Fears were spreading faster than the finest beurre noisette this morning that Age foodie insert Epicure could be axed at the behest of Sydney-based Fairfax cost-cutters.

“Synergies” are believed to be driving the push from national food and wine tsar Lisa Hudson to share content wherever possible, which could mean a reduction of parochial pages in the Tuesday insert and a new name shared with its Sydney counterpart “Good Living”.

The relaunch, which one Sydney-based Fairfax insider described as “very secretive”, is expected to occur in the “next few months” and is currently being finalised. Fairfax declined to comment to Crikey.

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One title bandied about this morning was “Good Food”, which would dovetail nicely with Fairfax’s existing “Good Food Guide” brand. However, there may be problems with that considering that the BBC already publishes a magazine under that masthead through ACP. Another suggestion was, simply, “Food”.

Crikey understands that a Tuesday Age insert would persist under the new arrangements with some stories sourced from north of the Murray. That could mean the Espresso gossip column and specific restaurant reviews would remain, but more general pages on “food culture” and recipes would be reheated. Hard-working Epicure editor Jane Willson would be retained.

Some foodie identities have expressed grave concerns that Epicure’s hard hitting investigations into topics such as hormone-injected beef and the unearthing of Victoria-centric brands such as cheesemakers Holy Goat, would be weakened if the insert was effectively nationalised.

“Epicure is the foundation document to the Victorian food and wine community,” the source said.

“The loss of a Melbourne-based Epicure to Victorian readers, producers and their advertisers will be catastrophic and force Victorian Fairfax subscribers to swallow Sydney food views. I’m not sure Victorians will go that far for Fairfax. Victorians trust Epicure.”

The move would jell with Fairfax editorial director Garry Linnell’s plans to cut out double-ups in content, sometimes witnessed on Canberra politics yarns covered simultaneously by Michelle Grattan and Phil Coorey, as recently detailed by Media Watch.

The arrangements would represent a second wave of consolidation after Epicure scribes increasingly appearing in Sydney and vice versa a year ago, with Jill Dupleix alternating with Caroline Velik and the Sydney-based Jeremy and Jane Strode. This week, both Good Living and Epicure ran a piece by Sydney Morning Herald Good Food Guide co-editor Terry Durack on the world’s best restaurants. A survey of last week’s Epicure shows that of the 20 pages, 11 were Victoria-centric, six were non-geographic and three were ads or classifieds.

Fairfax food writers in both cities remain proud of their product, and say they plate up tastier insights compared to their News counterparts, who they claim service “the zappers” — a pejorative term for Australia’s microwave users.

Meanwhile, several senior Age scribes, including one prominent long-form political commentator, are said to be seriously eyeing the millions in redundancy largesse on offer as CEO Greg Hywood moves to implement his 70-strong editorial sacking drive at the paper’s Media House HQ.

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Peter Fray
Peter Fray
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