Admit it—you can't pass an issue of Food Network Magazine without incurring a serious craving or two. For that, you can thank Maile Carpenter, the founding editor-in-chief of the mag.
Whether she's at a photo shoot in Barefoot Contessa host Ina Garten's Hamptons kitchen with Taylor Swift or sitting in her NYC office editing stories, there's never a dull moment in Carpenter's day. Hungry to hear what the food editor had to say? Keep reading!
What was your very first job?
Fry station at McDonald's…I was 15 and had no business running a fryer. My arm is still scarred from a burn.
How did you get started in your career?
I started as a newspaper reporter covering North Carolina's film industry at the Wilmington Morning Star and then at the Raleigh News & Observer. I had a column called "Film Clips" and I had to dig up dirt on all the made-for-TV-movie stars who came to town. I have a vague recollection of crawling through bushes trying to overhear Melanie Griffith talking to someone on a set.
Who are some of your career heroes?
Ellen Levine (my current boss/mentor, she's the editorial director at Hearst Magazines); Rick Atkinson (he took me on as an intern at the Washington Post bureau in Berlin in the summer of 1993, he was a longtime reporter, editor and foreign correspondent, an incredible journalist and writer, Pulitzer Prize winner), Bruce Kelley (my former boss at San Francisco Magazine and now editor in chief of Prevention; he taught me about magazine making).
What's a typical workday like for you?
Tough one; it changes every day. I think people are always surprised at how much time I spend actually editing, though… I spend most days planning future stories, reviewing layouts and editing copy (and the occasional awesome day on a shoot at a star's house).
Describe your office décor. What was your inspiration? Did you decorate it yourself?
I inherited the office and all the furniture, but I added some small things: a '70s-era Easy Bake Oven, some vintage cookbooks, an absurdly large teacup full of Tootsie Rolls…
List five things that are on your desk right now: pictures of my older daughter (the younger one is 18 months old and I still haven't gotten around to adding her – sorry, Ellery!); my morning coffee; a cake pan that I keep meaning to bring home; resumes for an open position; a Jonathan Adler pig-shaped butter dish (this performs no function whatsoever).
What do you typically wear to work?
I shop mainly at J. Crew because it is a block from my office and I haven't had time for a legitimate shopping trip in almost a year. My big challenge every day is to make sure I'm not wearing J. Crew from head to toe—today it's just my top half. I also try to make sure I'm not dressed like our creative director. She's very stylish and I realized recently that I might be too heavily influenced by her: I came in wearing exactly what she had on from head to toe. Bottom line: I need help.
What's the best piece of career advice you've ever received?
My first boss, Clint Williams, told me that to be satisfied in life you have to consider three things: your job, your location and your relationships. Get two out of the three right and you'll be fine—but if you're happy about only one of the three, you need to make a change.
Finish the sentence…
Today for lunch I had…Popeye's fried chicken, coleslaw, homemade mac and cheese (Ina Garten's recipe – it costs a million dollars for the Gruyere but it's so good), five-tier Rice Krispies treat wedding cake. (Our managing editor is marrying her longtime girlfriend this week, and we had a Southern-themed lunch in her honor.)
The first website I log onto every day is… New York Times (on my phone)
The beauty product you can always find in my purse is… Aquaphor lip balm
My must-have work gadget is… Nespresso machine (we all share it; it's in the intern room because they deserve more coffee than anyone!)
My usual Starbucks order is… Tall latte
If I need a quick break during work, I usually… meet my sister for lunch at Chipotle (she works next door at HGTV Magazine).
If I wasn't doing this job, I would be… Selling high-end real estate. I'd be terrible at the selling part, but I love looking at fancy apartments.
The best part of my job is… This week we shot Ina Garten and Taylor Swift cooking together at Ina's house in East Hampton for our upcoming July/August special music issue. It doesn't get much better than that.
The magazine's first-ever July/August Music is on newsstands June 24.