Today we honor the legacy of a pioneer and one of our foremost sources of inspiration. Jaya and I discovered Lucky Peach in 2013, when we independently picked up copies of the Apocalypse issue and immediately fell in love. I have always been a sucker for food magazines and literature but prior to LP most of the periodicals followed a similar formula. There were recipes and some travel pieces or restaurant recommendations but nothing beyond the ordinary. In that way, Lucky Peach was a revelation. It was breaking the mold, not just through it’s use of illustrations and comics, but through the outrageous and playful nature of it’s content. The Apocalypse! I couldn’t believe it! They were able to generate an entire issue with articles about our impending doom and how to cope/eat after and every piece was amazing. It felt unreal — with each page turn I became more and more excited by the existence of this publication that truly was a piece of art.
The one that started it all
We excitedly discussed the issue and pointed out our favorite articles and pieces. I made the Pecan Pralinella recipe religiously for at least 6 months straight, and we both anxiously awaited the next issue. From then on, Lucky Peach was a staple on my bookshelf and I quickly learned that many of my fellow chefs and friends were also hooked. Upon it’s release, I was delighted to find Issue 7 focused on travel in a way that felt unique and honest. The articles were written by people we could relate to, who went on trips we’d actually be able to take someday. There were no yacht cruises down the Seine or tours of Michelin star restaurants in Spain. Everything about Lucky Peach felt real and approachable. Sure, some of the recipes were insane (rebuilding a chicken out of pork and meat glue) but overall the magazine felt like it had been made by a bunch of our friends. We loved Lucky Peach and everyone involved with it.
A year later, in the Spring of 2014, Compound Butter was born. Jaya and I had been searching for a project to work on together for a while but struggled to find a common ground. I was a chef living and working in San Francisco and she was studying Illustration in Los Angeles. We wondered how we could combine food and art in a way that was original but could be maintained and dynamic. It took us longer than it should have to realize we should make a magazine, but when that flip switched it felt so obvious. Here we were, fawning over this masterful amalgamation of food and art and writing, struggle to find inspiration when it was right in front of us. We felt we could answer the only real critique we’d ever had of Lucky Peach — it was a boy’s club. Run by and mainly written for by men, we realized we had an opportunity to launch a female driven response. It’s important to note that eventually Lucky Peach expanded its writers pool and staff to include more women, and that we never took the lack of female involvement as intentional or discriminatory. It was a symptom of a greater issue that also in part inspired us to create Compound Butter. Lucky Peach was always a positive force in our lives and that continued even with CB’s formation.
When Lucky Peach moved into the world of cookbooks, we were further delighted. I attended a launch party for The Wurst of Lucky Peach, which involved a showing of “Best in Show” and deep fried hot dogs. I added it to my dedicated Lucky Peach shelf, along with my copy of Momofuku and Lucky Peach’s 101 Easy Asian Recipes. It was so exciting to see LP still chugging along, producing great issues and employing illustrators and photographers we knew personally (and being kind to freelancers!!). With every hurdle we faced as CB, we could look to Lucky Peach and feel that it would be alright. They were still doing it, and doing it well. Like a beacon through the uncertain darkness that is the world of print, Lucky Peach showed us the way, calling us forward.
To say that we were shocked by the sudden announcement of Lucky Peach’s end would be understating to the max. I don’t want to say I cried, but I must admit I teared up a bit reading Peter Meehan’s gentle let down. It was like reading that our hero was on life support, and they would be pulling the plug soon. We would have time to prepare ourselves, but can you ever truly be ready for a loss like that? Even now, thumbing through their latest, and second to last installment, The Chicken Issue, it doesn’t feel real. We wondered if someday we too would succumb to an untimely demise, hidden completely from our readers, falling victim to the internal doubt and conflict that can arise in even the happiest and most successful of relationships. It is undoubtedly painful, to know that soon Lucky Peach will cease to exist and there will be again, a void in the print world. We respect their decision, especially since it comes at a time when the integrity of their product is still intact. However, it will always break our hearts to have known and lost Lucky Peach.
You were the first and we will never forget you. You inspired and empowered chefs, writers, artists, etc. and for that we will never be able to repay you. You will be missed.