Margo True reflects on her decade long career as Sunset Food Editor
Editor’s note: On June 6-7, the last Celebration Weekend will be held at Sunset Magazine’s iconic Cliff May-designed offices in Menlo Park. Last December, the magazine’s owner, Time Inc., announced that it had sold the seven-acre campus of gardens and 1950s ranch-style buildings to Embarcadero Capital Partners, a San Francisco real estate investment and management company. On Tuesday, it was announced that Sunset would relocate to Oakland’s Jack London Square in December. We stopped by to talk to two of the editors key to Celebration Weekend, Garden Editor Kathleen Norris Brenzel and Food Editor Margo True.
Sunset Food Editor Margo True’s father was a diplomat and that resulted in her being exposed to food and entertaining at an early age. “I came to the states when I was 14 — we’d lived all over,” she said. “It was my mother’s responsibility to plan the menus when they entertained, and she relied on Gourmet magazine for the recipes. I got a job there in the 90s completely out of the blue and felt I’d come full circle.”
Athough Margo was an English Lit major at Pomona College, journalism wasn’t her first career choice. She worked as a petrochemical trader and had acting aspirations. After her stint at Gourmet, she worked at Saveur, before heading West nine years ago to take the Food Editor position at Sunset.
“It was an eye-opening experience for me,” she said about the move to Menlo Park, where she lives as well. “I saw all this food growing as part of the landscape. A large part of our test garden is edible.”
That observation was part of the inspiration for one project that she looks back on as one of the most fun. “We formed teams at Sunset with the goal of each having responsibility for a series of seasonal meals where we raised and grew all the ingredients. We made the salt. We made the olive oil. We grew wheat barley and hops and made beer. We decided it would be vegetarian, but we did have eggs from the chickens. We put on four dinners and one tea party and chronicled the adventure in the book, The One-Block Feast.”
Chefs are always a major draw at Celebration Weekend and featured this year are Martin Yan and Chris Cosentino. There will also be an emphasis on camping food.
In her just shy of a decade time at Sunset, Margo has seen an increased emphasis on the visual aspects of a recipe. “It’s not just a matter of tasting good, it has to look good, and in a way that’s realistic,” she said. “We shoot all of our food in natural light and then eat all of the food. The photograph is the final stop of the recipe!”
Photo of Margo True in Sunset test kitchen by Irene Searles