WORKED FOR ME. DO YOU HAVE A FAVORITE PIECE IN THIS ISSUE? Oh my God . . . let's see. I'm sure I do. I feel like I'm going to do one of those parent things, where you like everything. I liked Richard Saja's work, who's a good friend of mine, who did the art for the Thomas Bernhard story ("Old Masters," page 157). I love the comic in the back ("The Secret Lives of Chefs," by Lisa Hanawalt, page 169) . . . I have no good answer, I like a lot of this.
THAT'S GOOD, THOUGH! Better than not liking any of it! In making it actually, Chang and Ying and I were in a horrible fight for all of December, because Chang thought it should be for chefs, not about chefs. And I kept trying to convince him that we were going to cover that and he didn't believe me, and then when we got a bunch of the stories together he was like [here he imitates a deep-voiced Chang], "Okay, I'm sorry you guys." Like with that Joe Beef piece, I really thought that if we wanted to talk about the dark side of cooking and make people not want to be cooks, lets try to deglamorize it. Everything about those Joe Beef guys is just horrible truth after horrible truth. They're fun people to hang out and drink with and I knew I could go hang out with them for two days and pull together some good stuff.
WHY DO YOU THINK COOKS AND CHEFS ARE SO FASCINATING TO PEOPLE, GREASE TRAPS AND ALL? I don't really have any good speculation about why there's interest. [pauses for a few moments] Oh man, I'm too far inside the bubble. . . . I mean, if you have the right way to tell a story, anything can be interesting. We have a lot more global stuff in this issue, and I think it's interesting because everybody's people. I think one of the major things this time around was to humanize it a little bit, which is why we had the interviews with cooks who just make food every day and have no desire to be a big-time chef. The appeal of chefs has become so competition-oriented and glossy and packaged and maybe divorced from some of the reality of what it is. So there was a very conscious effort to avoid that and focus on the challenging side of it. Is it interesting? I have no idea. I worry about that. It's really a hard thing.
I ALMOST FEEL LIKE THAT WHOLE TOUGH, "I DON'T GIVE A FUCK, I'M GOING TO COOK WHAT I'M GOING TO COOK" CHEF MENTALITY IS WHAT PEOPLE ARE DRAWN TO NOW, RATHER THAN THE GLOSSY FOOD NETWORK PERSONALITY, NO? PEOPLE WANT THAT EDGE. I think that really all started with Tony [Bourdain]. There is that younger generation of chefs in their early 30s — is that when you start getting noticed? It's just a changing-of-the-guard thing, and it doesn't necessarily mean that it's some big thought movement. Every once in awhile, the guards have to change because they get too old! [laughs] We tried to represent from both generations. Maybe the interest in celebrity-chef culture creates the possibility for an expanded dialogue for what kitchen life is really like, but I also feel like people think we're super macho about shit. It's not that, but I guess it comes across as that, so it is that? I don't know. I'm the least macho person you've ever met.