1966 Australia’s first food magazines

Epicurean cover designed by Les Mason

In 1966, both Epicurean and Australian Gourmet food magazines were founded. Epicurean was the first Australian magazine devoted entirely to food and wine. It was the official magazine of the Wine and Food Society of Australia and its contributors included Len Evans, Dan Murphy, Mietta O’Donnell, Tony Bilson and Terry Durack. The art direction by Les Mason was dramatic. Australian Gourmet, now Gourmet Traveller, counted Margaret Fulton among its early contributors.

 Epicurean took itself very seriously. Rather than glamorous pictures of food, it featured stories from well-regarded writers and a visual approach that pushed the boundaries…or, rather, ignored the boundaries….of conventional magazine design. The Financial Review, in a review of a 2010 exhibition of work by designer Les Mason, quoted author Marion Halligan:

Epicurean was “a magazine of ideas”, says regular contributor Marion Halligan. “It didn’t just do beautiful coloured pictures of food, which, I think, almost taunt people – they say, ‘You’ll never make it like this’. It was, essentially, to do with food as something you thought about, that you had ideas about, that you played games with. And its designer, Les Mason, was playing games with his illustrations. In that sense, it was countercultural.”

The editor and publisher of Epicurean, Alan Holdsworth, described it as “a magazine dedicated to the greater enjoyment of wine and food”. Mason continued to design the magazine until 1979. The last edition was in 1996 after some years of erratic publication.

Of the two food magazines, Australian Gourmet is the survivor, albeit in an altered form. Originally a bi-monthly publication, it became a monthly in 1985. In 1988 it morphed into Australian Gourmet with Traveller, incorporating the short-lived Australian edition of Traveller. A year later, it became Australian Gourmet Traveller, the title that continues today.

Australians now enjoy a plethora of food magazines, including free magazines distributed by the leading supermarket chains.

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