The food world learned Wednesday that much loved food quarterly Lucky Peach is shutting down after six years. The magazine, launched by David Chang with the help of SF-based McSweeney's back in 2011 (the name of Chang's first restaurant, Momofuku, can be translated as "lucky peach"), served as the clearing house both of in-depth food stories in the wake of the death of another beloved food magazine, Gourmet, and as a new-school chronicle of a booming, heavily televised and Instagrammed, hip food culture. If, as LA Times critic Jonathan Gold has said, food now occupies the primary cultural space that music once did, Lucky Peach was the Rolling Stone of this brief era.
Eater first broke the news, noting that in its short life, the magazine won nine James Beard awards, including Publication of the Year in 2016. With that award, the Beard committee wrote, "A lot of publications allow you to learn about food. Lucky Peach is the James Beard Foundation’s Publication of the Year because it allows you to learn how food this corporeal stuff, made from toil and blood tells us who we are."
Co-founder and editor Peter Meehan wrote this strained announcement on the Lucky Peach website, from the perspective of a parent trying to break tragic news to a child, saying "I think it’s important for you to know that Lucky Peach loves you and REALLY values the time you’ve spent together. Once it gets over its own internal grieving process, maybe it’ll even be able to manage an adult press release."
Meanwhile, Chang told the Washington Post only that he's "remaining on the sidelines," of whatever has been going on, and then he told Eater he was "keeping all options open but couldn’t elaborate further."
That leaves open the possibility that the magazine will be sold, and it appears Chang may own it outright after the mag split from McSweeney's back in 2013.
And as of now the May issue, dubbed the Suburbs Issue, will be the publication's last, and staffers have been told that their jobs are over in May. The website looks like it will stop posting new stories on May 1.
Writing an obit of his own for the magazine in the Chronicle, occasional contributor Jonathan Kauffman writes, "It made space for complex issues of identity, dumb food stunts, exactingly technical recipes, and the hybridization of street food and haute cuisine. Given its West Coast office and its Chang connections, Lucky Peach brought Asian cuisines and Asian-American culinary voices to the fore instead of sidelining them." Also, he says, it had "more street cred than any of its predecessors," and at the moment, there's nothing really out there to fill the void of food mags with street cred, except maybe smaller outfits like The Cleaver Quarterly.
Fare thee well, Lucky Peach. And maybe those back issues are going to be worth something on eBay someday.