Taken together, these cooks and their recipes, one from every year of the magazine, document four decades of culinary trends and tastemakers.

Jacques Pepin and Hunter Lewis
Credit: Ken Goodman

What makes a good recipe?The good ones yield a delicious result, of course. The best ones tell a story worth repeating. In the pages that follow, we share the very best recipes that Food & Wine has published in the past 40 years. On their own, recipes like F&W contributor Andrew Zimmern’s Baltimore-Style Crab Cakes from 2012, loosely bound by mayonnaise, egg, and crushed saltines, offer up pure dinner gold. Julia Child’s 1994 recipe for Ham Steaks in Madeira Sauce will make you wonder why you ever stopped serving ham steaks. In 2010, former Test Kitchen Supervisor Marcia Kiesel shared the very best chocolate cake you will ever taste, and Paul Chung, who worked in the F&W mail room in 1995 and sidelined as a Jerk Chicken pit master, will make you an allspice believer.

Taken together, these cooks and their recipes, one from every year of the magazine, document four decades of culinary trends and tastemakers, beginning with a preponderance of Francophilia in the first issues that reflected the widely held notion back then that great cuisine came only from Europe—while “all we ate [in America] was hamburgers,” Ariane Batterberry, founding executive editor, told me.

The origin story begins in 1978. After a seven-year search for investors, the original group of five founders—Robert and Lindy Kenyon, Peter Jones, Batterberry and her husband, Michael—convinced simpatico publisher Hugh Hefner to print the preview issue of The International Review of Food & Wine (the name was shortened in 1981) as a special 18-page insert in the March 1978 issue of Playboy. The first contributors included George Plimpton, James Beard, Gael Greene, and Jacques Pépin, “personal chef to three French Presidents,” who shared a “towering, golden-roofed, steamily fragrant” soufflé.

Food & Wine heralded a new era of dining in America. For its first anniversary in 1979, the magazine invited Alice Waters of Chez Panisse in Berkeley and Paul Prudhomme of Commander’s Palace in New Orleans to cook alongside no-table French and Italian chefs at Tavern on the Green in New York City. “It was a revelation for the American food press,” Ariane said. “There was not yet such a thing as the great American chef. It sounds crazy, but that’s the way it was.” Or as Prudhomme told the Washington Post at the time: “There I was, signing autographs for the kitchen staff. What more can a country boy ask?”

I recently caught up with Pépin at the Food & Wine Classic in Aspen. We talked about the secret to a happy life, which he discovered during his career teaching others how to cook: “Make money out of something you like to do.” After some 70 years in professional kitchens, nearly 40 of them contributing to the pages of Food & Wine, he has long since distanced himself from the French chef label. “I am simply an American cook,” he says, always hungry to learn more.

On behalf of all the great cooks like Pépin—both past and present—who have contributed to F&W, thank you, loyal readers, for giving us a platform to tell these stories and share these recipes for the past 40 years. Cheers to you.