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Lucky Peach Issue 3 Paperback – March 20, 2012
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What does that even mean? Are there celebrity chefs uttering expletives and regaling us with tales of drunken rampage, cynicism, and life itself? It means that this issue isn't for everyone. Yes, there's cussing. There's also plenty of fantastic stories of and interviews with chefs that range from street food vendors in southeast Asia, to head chefs of Michelin rated restaurants, and everyone in between. There's also some interesting food tossed in for good measure.
If you're someone who is interested in cooking as a career, or wish to have a restaurant of your own some day, this issue is for you. Some of the lessons and warnings you may have heard before, but it's always nice to get a good slap in the face every now and again for a reality check. Especially when it's so well written and in giggle inducing anecdotes. Lucky Peach issue 3 explores a lot of the trials and tribulations of making the career choice of being a cook. "Enroll in the Culinary Institute", they said. "Be a cook, it'll be FUN", they said. Like that old trope on joining the military, being a cook isn't without its share of dangers and unintended consequences. Chang et al share their ideas on what this career (and lifestyle, in many cases), means for them and where they think it's headed. For better or worse.
I'm not a professional chef, nor do I have aspirations of ever being one. I don't know the names of all of the hot restaurants and 85% of the famous chef's names dropped within the first 5 pages. Nor do I care to. There's nothing wrong with people that do follow those things, but my interest in Lucky Peach and food writing stems from a desire to be awesome in finding inspiration to do interesting things in the kitchen, that my family has yet to experience. And that causes a little bit of a disconnect for me with this issue. Entering my 30's, I can totally relate to a lot of the experiences and questions raised when one is figuring out just what the endgame is in any career choice; those things are communicated through the lens of the culinary world in this issue, but they could easily apply to any trade, from porn producer to plumber (same thing?).
Again, it's a great read, but I can see this issue not having as broad appeal as the first two. If you liked the first two issues, buy this. Continue supporting fresh writing and a neat quarterly. If this is the first time for you to read Lucky Peach and are more interested in something like recipes, you might want to get your hands on the earlier issues first.
It seems to me that Lucky Peach 3 shows the periodical has now got into its real stride. I was amused by LP 1 [bronze], with all its connotations of the wilder reaches of gonzo journalism, but it [like 2 and 3] introduced a segment from Saint Harold McGee to pay high respect to. I was even more entertained by LP 2 [silver], but I've really been stirred by LP 3 [gold].
I'm a cook, not a chef. I'm a household cook, and have been for 40 years, and never gone near a pass door, or been sworn at. I've been to very few major restaurants like the ones discussed in the latest issue, and have watched only one cooking series on TV [the first Hester Blumenthal set]. Lucky Peach is the only food magazine I've ever subscribed to, and I'll continue to do so.
The key interest in the current issue is the debate raised about educating cooks and chefs. As someone remarks in support of Thomas Keller, who can speak against education? I'm not. What the various contributions to the debate indicate is that professional credentials for cooking schools need a stronger curriculum base than the current enrolees are entitled to expect for their money. My home city, Melbourne, Australia, boasts a cooking school with a high reputation, the William Angliss School, and various fly-by-night food and hospitality training enterprises. Lucky Peach 3, as a resource at curriculum revision sessions for these and like institutions, stands tall.
I particularly liked David Chang's funereal eulogy on "chefism". And the gallery of people who variously exemplify "cookism". As I said, I'm in the latter group: two knives, a steel, three cast-iron cook pots and a vast collection of the best stainless steel pans I know - an Australian brand call Esteele, with a lifetime guarantee. A library of charity shop cookbooks, and the memory of ten meals at Chez Panisse. Lucky Peach adds to this significantly, issue by issue. Alkaline noodles have now taken over [LP 1], chowder will be a more regular visitor to the meal list than before [LP 2] but more than this, it supports foraging and kitchen gardening, two big bases for "cookism", and shows us how to do it better. St. Harold on herbs was just a revelation - my uncut basil smiles at me on Monday night on the ravioli.
Keep it going. Keeps the wacky bits. I don't need recipes unless they're special - but I do need insights from thinking professionals to keep me thinking about how and why I cook.
I will continue to get it though with the hope it gets a little more down to earth.
Some aspects of it are like a 'zine: the roughness, the unpolished parts, the illustrations of hairy balls, the rambling writers, the burry photos.
Other parts are very high end: the paper, the printing, the binding, the editors, the ideas and tone.
So somehow they've brought these 2 extremes together and made something totally unique, selling it for $12.
This is not for everyone. If you love the Food Network magazine, or the Pioneer Woman blog, you might find Lucky Peach totally baffling. And in a year, it may run out of steam. But for this point in time in the commercial food business, Lucky Peach is the perfect magazine at the perfect time, forging its own vernacular, and with no rational endgame in sight.
It's a fun thing to read and be a part of.