Kitchen Too Hot for Gourmet

Buh, buh, Gourmet! Au revoir, old friend. Now: Who killed you? Was it the Interwebs? Or was it something (someone) more nefarious? According to The New York Times, the culprit was none other than Rachel Ray, that perky cookbot out to destroy the world.

Of course, they would say that. Condé Nast's 68-year oldrevue des chefs represented all that is fine about fine dining, sophistication, and urbane pleasures referenced a time where tastemakers voiced opinion from lofty heights to the peasants below. Wake up and smell the garlic! The plate's being wiped clean on that model.

Gourmet's departure marks a major shift in consumer perceptions of cooking.

The democratization of being a "foodie" is reaching further down, well, the food chain. The concept of a "basic" kitchen now ideally includes commercial level stoves and wine refrigerators. Even apartment dwellers who cannot boil water are expected to want deluxe granite counter tops, or at the very least, an unused kitchen that takes up a significant square footage footprint.

No doubt, everything from kitchens to cooking is hot right now. Store brands are thriving during the recession in part because generic label food brands are starting to innovate. No longer is the average consumer willing to consume average fare. Their tastes are being shaped by peers faster than you can change a tablecloth.

Three powerful technology trends make this possible.

The first technological trend is the masses' deep-fried addiction to blogging and micro-sharing on social sites like Twitter and Facebook. Between reviewing restaurants, sharing recipes, and debating food merit amongst their circle of friends, the average occasional-chef can wield enormous influence. Wondering what to do with that handful of random ingredients in your fridge? Send a tweet or status update and generate ideas on the fly. The results are effortless and immediate.

The second trend, the explosion of specialty food- and recipe-related websites, presents an unlimited supply of recipe ideas and hyper-specialized experts. Moreover, there is increased ability to interact with and connect with those who share the same outlook on food values (veganism) or specific health issues (gluten-free).

Finally, the third trend of mobile devices and extended apps are impossible to calculate. Apps are released daily to do everything from assist with menu plans, set reservations, or fetch nutritional values. Seasonality, nationality, or geographic proximity - no problem! Mobile devices and apps make it possible anywhere, at any time.

In short, the access to food information presented to the average person is boiling over. Why look to a singular voice such as Gourmet when you can literally access experts of your own choosing and the recipes to go along? Why not get in the kitchen when the kitchen, is in fact, hot?

So long, Gourmet. Hello, Rachael and Joe/Jane Everyone at the edge of my keyboard or touch of my iPhone.

Katie McCaskey is co-owner of George Bowers Grocery, a specialty grocery featuring "staple goods and fancy groceries" in Staunton, Virginia. The storefront is in the bottom of, and partially supported by, foodie residents in a four-unit rental apartment building.
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