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Maryland author, James Beard winner Toni Tipton-Martin named top editor of national cooking magazine

Baltimore resident Toni Tipton-Martin is accustomed to opening doors for others while breaking down barriers. Recently named editor of Cook’s Country, one of the nation’s premiere food and recipe development magazines, she is one of the first Black women to lead such a publication.

She won her first James Beard Award in 2016 for “The Jemima Code: Two Centuries of African American Cookbooks” and a second one this year for “Jubilee: Recipes From Two Centuries of African American Cookbooks.”

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“I think I was uniquely qualified for the job because I have been a bridge builder in multiple ways,” Tipton-Martin said.

Two-time James Beard Award winner Toni Tipton-Martin poses for a portrait in her Baltimore home.
Two-time James Beard Award winner Toni Tipton-Martin poses for a portrait in her Baltimore home. (Ulysses Muñoz/The Baltimore Sun)

She also said she benefits from having lived through the home economics age of food writing, along with contemporary digital coverage.

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“I have that dexterity. I guess you call that institutional knowledgeable,” she said.

Her selection as editor comes as the nation has turned its attention to home cooking again and as the food industry has become focused on making sure diversity, equity and inclusion are considered when determining who is sharing food trends.

According to Hunter, a national food and beverage marketing communications firm, 56% of American consumers say they are cooking more and 46% say they are baking more during the coronavirus pandemic than before.

Tipton-Martin, 61, said she plans to approach this job — she’s expected to begin Nov. 2 — the same way she has carried herself throughout her career as a journalist — “by being measured and always striving for balance.”

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A representative of Cook’s Country and its public television show, which are part of the America’s Test Kitchen franchise, said the company hopes to appeal to cooks from various backgrounds.

“Representation matters. The audience wants to see themselves in the people creating content,” said Jack Bishop, chief creative officer at America’s Test Kitchen. “We want to accurately reflect America. Everyone has access to public television. We’re making sure we do a better job there.”

Tipton-Martin is an “incredibly accomplished, talented, passionate, journalist, scholar, cook and leader,” Bishop said.

“Obviously, she is a great recipe developer and cook. And she has worked across various platforms. She is going to be such a great fit in leading the Cook Country brand,” he said. “I have known her by her reputation, by her writing. ... She’s very much a storyteller and journalist.”

Two of James Beard Award winner Toni Tipton-Martin's books sit on her fireplace: "The Jemima Code" and "Jubilee."
Two of James Beard Award winner Toni Tipton-Martin's books sit on her fireplace: "The Jemima Code" and "Jubilee." (Ulysses Muñoz/The Baltimore Sun)

The magazine, with nearly 275,000 subscribers, and its television show, with a weekly audience of close to 2 million people, hired Tipton-Martin after its former editor, Tucker Shaw, left to write a novel.

In February, Tipton-Martin visited the company’s Boston office as part of the promotional tour for her 2020 book. By July, she started talking with the publication about the job, according to Bishop.

Tipton-Martin’s appointment aligns with one of the company’s announced goals of increasing employees of color by 50 percent by the end of 2021. Currently their staff is 17% people of color, according to Bishop.

“We have been slower in making progress for diversity by race,” Bishop said. “Rather than saying we are going to be better, it is important to show how you are going to be better. The name of the company is America’s Test Kitchen. We should reflect that. The fact that Toni has lived all over the country is a great asset. Our audience is all across the country.”

Tipton-Martin said she hopes to inspire others.

“I hope that my appointment encourages future writers to persevere through the challenges inherent in a system that has historically not embraced us. And that they recognize that focus [and] hard work pays off eventually,” she said.

In the meantime, Tipton-Martin, who recently was awarded Book of the Year by the International Association of Culinary Professionals, said she will continue to work on a memoir that will be published in 2021 by the University of Texas Press.

She also has signed a two-book deal with Clarkson Potter publishing. The first is “Juke Joints, Jazz Clubs and Juice: Cocktails from Two Centuries of African American Mixology.” The second is about baking. She said she also is researching the lives of Black domestics in Baltimore, a topic she became interested in as she rehabs her home in Charles Village.

This article is part of our Newsmaker series that profiles notable people in the Baltimore region who are having an impact in our diverse communities. If you’d like to suggest someone who should be profiled, please send their name and a short description of what they are doing to make a difference to: Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion Editor, Sundra Hominik at shominik@baltsun.com.

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