenticity in food and wine.

Tell us a little about the vision behind the content of In Search of Taste. What do you hope to convey through the stories and photographs in the magazine?

The tales we tell are universal ones, sherry fermentation or salt production, pasta making or tuna fishing, meat butchery or tea growing, why one culture moves off in one culinary direction while another absorbs nearby influences — there are common threads that affect us all.

What we wish to share is the discovery and history of exciting wine and delicious food, wherever in the world they are found. I like to think that the magazine will provide advocacy on behalf of its readership, rather than act as a personal shopper.

Who/what audience is your target market? Why?

From the first draft of our business plan, the word “demographic’ frequently cast a haunting shadow across my keyboard. Investors always want to know who are my prospective customers and PR advisers want to know who you’re writing for; in both cases this is quite understandable.

But I have spent time at expensive Bordeaux wine tastings with elegantly dressed over fifties, pop-up hipster seminars on gastro pubs for thirty-five-year-olds, restaurant developments for forty-year-old bohemians, and cocktail events for extravagant twenty-five-year-olds.

And for those keen on the visual arts, they could “read” our magazine through imagery alone if they wished. So although I’ve ducked the question once again, I have often thought how Steve Jobs would have answered when asked which age group and which social strata would have wanted his iPhone. I’d like to think my answer might be the same – “everybody” — why not? I see no reason why we should not strike a chord with the widest possible audience. If we don’t, then I’m not doing my job properly.

You plan to keep the magazine ad-free. Why did you decide to go that route, rather than seeking advertising?

I have long admired a modest magazine in the U.S.A.: The Art of Eating. I think Edward Behr has done a wonderful job — over a quarter of a century of writing, creating and selling the publication — entirely funded by subscription and sold on all but one continent.

I discovered that there were several successful magazines, such as Behr’s, with no automatic adherence to advertising income and that were far better supported by their subscribers as a direct result. I later came to realize that such a business model was eminently sound. The independent market has expanded enormously during the development of our project, with many titles continuing to eschew advertising and some beginning to outperform mainstream publishing.

It also got me off the hook as to what the patronage of advertisers needed by way of a return, be it numbers, editorial or just plain product placement.

How do subscribers get on board? What is the cost of a yearly subscription and for how many issues?

It is simple to join us, be it with a single issue or an annual subscription.

A one-year subscription, which buys four issues – spring, summer, fall and winter. An online edition is due later in the year. Click here to subscribe to In Search of Taste.

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