R.I.P. Chile Pepper Magazine

I have sad news to report today — another print magazine bites the dust. This time, it’s my beloved Chile Pepper Magazine.

While it’s not yet a 100% done deal, all the death-rattle signs are there:  The CP web site has been all but dismantled. The ZestFest show, once sponsored by Chile Pepper, lives on, but the franchise has been sold to the folks who have been operating the event.  The magazine masthead no longer reflects a midtown office location, but rather someone’s apartment on the Upper West Side. And most egregious of all, they’ve stopped paying their writers.

The whole affair saddens me, on many levels. As a writer and editor, it’s sad to see yet another glossy close its doors. Like Gourmet, Chile Pepper had a devoted, albeit niche, audience who already are expressing dismay about its impending demise.

But on a personal level, Chile Pepper was important to me. It’s where I began writing about spirits and cocktails. I still remember the email from my then-editor, who had just taken over and was making some changes:  “We’re going to start a cocktails column. Can you write that?” And I, who at that time knew next to nothing about booze, gamely responded:  “Sure!” 

I didn’t anticipate what I was getting myself into, not one bit. I learned on the job and asked smart people stupid questions. I developed a quirky writing voice, a roster of new contacts, and a sheaf of crazy-sounding but delicious drinks. And one day, I realized I had more than enough material for a book — and a platform that got a publisher’s attention. (Note to aspiring authors:  get thee a platform, no matter how small!) And that book opened still more doors for me — speaking opportunities, offers to write elsewhere, and credibility to sell a second book. For me, Chile Pepper was more than just a gig, it was a springboard to a new life.

Looking back as I watch that springboard fold, I wonder if I could have pushed harder to prevent its demise. For a magazine with a cocktail column, I often wondered why I never saw ads from liquor companies, which have notoriously deep ad budgets. When Monin rolled out a line of spicy syrups, I suggested to my editor that we could sell the page opposite my column — and heard not a peep after that. I do know that I never saw an ad for Habanero-Orange syrup in any of Chile Pepper’s pages, let alone a Jack Daniel’s spread on the back cover.

Maybe it’s time for those Chinese walls between editorial and advertising to develop a crack or two — or before long, there won’t be much need for a wall at all.

Rest In Peace, Chile Pepper.  It was great fun while it lasted, and I’ll be raising a jalapeno-spiked margarita in your honor.

ADDENDUM (7/9/10):  The powers that be at Chile Pepper replied offline that they are not out of business, and I wanted to pass that along. I really want to believe this, for reasons both fiscal and sentimental, and I’ll be among the first to celebrate if this phoenix rises from the ashes. But given the abundance of substantiated evidence outlined above, a skeptical “wait-and-see” stance is the best I can muster at this time. Stay tuned.

ADDENDUM (1/5/11):  Mark Twain once wrote, “reports of my death have been greatly exaggerated.” And I’m pleased to confirm that Chile Pepper Magazine is alive, kicking, and now officially owned by a new publisher, Mcaby Media, a Houston-TX company which also publishes Pilates Style and H Texas magazine. I’m sure those of you who enjoy reading the magazine will also be happy. Nice to have a happy ending to report. Viva la Chile Pepper!


35 thoughts on “R.I.P. Chile Pepper Magazine

  1. How wonderful that this magazine launched a column that became the material for your book, and what a sad ending.

    How long has Chile Pepper been around? I can’t remember. Seems like it was just hanging on for the last several years.

    Re getting paid, just saw this: http://ht.ly/25rU8

    • Many thanks for that timely link, Dianne!

      CP was launched in 1987, I believe, and has changed hands several times since then. The current publisher is the second one since I came on board.

  2. Thanks, Maggie. I like that — “smart cooperation.”

    Some probably will argue that it’s a slippery slope, but I think with some parameters, it can be a fruitful relationship.

  3. So this explains why my subs have been arriving later and later…now July I haven’t received one at all..such a shame. I really looked forward to my 6 issues a year..it was a great magazine…whoever takes over owes me 3 more issues!

  4. I received the September 2010 issue this past week.

    The editorial, design, advertising and executive staff listings have undergone drastic changes over the past several issues refelcting substantial downsizing.

    The magazine’s website is still non-functional.

    I just received a renewal notice with my current issue. I wanted to verify the ending date of my current subscription. Unfortunately, there is no telephone or email contact information provided either within the magazine itself or on the magazine’s website for subscribers.

    I have been a loyal and continious subscriber since the early days of the magazine in 1987 and have witnessed the magazine change in both style and format with each succesive owner since that time.
    I regret that it does appear the magazine has reached a critical point from which it may not return based upon all of the cited evidence. Nevertheless, I will continue to hope for the best and wish the magaine luck as it struggles with this most recent phase of its existence.

    • There are a couple of phone numbers on the renewal notice I just got.

      Renewal: 1-866-378-2951

      Or a fax address in Texas: 281-261-5999

      Maybe one of them actually reaches somebody who knows what’s going on.

