He got his start reviewing Durham restaurants. Now he leads 2 of the country’s top food magazines

Chapel Hill native and UNC graduate Hunter Lewis is continuing his rise in the culinary journalism world.

Lewis, who got his start in journalism at The Herald-Sun, was named editor-in-chief of Food & Wine magazine Friday as Time Inc. announced it is moving Food & Wine from New York City to Birmingham, Ala.

Lewis already has been editor-in-chief of Birmingham-based Cooking Light since 2014 and has helped it earn four James Beard Awards, along with other accolades and journalism awards. He is credited with putting former first lady Michelle Obama on the cover in 2015, the first time a person has been on the cover instead of food.

Lewis will replace Food & Wine editor Nilou Motamed, who joined the magazine in 2016 and is leaving the company, according to a Time Inc. news release.

Last year, the Time Inc. Food Studios opened in Birmingham with 28 test kitchens, 13 photo and video studios, a tasting room for demonstrations and a showcase kitchen. Lewis and Time Inc. Food Digital Director Stacey Rivera said the studio will help Food & Wine grow its audience through recipes, photographs and video, according to a news release. The new Well Done how-to videos, produced in the studio, have generated 265 million views, Time Inc. reports.

Food & Wine, with its restaurant and chef focus, is known for its Best New Chefs and Restaurants of the Year issues along with the Food & Wine Classic in Aspen, Colo.

Lewis told The New York Times that the move will help “give Food & Wine a more national flavor.” He clarified on Twitter that key digital, print and test kitchen opportunities will be maintained in New York.

“As a passionate cook and journalist, I’m thrilled to lead Food & Wine during such a dynamic time, when sophisticated food and drink consumers are everywhere now,” Lewis said in a news release.

Lewis graduated from UNC in 2000 with a journalism degree and worked at The Herald-Sun as a crime reporter, eventually putting his passion for food to work as the newspaper’s restaurant critic.

He also worked at La Residence in Chapel Hill.

He moved to New York to work for Chef Jonathan Waxman’s restaurant Barbuto. He has been Food Editor of Bon Appétit and Kitchen Director of Saveur. He also has worked on cookbooks, including “The Lee Bros. Southern Cookbook” by Matt and Ted Lee and Waxman’s “A Great American Cook.”

Jessica Banov: 919-829-4831, @JessicaBanov