Features
Editor in Chief Toni Tipton-Martin on Her Vision for Cook's Country
You can expect the same delicious recipes—and even more stories about the people behind them.
06-02-2021
Jack Bishop

Toni Tipton-Martin joined the ATK team back in November as editor in chief of Cook’s Country. With Toni’s big news this week—she was named the recipient of the 2021 Julia Child Award—I thought it was a great time to catch up with Toni about her first seven months at ATK and learn more about what’s next for Cook’s Country.

Congratulations on the Julia Child Award. It’s such a remarkable achievement. How did Julia impact your career and your work?

Toni Tipton-Martin: Julia’s impact on my career began in the early 1980s, when I was a budding food writer. At the time, I was reading cookbooks, watching food television, and attending food events to develop my reporting skills. One of those meetings was a gathering of the Dairy Council of California in Santa Barbara. During the session on eating for nutrients, Julia, who was also present, challenged the conversation with a question: "Isn’t anyone going to say that food tastes good?" I was awestruck. Julia’s passion for good food and cooking surprised and inspired me. It would take years for those feelings to bloom into action, but I never forgot her willingness to challenge the establishment—which she did in a gentle, compassionate way. 

Group of people

A photo of the first time Toni met Julia Child, at a gathering of the Dairy Council of California in 1986. (Julia is in the middle of the top row, and Toni is on the far right in the first row.)

How would you describe your personal cooking style?

TTM: My personal cooking style is mixed. I love experimenting with recipes from different cultures, but I was raised by a pescatarian mom. I cook highly seasoned meats on the grill for my family, plus tons of vegetables. I like to create salad bowls that combine warm spices, chewy grains, and lots of seasonal veggies. And I love to bake, both breads and sugary things. I have a voracious sweet tooth and very low willpower when it comes to anything chocolate.

You’ve been working with the Cook’s Country team for seven months. What’s your vision for the magazine going forward?

TTM: At Cook’s Country, our desire is to create a culinary community of confident home cooks. To accomplish this, we offer delicious, reliable recipes that are tested in our test kitchen dozens of times. My vision for the brand relies on the same priorities I have had as a newspaper editor, for my books, and in my nonprofit work: delicious recipes, deep story. At Cook’s Country, I hope to bring as much attention to the people behind the recipes we create. We will build on our reputation for recipe development by adding more solid journalism and storytelling skills. I hope to empower the Cook’s Country team to connect with food through new and engaging sources.

Two issues of Cook's Country have been published under your guidance (April/May 2021 and June/July 2021). Do you have a favorite story or recipe from these issues?

TTM: The On the Road feature is one of my favorite parts of Cook’s Country. I love that we turn the spotlight on a hometown hero while teaching our readers new cooking techniques and focusing on local ingredients. In the June/July 2021 issue, for instance, our executive food editor visited Kansas City, where ribs are king. This story inspired us to include a sidebar about African American barbecue traditions surrounding the Juneteenth holiday. (Editor's note: This sidebar will be published online on June 18.) It also gave us the opportunity to introduce the brick layer who has been responsible for building masonry pits for some of the most famous pit masters in the region.

William Chaney, the man behind the masonry pits for some of Kansas City's best-known pit masters, is featured in the June/July 2021 issue's Cook's Close-Up feature.

Should readers expect any changes to the magazine?

TTM: I believe home cooks have powerful voices. In addition to inspiring us with their kitchen wisdom, their cooking helps us explore culture and our shared humanity. In my new role, I have turned an even brighter spotlight on our country’s great cooks. We are honoring them on the back page of the magazine with a radiant portrait. My hope is that our tributes to these exceptional cooks will welcome readers into the kitchen and encourage more people to cook with just the warmth of their inviting smiles. We are also telling more stories and sharing more cooking tips for delicious and foolproof recipes from every corner of the nation. You could say we are being guided by words I rephrased from Gloria Swanson’s 1950 film Sunset Boulevard: "America, your cooks are ready for their close-up."

You just finished filming “In the Library” segments for season 14 of the Cook’s Country television show. When these episodes premiere, public television viewers will get a chance to see you in your home library. (To learn more about Toni’s library, check out this story.) In the meantime, tell us a little about shooting these segments.

TTM: Shooting the introduction segments for CCTV was exciting and also a little intimidating. But the experience brought my career full circle, and that was such a gift! I once thought I wanted to be a broadcast journalist. Then I quickly realized I was painfully shy in front of the camera. It’s still not my favorite place to be, but our production team is the best ever! We wanted these segments to be informative without being too heavy. At the same time, we knew we were going to talk about some more serious subjects, too. We didn’t want to treat those stories frivolously. I think we struck a terrific balance. After a few takes and words of encouragement, I was able to relax. I looked that scary camera right in the eye. I found my voice.