Saveur’s 25th Anniversary: Memories and Stories from Former Staff

Colman Andrews, our founding executive editor, recalls the beginnings of Saveur — plus more tales from the past 25 years.

Saveur 25th Anniversary
A quarter-century of stories, of all kinds.Peter Voth

What’s happened here since 1994? A whole heckuva lot, from Jacques Pépin wielding his “asbestos fingers” to Frances McDormand fan-girling in our test kitchen. Throughout the next few weeks, we’ll be sharing a few stories from former Saveur editors and staffers to discover how this brand was born, evolved, and ultimately achieved silver anniversary-status. (Or pick up the issue, on newsstands now, to check out the full package.) The key to our success? That’s you, dear reader.

Founding executive editor Colman Andrews on Saveur’s origins

Cava, sparkling 
Spanish wine, made exactly like French Champagne.
Twenty-two years ago, Saveur sang the praises of this sparkling Spanish wine, made exactly like French Champagne—only priced a whole lot cheaper. Since then, domestic cava sales have risen more than 70 percent. We still stand behind the Juvé y Camps Reserva de la Familia Brut recommended in our December 1997 issue. ($17 per 750ml bottle; astorwines.com)

In early November 1993, I was eking out a living as a freelance writer in Santa Monica when I received a call from Dorothy Kalins, who’d given me lots of work during her tenure editing Metropolitan Home. “I’ve found us a new magazine,” Dorothy announced.

This magazine doesn’t exist yet, she said. We’d need to invent it. Whole cloth. In Manhattan. Eventually, and more than a little wrenchingly, I would have to leave Los Angeles, the only city I’d ever considered home, and move my wife and two very young daughters to the East Coast. That move changed my life, as did the magazine, which was to become Saveur.

I’d been an editor, in some sense, since launching a mimeographed school paper in the eighth grade, but I didn’t learn how magazines were made until working (often through the night) to get Saveur to the printer on time.

More importantly, collaborating with Dorothy and our fellow cofounders, Christopher Hirsheimer and Michael Grossman—as well as with the other top-notch editors and writers Saveur was able to attract—confirmed something I’d long suspected: that food is the most important subject in the world, and not just because we need to eat to survive.

Food influences, or is influenced by, virtually every other human concern. It’s inextricably interwoven with history, geography, race, religion, politics, power, sex, all of the arts, and most of the sciences. Food touches everything.

So when we published a recipe for gougères or Sri Lankan fish curry, when we covered Oaxaca’s Tlacolula market or Argentina’s Mendoza Valley, or when we went on about a soft-ripe cheese from California’s Cowgirl Creamery, we were ultimately attempting to express who we are and how we all connect to each other.

I believe that those of us who helped create, or simply consumed, Saveur over the past quarter century spoke this same shared language. I believe it’s why we’re still talking today.

Colman Andrews, who also served as this magazine’s Editor-in-chief, stuck around until 2006.

Former test kitchen director ­Hunter Lewis on Jacques Pépin

Jacques Pépin
Pépin, long adored by Saveur’s editorial team, was the first entry in the first “Saveur 100.”Todd Coleman

Saveur was the most real food magazine from the get-go. We simply cooked everything, then shot everything. I didn’t know food stylists existed until I went to Bon Appétit, where everybody had an assistant. Was Saveur’s corporate culture sustainable? Or even functional? Maybe not, but what an education!

Where else would Jacques Pépin waltz into the test kitchen and start baking his mother’s apple tart? The legend arrived that day, in 2010, wearing crisp chef whites and acting a bit sheepish. He may have, by his own admission, enjoyed too much Champagne with friends the night before. I was fixated on his hands the entire time. You could blindfold this guy, and he could still cook. Pépin pulled the tart from our oven and held it up to the camera for the shot above. Assuming the baking dish couldn’t have been that hot, I picked it up after he set it down—and immediately dropped the thing on the counter. I’m telling you, Jacques Pépin has asbestos fingers, oven mitts for hands.

Hunter Lewis, who worked here from 2008 to 2011, is now the editor-in-chief of Food & Wine.

Former managing editor Ann McCarthy on the perfect cover

Issue 17 of Saveur.
Raw meat graced the March 1997 cover of Saveur.Saveur

The moment I realized this magazine was going to break all the rules came during a meeting about the March 1997 cover. There were stunning photos from a piece on Michelin-starred French chef Jacques Maximin, as well as a beautiful Greek Easter story. We also had a gutsy steak feature, shot at a Colorado ranch. It was amazing to watch the editorial team wrestle the options down to an in-your-face image of raw meat alongside a big, old knife—a decision that led to much hand-wringing and hall-pacing on the business side. Instead of some pretty, crowd-pleasing Easter picture, Saveur’s editors went with blood and beef. I pledged allegiance to them right then and there.

Ann McCarthy began her stint at Saveur in 1996 as Dorothy Kalins’ assistant, and also held the assistant managing editor and travel editor positions before leaving in 2004.

Former senior associate editor Alex Testere on a night to remember

The evening began with a lactofermented cherry tomato, plump with fizzy brine, the skin so taut, it burst upon reaching my lips. It ended with Frances McDormand in our test kitchen’s pantry. The middle remains a blur.

I attended this particular Saveur Supper, in 2015, as a guest, without the obligation of snapping pics for social media. According to office rumor, filmmaker Joel Coen—friendly with the evening’s chef, Olia Hercules—might make an appearance. Food celebrities routinely showed up at these things, but never Academy Award winners.

I met Joel, quite awkwardly, when both of us were abandoned by our companions at the same moment. Terrified of bringing up his movies, I instead talked about myself—until he introduced me to his wife, Frances, who, thankfully, acted as starstruck by the Saveur test kitchen as I was by her. Above all, she seemed thrilled to find a jar of Skippy peanut butter, the brand she used at home, in our pantry. Stars, I thought, they really are just like us.

Alex Testere, with Saveur from 2015 to 2019, is now an illustrator