Behind the Scenes: Select Stories and From Saveur’s Past

Only at Saveur could you find a cow’s head in the freezer.

This story is part of our 25th Anniversary extravaganza, a celebration of the magazine’s first quarter century.

Someone killed the sacred cow

Chef Daniel Boulud’s method for boiling calves’ heads (May 2016) so inspired then-editor-in-chief Adam Sachs that he returned to the office with just such a head and proceeded to stash it in the staff freezer, where, you know, everybody who works here goes for ice. We’d love to tell you it sat there for months, but our fact-­checkers insist that “sat” would be inaccurate, given the number of macabre late-night selfies taken with the thing. Until, that is, someone who shall remain nameless tossed “Bessie” in the trash. (There are photos we could share, but you wouldn’t be able to un-see them.)

One fantastic window = magazine magic

Thomas Payne takes photos at Saveur’s photo studio, also known as “the concrete ledge near the test kitchen.”
Saveur’s glamorous photo studio. Saveur

Saveur’s glamorous photo studio, also known as “the concrete ledge near the test kitchen,” is conveniently located—in every sense. The window faces north, so harsh sun never shines in directly, and we’re surrounded by tall, reflective buildings. The result is near-perfect natural light. It’s indirect, warm, and ideal for shooting without a flash. And while we do bring big-name photographers back there to shoot from time to time, it’s often just me, standing on the ledge and capturing whatever wondrous thing our test kitchen director, Kat Craddock, has cooked up. —Thomas Payne, photo director

Strawberry Focaccia with Maple-Balsamic Onions and Paneer Tikka Kebabs
Get the recipes for Strawberry Focaccia with Maple-Balsamic Onions and Paneer Tikka Kebabs » Thomas Payne

Don’t let our fancy french name fool you

Heinz ketchup bottle.
Our name may sound fancy, but don’t let that fool you: there are plenty of everyday staples we love. Brian Klutch

Over the past quarter century, Saveur has sung the praises of:

  1. Heinz ketchup
  2. White Castle burgers
  3. Flamin’ Hot Fritos
  4. Moon Pies
  5. Bisquick
  6. Land O’Lakes butter
  7. Ritz crackers
  8. Frozen lima beans
  9. Dr. Pepper
  10. Duke’s mayonnaise
  11. Egg McMuffins
  12. Canned peas
  13. Waffle House
  14. The fare at the Iowa State Fair
  15. And Pepto Bismol (for all of the reasons cited above)

This is where the “Mayor of Michael’s” dined when he wasn’t at that ­midtown media hotspot

Lupe's, a casual Mexican joint a block away from Saveur's original offices, quickly became a staff favorite.
Lupe’s, a casual Mexican joint a block away from Saveur‘s original offices, quickly became a staff favorite. Stan Horaczek

Decorated with Christmas lights, crepe-paper flowers, and a whole lot of Formica, Lupe’s East L.A. Kitchen was not a white-tablecloth restaurant. The napkins were paper, and they were tiny. But this family-­run Mexican joint sat a block away from Saveur’s SoHo offices. Back then, the menu consisted mostly of tacos, burritos, and enchiladas with a choice of green or red sauce and a side of rice and beans. One day, I noticed an upscale addition: ­Häagen Dazs ice-cream bars. What was this?! As I explained to my lunch companions, no one in my hometown of Abilene, Texas, could pronounce the foreign name correctly, so everybody just said “Hogs ’n’ Dogs.” So that’s what we ordered for dessert at Lupe’s: “Hogs ’n Dogs on a stick, por favor!” Needless to say, the Saveur gang knew all the waiters and cooks, and they knew us. Unpretentious, fun, and genuine, Loopy’s, as we called it, reflected the spirit of our scrappy start-up company. It was the perfect spot for a skeleton staff, on a shoestring budget, to grab a quick bite before getting back to the business of publishing a smart new food magazine. —Joe Armstrong, founding ­publishing director, 1993–1998

Published proof that interns rock

Mindy Fox, former Saveur intern and assistant editor (see p. 56), co­authored Antoni Porowski’s recent book, which reached No. 1 on The New York Times Best Seller list. Fox also penned two cookbooks of her own: Salads Beyond the Bowl and The Perfectly Roasted Chicken. She’s got loads of company, as demonstrated by these 22 terrific tomes from other past staffers.

Antoni in the Kitchen, Antoni Porowski with Mindy Fox

Spritz, Leslie Pariseau and Talia Baiocchi

Peaches, Kelly Alexander

Killing It, Camas Davis

Coconut, Ben Mims

Switch It Up, Corinne Trang

Give a Girl a Knife, Amy Thielen

Duck Season, David McAninch

The Dumpling Galaxy, Helen You and Max Falkowitz

Imbibe! David Wondrich

Catalan Cuisine, Colman Andrews

The Hungry Scientist Handbook, Patrick Buckley and Lily Binns

The Food of Oman, Felicia Campbell

Cradle of Flavor, James Oseland

It’s All American Food, David Rosengarten

Southern Country Cooking From the Loveless Cafe, Jane and Michael Stern

Canal House: Cook Something, Christopher Hirsheimer and Melissa Hamilton

Sugar Rush, Johnny Iuzzini and Wes Martin

Harvest to Heat, Darryl Estrine and Kelly Kochendorfer

Keepers, Kathy Brennan and Caroline Campion

Piatti, Stacy Adimando

Cooking South of the Clouds, Georgia Freedman

Culture correction

When I co-wrote the Eater article documenting Mario Batali’s sexual misconduct, I didn’t anticipate the fallout. The New York Times, Washington Post, and 60 Minutes followed up with additional reporting about the chef—one of many exposed by the #MeToo movement. In response, a handful of determined activists came forward to address the rot at the scandal’s core.