      • I’m afraid people have jumped the gun on Chile Pepper’s demise. Yes, they had some problems the last few months, but they are being sold and will be back. In fact, Chile Pepper is going back to Texas, where it belongs. They are being purchased by a company that has been in publishing for over 30 years. Details of the sale are confidential until complete, but rest assured … Chile Pepper is not dead.

  5. Got the November issue today, December 1st. Still never received the June/July issue. Can’t find anyone to talk to, website still pfft. Not renewing unless I know they will still be in business. I wanted to get a gift subscription for some friends, but wait and see.

  6. Being a (very) long-time subscriber wished to share that I received the December (The Holiday Issue) issue this past week. Happily, I have never experienced the delivery problems as related by some in recent months.

    The magazine appears to be undergong some restructuring as previously noted by others. This restructuring is reflected in personnel changes appearing in the editorial, design, and advertising sections.

    The current December issue is of the same quality as other recent issues and does not give any indication of a magazine in the process of being discontinued as some have suggested.

    It appears that the changes and website issues previously discussed may simply be a reflection of a recent change of ownership coupled with an ongoing restructuring process.

    I look forward to renewing my subscription again at a future date and wish the magazine and the Goodman Media Group the best as they take the reins this unique publication.

  7. Hey there Kendra, I’m glad to hear you’ll be writing for Chile Pepper! They are lucky to have you and your fabulous recipes. Planning any more dishes that include red-hots?

  8. Does anybody know how I could get a hold of a past issue? I am looking for a Jerk Marinade recipe that I had found in the February 1993 issue featuring Scotch Bonnet Peppers called “Special Caribbean Issue”? I had let a buddy barrow the issue for the recipe and it’s been lost for years now. I would love to get that recipe back.

    • Did you get the recipe? I have what I believe to be a complete library and would try to find it if you still need it.

    • If you are still seeking the Jerk Marinade recipe from the February 1993 Special Caribbean issue please contact me and I will provide it to you. As a long-time subscriber, I possess almost all of Chile Pepper magazines past issues. Coincidentally, this particular issue is my favorite and contains a number of great recipes.

      • Alain, I had a recipe for a spicy lentil salad from years ago (early 90s at least), but lost it. It was Moroccan or something. I’d love it if you had it. Thanks.

      • I’m out of town at the moment. When I return I will make an attempt to locate this recipe for you. In the meantime, should you recall any additional details that would be helpful please let me know.

        Kindest regards,


      • Boy, it has been such a long time I don’t recall much about it. It had lentils, onions, garlic, spices…not a lot of help.
        Since you’re being so kind, perhaps you can grab a pozole recipe in passing. It was about the same time as the lentils, with hominy, onions, peppers, etc. I changed it to a vegetarian version, using tofu in place of pork or chicken.
        Thanks very much Alain. Hope you have a good 4th.

      • I also love that jerk marinade recipe and somehow I lost my copy of that issue in my last move. If you could send me the recipe via email I would greatly appreciate it! dorhatter1313@hotmail.com
        Thanx in advance!!!!

      • HI, I am also seeking the recipe for the jerk chicken. Would you have a copy of that issue. Thanks Josh.

  9. This is sad, yes. I liked this magazine but never bought it. It was far too expensive. This will happen more and more as magazines try to get 5, 6, 7, 8, dollars and up for an issue. I frankly, refuse to pay that much whether it’s a good read or not.

    • Even their subscription rate offers no real reprieve. $25.00 for six issues. Sorry to be negative about this. I wish them all the best, I really do. I just can’t afford to come along for the spicy ride. Have fun and best of luck.

  10. Pingback: Chile Pepper Magazine returns! | Spice & Ice, and more…

  11. I also find the subscription rate to be high. Considering I get Bon Apetite (in lieu or Gourmet) for a great tiny rate. I also see their mailing address is Stafford, Texas- very close to my own town of Kingwood, Texas! It’s great to see Chili cooking to be based in the right region! What is the quality of the new incarnation? I also see that a subscription includes a free bottle of hot sauce from Ca-John’s. I’m not really speaking to them since they discontinued their line of wing sauce. CA-JOHN’S ARE YOU LISTENING!?
    I’ll see all of you in Sept at the Houston Hot Sauce Festival located in -where else- Stafford, TX.

  12. It had a lot of great recipes, which I tried to switch over to vegetarian to please my health-conscious girlfriend. Ever have pozole with tofu? I used to make it, but then lost my recipe and can’t remember (the original one, not the tofu version). That Moroccan lentil salad, cold, was also a good spicy one, and I’d love to find it again.

  13. I’m looking at the February 2012 issue that a friend who subscribes gave to me. I’d seen the magazine years ago and have to say, the quality of writing and photos makes it almost unrecognizable to the magazine I saw then. By the way, there IS an ad for Tres Leches Liqueur.

  14. Unfortunately I had a subscription to the “new” Chile Pepper. I was disappointed in the quality all around. Not my old Chile Pepper. But, HOT friends I will see all of you at the Houston Hot Sauce festival!!!

  15. Just ran across this. I too was a Chile Pepper Mag fan for years. I do have the issue with the Jamaican Jerk Recipe but have not made it in years I remember the issue well it has the ocean on the cover if I remember right. Now I have to find my binder of Chile Pepper Magazines

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