It's almost frustrating how cool Lucky Peach is. Peter Meehan, one of the three masterminds behind its creation (along with chef David Chang and former McSweeney's publisher Chris Ying), would probably laugh at that, but it's true. The food quarterly, a comic-book-esque ode to those who eat and those who make things deliciously edible, is cool in that understated way that, try as you might, you could never quite mimic in high school. It's unpretentious and silly, smart and introspective, and its third issue — on cooks and chefs — only ups the level of "Why the hell didn't I think of that?"
KNIFE TO MEET YOU Lucky Peach founders David Chang (left) and Peter Meehan (plaid) discuss food, while photographing blades for the newest issue.
There's grease-trap horror stories from the Joe Beef boys; nasty, but compelling. There's a drawing of renowned French Laundry chef Thomas Keller grazing in a green pasture. Adorably witty!
Damn you, Lucky Peach.
Meehan, a computer repairman turned PR hack turned assistant to chef Mark Bittman turned freelance writer, landed his very first food-related byline in the New York Times — which is "totally unfair," he admits, laughing.
I caught up with Meehan on the eve of LP3's release to grill him about his plaid addiction, the world's fascination with chefs, and glorifying the gross stuff.
SO, CONGRATULATIONS! NUMBER THREE! Thank you, yeah. You know, it's funny, when we did the first one, I never thought about having to do more of them.
REALLY? Yeah! That's literally the level of planning that goes into our work. [laughs] We were like, "Yes, alright, we're going to make a magazine," and it was 174 pages, and we were like, shit. We have to do this again! And we can't make our second issue smaller than the first issue! I used to write books, and when you finish those, they're over. There's a tidiness to that situation that appeals to me.
PLUS, YOU CALLED IT A QUARTERLY. CAN'T CALL IT A QUARTERLY AND JUST RELEASE ONE! Exactly! It was written all over the page, but I just didn't accept what the words meant, so to speak.
SO ARE YOU GOING TO ROUND IT OUT AND MAKE IT FOUR AND BE DONE WITH IT? No, no, no, at the moment, we have subscriptions through the seventh issue. It's like a real job!
THERE COULD DEFINITELY BE WORSE JOBS. Yes, I have had many. In fact, I've not had a better job. [laughs]
WHAT WAS YOUR WORST JOB, WRITING OR OTHERWISE? Let's see . . . I'm trying to think back into the recesses of teenage jobs, because those could be very bad. I think it was when I was fixing computers after I moved to New York City. It was mainly because of the guy I worked with. This was before I was into food, and this guy would only eat at fast-food restaurants. I shouldn't have been fixing computers, I was completely unqualified, so I just hung around with him. We would always eat fast food and he would talk to me about Star Wars, and now I know so much about Star Wars, and I put on, like, 30 pounds. I was probably making more money than I am now!