Every era has its hero. Dana Cowin was editor-in-chief of Food & Wine, one of the last bastions of swoon-worthy food magazine heavies, for 21 years. Over those two decades, Cowin and her team were gastronomy mile markers. They thoughtfully crafted the words and images that defined those legendary pages, inspiring a generation of curious eaters.
It’s no surprise that the woman who revolutionized how people read and learn about food and wine is busier than ever.
A Day in the Life
Cowin gets more done in a day than most people cross off in a week, and that’s just how she likes it. She is the chief brand advisor for Dig Food Group, host of the podcast Speaking Broadly, and a coach for others in the industry.
“I will sometimes begin the morning with a coaching client,” says Cowin, who consults with industry professionals eager to figure out how to make meaningful changes, just as she has in her own life. “For me, it was so hard to have the perfect job for so long and such a pain point, because I couldn’t leave until I could visualize what was next and take that leap.”
Cowin relishes devoting time to Dig Food Group, which just opened 232 Bleecker with Chef Suzanne Cupps, the chef of the celebrated Untitled. New Dig projects include openings in Philadelphia and more to come.
“Then, potentially there is lunch and putting in some time working at The Wing, where I pop in, open my laptop, and get a few emails done,” says Cowin, who supports nonprofits like the Food and Finance High School, New York City’s only culinary public high school.
In Cowin’s world, a big chunk of every perfect day would be reaching out to someone for her Speaking Broadly podcast, which airs each Wednesday for listeners on Heritage Radio Network, iTunes, and Stitcher. This spring, Cowin will also launch her own zine of the same name.
“This is one of the most exciting creative projects I’ve ever worked on, filled with people and meetings, and weekends with a week’s worth of email to catch up,” says Cowin. “I’ve been busy going out to new restaurants to see what people are eating and thinking about, so food adventures are always high on my list.”
When Cowin took over running Food & Wine in 1994, she and her team changed the magazine in a way that no one else had done before. It gave readers a different way to look at the world through the lens of food, rather than houses or fashion. Her zine aims to be of this particular moment, when food writing has become very personal.
“I like to help other people shout out broadly, pay it forward to pay it forward, and it goes to the heart of what people consider in their daily lives,” says Cowin.
Branding in the Digital Age: Staying a Step Ahead
The recent H.O.S.T. Summit + Social was founded by industry powerhouse producer Shari Bayer, the brains behind Bayer Public Relations. (The H.O.S.T. acronym stands for hospitality, operations, services, and technology.) Bayer brought her popular All in the Industry podcast to life in the inaugural event last month, when Cowin moderated a panel called “Branding in the Digital Age.”
Since leaving Food & Wine, Cowin has worked with several companies on branding projects, so she understands how the myriad digital tools available today can feel complicated and noisy to chefs and restaurateurs.
“So many chefs I know have become disenchanted with PR, believing they can do that part on their own and develop relationships one-on-one with journalists to pitch their story,” she says. “Plus, they often don’t have the budget for PR. Some of that is pragmatic and some is confidence, owning your own channels.”
To win the digital marketing race, Cowin favors the long game. But that requires vision and dedication.
“Authenticity is the starting point to any brand, because these days everyone can sniff out the inauthentic,” says Cowin. “There is so much in the world that is the same. To me, the difference between authentic and inauthentic is the difference between original personalities, not cobbled together through an algorithm.” [Read more…]