Media Interview with Karen Barnes, editor of delicious.
What inspired delicious.' switch to real-time?
The comment readers most often used to make was asking why magazines come out so long before the date on the cover. When I started out in publishing, the on-sale dates weren't as extreme as they are now, but companies nudged the dates gradually further forward, always hoping that one extra day of sale would give them the edge over their competitors, to the point where issues were landing on subscribers’ doormats five weeks before the date on the cover.
As an editor, that is a challenge to deal with, particularly on a food magazine where seasonal eating is so important. The change to real-time publishing was risky but, in my view, important. The reaction has taken me by surprise… An overwhelming number of people have got in touch to say how pleased they are about the change, that it's about time – and that they'd like other magazines to follow suit. So now we can write about strawberries in June, asparagus in May and talk about the last days of glorious summer eating in September… It all makes a lot more sense.
Can you tell us a bit about the new look?
The magazine has been redesigned from top to bottom, with stronger typefaces and a livelier look to the pages. We've created a clear midweek cooking section with a promise that chimes even more with what our readers need when they get home from work at the end of a busy day: no more than 10g saturated fat per portion, no more than 30 minutes of hands-on cooking time and no more than 10 ingredients per recipe. There are more health-conscious meals, more vegetarian recipes (by popular demand, as people try to cut down on meat), a roast of the month and a menu of the month. There's also a strong new section called 'Be A Better Cook', which is packed with expert tips, tricks and step-by-step techniques to help people become more confident in the kitchen. But we haven't lost any of the big, indulgent, beautiful food photographs for which delicious. is renowned.
Any other big changes planned for 2014?
The magazine will continue to evolve – particularly as readers give their feedback. I believe a magazine thrives or fails by how it responds to the people who read it. If people make great suggestions, I include them. If several people dislike something, I take it out. Apart from that, there are plenty of good things in the pipeline… but it’s premature to say what they are now.
Can you describe a typical delicious. reader? And how many are there?
Food is a uniting thing, so it appeals to keen cooks of all ages, across the board. Whatever your walk of life, most people who love to cook need quick meal ideas during the week. Then, at weekends, when they have a bit more time, they like to try more complex, challenging recipes. My aim is to make delicious. satisfy all those needs, as well as showing readers how to hone their skills and understand more about seasonality, food issues and the science of cooking… With a good sprinkling of indulgence and entertainment thrown in. Our readers vary from students, to single people in high-flying city jobs, to people cooking for a big family, to professional couples with plenty of disposable income to spend on food, to retired people. If I don’t provide recipes, advice and articles that appeal to each of those readers, I haven’t done my job properly.
What do you enjoy most about your job?
I still have to pinch myself that I have what I consider to be one of the best jobs in the world. I love everything to do with food, the food world and cooking, and when I started editing delicious. four years ago it felt like coming home. That’s how much I enjoy it. I have a fantastic, talented team, too, which makes it all the better.
How’s delicious.’s relationship with PRs? Any advice on how they get in your good books?
We have strong relationships with PRs, across the board. My only advice would be: don’t pester me with follow-up emails and phone calls, and never ask me to tweet about a product. If I rate something, I will write about it or tweet about it unprompted. If I’m asked to tweet, I almost certainly won’t!
Who’s the best cook on the delicious. staff?
How can I possibly answer that question?! It’s certainly not me! We have three people on our food team who are all outstanding cooks – but our deputy chief sub-editor, Hugh, is excellent, too (he’s a former chef). He and I came head to head in our office bake-off and it brought out his competitive streak – I think he baked five cakes to make sure he had the very best one to bring into the office. Needless to say, I didn’t win…
Do you accept freelance contributions? What’s the best way for freelancers to approach you?
We do commission freelancers but I rarely take on unsolicited commissions. I am overrun with people pitching ideas and, sadly, there isn’t time to consider them all, among the other 300 emails I receive per day.
You’ve got plenty of celebrity contributors to the magazine, from everybody’s favourite baker Paul Hollywood to top chefs like Jason Atherton. If you could add one more who would it be and why?
I’m going to look to the past to answer and say Jane Grigson. I love her food writing – her books are an ongoing inspiration. And if not her, the Galloping Gourmet, Graham Kerr. I used to love watching his show when I was growing up. I think that, as well as my mum’s ahead-of-her-time cooking, inspired me most to get into the kitchen myself.
And finally, any tips for 2014 food trends?
Kale, sprouts, Brazilian food, Vietnamese food, fermented food, pickles and preserves, cheese-making, sausage-making…And apparently teff is the new super-grain we’re all going to be eating.