Mark Bittman ends NYT ‘Minimalist’ column after 13 years; heads to opinion section, magazine

Michael Calderone
The Cutline
Mark Bittman ends food column
Mark Bittman ends food column

Mark Bittman has long considered himself an advocate for eating well. For more than 13 years, Bittman says, he's expressed his views "largely through recipes" in the weekly New York Times column "The Minimalist."

But that will soon change. Bittman is retiring "The Minimalist" column this Wednesday and heading to the Times opinion section starting Feb. 6.

Bittman told The Cutline that his weekly opinion column will tackle food policy, environmentally sustainable eating, and issues at the intersection of diet and health. The column will run online Wednesday and occasionally in print. He'll also launch an opinion blog.

Bittman, a self-taught cook who's best known for the contemporary classic cookbook "How to Cook Everything," addressed issues of "conscious eating" and the environmental hazards of the typical American diet in his 2008 book, "Food Matters." Bittman said that getting the chance to directly and regularly express his opinions on food for the Times is "irresistible."

But he won't be writing only for the opinion section. In March, Bittman begins a column called "On Food" for the soon-to-be-revamped New York Times Magazine.

Bittman said the magazine gig allows him "the opportunity to spread out a little bit." Clearly, he'll still be writing "on food." More specifically, the two-page column is expected to include  newsmaker profiles, travel writing and recipes.

Bittman, who's been writing for the Times since 1990, worked out the two assignments with Times editorial page editor Andy Rosenthal and newish magazine editor Hugo Lindgren. He pitched Rosenthal on the idea that the Times needed an opinion column focused on food -- an issue that affects everyone.  Bittman said he also had a "very quick and easy meeting of the minds" with Lindgren to hash out the magazine column idea.

But first he has to wrap up "The Minimalist" column, which he's been writing since September 1997. "I love 'The Minimalist,' and it's been part of my heart and soul for a long time," Bittman said.  "There are other things I want to do. I just think this is an opportunity I couldn't forgo."

Still, Bittman won't be losing "The Minimalist" moniker altogether. He's making Web videos for past "Minimalist" recipes for the Times' website and will have a Cooking Channel show of the same name in March. Bittman is familiar with television, having cooked and discussed food on numerous shows, including "Today."

Regardless of the medium -- or the section of the Times -- in which he appears, Bittman insists that his general message about eating well remains the same.

"It's not a change that's going to betray anything I've done in 'The Minimalist,'" he said. "It's not like I'm going to write about molecular gastronomy every week and use nitrous oxide. It may be more of a change of scenery."