Legendary editor Maria Guarnaschelli, the editor behind a number of influential cookbooks, nonfiction titles, and works of literature, died on Saturday, February 6, at Northwell Health Stern Family Center for Rehabilitation in Manhasset, N.Y., from complications of heart disease, according to her daughter, chef and Food Network television personality Alex Guarnaschelli. She was 79 years old.
Among the many cookbooks Guarnaschelli edited during her four-decade publishing career, she is perhaps best known for the 1997 revision of The Joy of Cooking. She worked with a number of culinary writers, including J. Kenji López-Alt (The Food Lab), Judy Rodgers (The Zuni Café Cookbook), Rose Levy Beranbaum (The Cake Bible), and Maricel Presilla (Gran Cocina Latina).
In addition to food, Guarnaschelli edited nonfiction. Her authors included John Cacioppo (Loneliness), Steven Pinker (The Language Instinct), and Deborah Tannen (You Just Don’t Understand). Her eclectic taste extended to literature and Booker Prize-winning Irish novelist Anne Enright (The Forgotten Waltz) and Zimbabwean author Novuyo Rosa Tshuma (House of Stone), among others.
In 2017, Guarnaschelli retired as v-p and senior editor at W.W. Norton. Before coming to Norton in 2000, she served as v-p and senior editor at Scribner Books. She also worked at other houses, including 17 years at William Morrow, and served as a consulting editor for Saveur for decades. Guarnaschelli was the editor for numerous award-winning titles. According to Norton, while working at the publisher her authors won 13 James Beard Foundation Awards and at least 13 International Association of Culinary Professional Awards.
In reflecting on her death in a note to staff, Norton chairman and president Julia Reidhead described Guarnaschelli as "brilliant; exuberant; a stunning reader; laser-like in spotting quality or falsity."
In addition to her daughter, Guarnaschelli is survived by her granddaughter, Ava Clark; her brothers, George DiBenedetto of Vero Beach, Fla., and Stephen DiBenedetto of Austin, Tex.; and her sister Lucia DiBenedetto of Portland, Me..