Among them was Elizabeth Meltz, then a Batali employee. After the Eater story broke, she emailed female colleagues, suggesting they gather to discuss the revelations. More than 50 women showed up. The raw emotion that poured forth, Meltz says, “proved more needed to be done.” So she joined forces with Erin Fairbanks (formerly of Heritage Radio Network) and Liz Murray (who oversees HR for the Marlow Collective) to facilitate tough conversations nationwide. Today, the trio’s Listen Up Tour, an initiative of their Women in Hospitality nonprofit, offers an out-loud antidote to the whisper network.

As many women reevaluated their bosses, ­Lindsey Ofcacek, then general manager of Edward Lee’s 610 Magnolia restaurant in Louisville, Kentucky, partnered with hers. The duo’s LEE (Let’s Empower Employment) Initiative, a mentorship program, fast-tracks female talent from local kitchens. Graduates of the ­program prepare a dinner at the James Beard House.

That august institution, too, is embracing progress. Last year, the Beard Foundation hired Katherine Miller to serve as VP of Impact (aka social change) and to oversee the foundation’s incubator program for budding women entrepreneurs. As Miller explains: “We believe if you level the playing field, you change the culture.” —Kitty Greenwald, freelance journalist

“Chuck just left”

This phrase—Saveur shorthand for we expended a whole lot of effort to try and capture something that, apparently, doesn’t exist—has its roots in the May/June 1996 feature “Chowder Country.” First, editors Christopher Hirsheimer and Christy Hobart hit the road at 5 a.m. to catch what was supposed to be the picturesque moment the clam boats unload their hauls in Rhode Island. Recalls Hirsheimer: “We arrived in an industrial park to a clam-processing plant. No boats. No unloading. Lots of hairnets.” She then “drove like hell” to Plymouth, Massachusetts, where writer Miles Chapin’s Uncle Chuck was to begin the laborious process of making his famed three-day chowder. “Miles met us at Chuck’s house, and I asked when we might expect his uncle,” Hirsheimer recounts. “Miles said, in the loveliest way, ‘Oh, Chuck? He just left.’ ”

Of course, things worked out in the end. Same goes for that time the snails for the paella shoot in Valencia escaped their basket. Ditto, the soba-noodle quest that left an entire crew, and their photo equipment, stranded in a rainstorm on Japan’s barren Noto Peninsula.

We go high and we go low

Yes, Saveur gave you a recipe for chaud froid de langoustines aux graines de sésame et aux epices orientales (September/October 1998), but also one for this five-ingredient “idiot-proof” pie crust in the January/February 2001 issue:

IDIOT-PROOF PIE CRUST: Break 1 egg into a glass measuring cup, stir in 1 tablespoon white vinegar, and add enough warm water to reach the 1-cup mark; set aside. Put 6 cups all-purpose flour, 2 cups lard, and 1 tablespoon salt into a large mixing bowl, and mix with your hands until well combined. Add egg mixture and continue mixing with your hands to form a rough ball of dough. Transfer to a lightly floured surface, divide into 6 equal pieces, and shape each into a flat disk. Wrap disks in plastic, and refrigerate for 1 hour or freeze (up to 2 months) until ready to use (defrost before using). Makes enough for six 9-inch pie shells.

Ok, maybe not everything was always 100% authentic

Cover from second issue of Saveur.
The team had to improvise the cover photo for the second issue of Saveur. Saveur

We’d decided that the cover of our second issue would spotlight a feature about some Italian-­American nonnas in San Francisco who called themselves “old stoves,” but we failed to capture the ideal image while on location in the city’s North Beach neighborhood. So photographer Laurie Smith wound up shooting tomatoes in a sunny corner of this magazine’s SoHo office. Keep in mind that we’d only published one issue, so nobody had a clue what a Saveur cover was supposed to look like. Still, Laurie and I realized we weren’t getting it. Then, I had an epiphany. I ran down the street to the Ravioli Store, which made fresh pasta for neighborhood restaurants. The lady who worked in the shop lived upstairs, and came down in a housecoat practically every morning. Though this woman was on the East Coast, she fit the definition of an “old stove.” And she agreed to follow me back to the office so we could photograph her beautifully aged hands peeling the tomatoes. The blouse she had on, however, was all wrong. “Laurie, take your shirt off,” I said. Laurie and the Ravioli Store nonna traded clothes, and we got the shot. —Christopher Hirsheimer

Regrets, we have a few

The white truffle ice cream we recommended in the January/February 2000 issue, to name one. Then there’s the fact that we interviewed, yet didn’t hire, Amanda Hesser, who went on to co-found Food52. We also failed to offer Joe Brown, Saveur’s current editorial director, a job in 2002.