I discovered Lucky Peach in a specialist magazine shop a few years back and once I'd taken my jaw off the floor having realised how much a magazine imported from the USA cost, I still decided to take a punt and give it a read. I loved their approach to food and food writing. It wasn't some naff collection of lazy PR plugs or recipes jazzed up with the latest trendy ingredient. They'd take an idea, a place, a single food element maybe, then devote the entire issue to it. Seeing what would come back from their network of writers, cooks, chefs, critics, aficionados, must have been a total thrill ride for the editors and a logistical nightmare to manage too, so I can kind of understand why it's existence was so short lived. It was kind of punk. A chaotic and unpredictable publication that threw a flavour bomb into the watery soup of mainstream food publishing.
Thankfully though, the core team of founders are still getting busy dropping food and other f-bombs across the culinary spectrum. Shaking things up and asking questions that make you really re-think the stuff that you're stuffing into your gob.
With Ugly Delicious, the latest in a tremendous line-up of food shows found on Netflix (see also Netflix produced, Chef's Table and the great multi-series PBS doc, The Mind Of A Chef to name just two on there), Lucky Peach co-founder and total food hero, David Chang, take us charging off into a myriad array of food worlds. Criss-crossing the globe, dissecting food making processes and trends, asking questions about race, history and cultural perceptions in ways that are often pretty shocking at times but often very funny and entertaining too. There's some ear-opening stuff being discussed throughout this series. How people associate food with race for one.
Fried Chicken and Black history. How some food cultures are regarded as inferior. White supremacists eating Mexican food. You're not getting this kind of chat in Good Housekeeping.
Broadly, the most shocking take-away (sorry, not sorry) is how much of what's being discussed, isn't shocking. You know that's what many people think about food but it gives you perspectives that you might not have even considered before as well.
This isn't a heavy going, finger wagging series of guilt tripping lectures mind you. It's fun, irreverent and downright daft quite a lot of the time. David Chang is infinitely watchable. His passion, curiosity and unapologetic asking of offside questions are a big part of what drives the personality this series. I came away as curious as ever about food and optimistic about its potential to activate change. I'm just hungry for more.
Ugly Delicious is available now on Netflix