Today we bid farewell and raise our glasses to Lucky Peach, the beloved gastronomy title founded by veteran writers and foodies Peter Meehan and Chris Ying, along with superstar chef David Chang, in 2011. The irreverent title broke down the traditional boundary between journalist and restaurant (mixing them together to create a surprisingly delicious concoction, like combining honey with sriracha), and it paved the way for a host of new independent mags that would similarly delve into the culinary landscape in creative and witty ways.
A forerunner in the indie food magazine explosion, it’s certainly hard to imagine the world of The Gourmand, Sabor, and Cherry Bombe without Lucky Peach’s tone and approach first.
With 30,000 print subscribers, four cookbooks, and 22 issues to date, as well as several journalism awards and a website that draws 750,000 unique monthly views, Lucky Peach has undoubtedly been a success. It’s also one of the few indie magazines to have its very own gastronomic kitchen in its office complete with a test-kitchen director. Why the title is shutting down has been kept hush, but it does seem clear that alliances amongst the leading staff have soured.
The final chicken themed issue’s cover subtly hints at the magazine’s own narrative. A giant blow-up chicken squeezes into the frame, it’s frenzied eyes, gleeful colours and cartoonish appearance evocative of the tone and look Lucky Peach has become so well known for. It’s filled with air, capable of billowing in the wind, rising up with speed like an indie mag soaring on the wings of success. Read the ballooning chicken in another light, though, and it seems inflated like an ego, ready to burst. This design by art director Rob Engvall (Walter Green left a few issues back) seems rich and tell-tale. Or it could just be a very eye-catching way of marking the beginning and end of an issue.
On the back of the mag, the chicken is scrunched up into a ball, deflated and surrounded by unknown darkness.
This week, Lucky Peach will be packing up and moving out of its office in New York’s China town – I can’t help but imagine all the boxes of archived magazines and test-kitchen gadgets passing by the upside down, shrivelled chickens that hang in the windows of local restaurants.