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Are you a Foodie or a Fashionista?

Bon Appetit's Adam Rapoport says why not both?

Foodie IllustrationA few years ago, when I worked at GQ, I flew to Milan to write a piece on the English fashion designer Neil Barrett, a remarkably fastidious and disciplined fellow. When I walked into his white-box design headquarters,he was on his knees, pinning a model’s trousers while dictating alteration notes to his assistant. He then popped up and tried on the matching suit jacket. Barrett, who insists on doing nearly everything himself, is his own fit model—lean but muscular.

But then the clock struck one, and busy as he was, he didn’t pause for a quick sandwich at his desk. After all, this was Italy, and here even fashion designers in the throes of pre-show insanity embrace the importance of a proper meal. So Barrett, his boyfriend and company chairman Carlo Barone, and I hopped into a Fiat 500 and zipped to a nearby trattoria. In a brisk forty-five minutes, we enjoyed a caprese salad of tender buffalo mozzarella and blood-red plum tomatoes, a spicy eggplant pasta, vino rosato and macchiatos.

I’m not going to claim that Barrett is some sort of gourmand, nor would he (I repeat, he’s English), but he embraces a philosophy that I champion: A stylish life is about far more than dressing well; it’s about living well.

In late 2010, I became the editor in chief of Bon Appétit, technically leaving the fashion world for the foodie world. Some friends and colleagues scoffed. From the food crowd: “Don’t fashionistas subsist on champagne and cigarettes?” From the fashion crowd: “In six months, you’ll need a whole new wardrobe.” But now I can chide those know-it-all wags. Connecting the dots between the two worlds has been strangely easy, almost effortless.

Foodie quoteOn the job, I began to realize more and more that food and fashion are perfect companions. We shot a dreamy spring lunch with A.P.C. owner Jean Touitou at his stunning seventeenth-century chateau outside of Paris. We jetted, then ferried, then walked on the car-free Greek island of Hydra to a picnic with artist Brice Marden and his chef-restaurateur daughter, Melia. And we got schooled by chatty vodka-connoisseur Michael Kors on his rules for traveling the globe in style: “When in a city like London, New York or Tokyo, always wear black and drink white.” Every day now I observe just how far taste extends beyond food, and how style is about way more than clothes.

I have seen again and again that men of style are exacting in their pleasures. I’ve got to believe that Marcello Mastroianni lunched at only the best trattorias in Rome, and I reckon that the suave George Clooney eats well while summering at Lago di Como. Despite what the cynics might say, food and fashion do go hand in hand. I may be an official food journalist these days, but I spend as much time tweeting about my style qualms (“Nothing ruins a good outfit quicker than a fat, triangular Windsor tie knot.”) as I do tweeting my cooking gripes (“Truffle oil is the Windsor knot of food: It tries to be fancy but ends up ruining an otherwise good dish.”).

As the editor of a food magazine, the question I am asked most frequently is something along the lines of: “So how do you still fit into your skinny jeans?” One snippy answer is that we don’t do a lot of stories in Bon App on all-you-can-eat buffets or supersizing. The less snarky response is that eating well is never about quantity; it is always about quality. Which brings me back to the way I approach fashion—with persistence and determination. I’ll return to a tailor again and again until my suit pants are tailored within an inch of their lives. I take my bench-made wingtips to the cobbler every month to replace the taps and get a proper beeswax polish (not too shiny, please!).

So, yeah, despite almost every unsolicited word of wisdom I’ve absorbed, I find that these two interests of food and fashion actually seem to coexist perfectly, continually aiding and abetting one another. They’re both about vitality. And editing a magazine with the name Bon Appétit I am allowed to promote that French ideal, joie de vivre. The way I see it, the only two things one has to do every day are get dressed and eat. Everything else is pretty much optional. BG