Published by literary hero Dave Eggers’ stalwart house of independent thinking McSweeney’s, Lucky Peach is the inspired quarterly journal of food and cooking created by David Chang, acclaimed ex-New York Times mag food writer and $25 and under reviewer Peter Meehan and Zero Point Zero Productions, the Emmy-Award winning producers of Anthony Bourdain show, “No Reservations”. The third, Chefs & Cooks issue is out now and features Mario Batali, the Joe Beef guys from Montreal, recipes from Wolfgang Puck and Christina Tosi and all the brilliant, witty, well written irreverence that makes Lucky Peach so good. There’s even a nod to the UK in a chef rant round table with Chang, Sat Bains of Sat Bains and Claude Bosi of Hibiscus. Alongside co-writing the Momofuku book, Meehan also co-authored the particularly fine Frankies Spuntino tome that I highly recommend. Sunday sauce and white pepper will never be the same again.
Terence Teh: How did you hook up with McSweeney’s?
Peter Meehan: We met Chris Ying, who’s now the co-publisher at McSweeney’s, when he was working on the San Francisco Panorama, this gigantic one-off newspaper. We did a double page spread recipe of how to make chicken noodle soup that had all these things you could add to it to turn it into a proper bowl of ramen, and we just loved working with him. We spent five days of our book tour in a drunken haze and basically forced Chris to hang out with us the entire time, and since then I think we all wanted to work together again.
TT: Can you tell us more about the art elements?
Peter Meehan: It was really just like, ‘Woah, man, you think we could get Tony Millionaire to draw Harold McGee?’ And then, boom, Mr. Maakies himself is drawing stuff for us. Almost everyone we asked contributed. That was a huge thrill. There was no rhyme or reason to the selection; it was all people that Ying and I know, have worked with or wanted to work with.
TT: Did the Anthony Bourdain and Wylie Dufresne round table discussion go as expected in the first issue?
Peter Meehan: We had no expectations. No preconceived notion of where it would go. So, yes!
TT: What were the main differences in creating and curating the journal next to authoring books and columns?
Peter Meehan: I didn’t have to write everything, which was cool. I’ve never turned anything in on time in my entire life and I got a nice view of what that’s like on the other side while putting this together – which is not to say our writers were late, but that we were assigning things with very tight turnarounds, and, for me, it shed some light on what a pain in the ass I am to work with. And there was just a rush of excitement when the writers and artists who contributed submitted their pieces that’s different from the strung-out feeling of relief of turning in something that you’ve written yourself.
TT: Personally, what is your favourite article in the first issue?
Peter Meehan: I love them all like my own. I felt like it was a real coup to get the rights to publish the Jun’ichirō Tanizaki piece that we’ve got in there – my favorite piece of fiction about food. And I think it ties into a bunch of the subthemes of the issue, even though it was written nearly a century ago.
by Terence Teh