When first you glance at Mouthfeel and prepare to take it all in, you might think: it couldn’t get more niche than this. And in some ways, you might be right. A food magazine dedicated to queer identity and hardcore punk complete with recipes and sexy photos of dudes? Huh. That’s a first. But even if you’re not a pansexual chef who fronts a band called the Putrid Ooze Squad in whatever spare time you’ve got after prepping kohlrabi espuma all day, this magazine will probably be quite attractive to you.
That’s because Mouthfeel looks and feels vastly different from anything else we’ve seen in the world of food writing and food porn lately. “It’s easy to call a hot dog gay, but it’s a little harder to call a bowl of ice cream gay,” the mag’s founder, Mac Malikowski explained. “So if we’re talking about gender, I think you need to go a little deeper when profiling a chef or a baker or a coffee roaster to really get that theme out.”
At first, Mouthfeel was going to be a gay publication, but Mac says he expanded the scope of the magazine. “I decided to put food media through a queer lens, so it went from being just about men to incorporating like trans people and my favorite lesbian chef and my favorite couple bakers,” he said.
The first 36-page issue has the look and layout of a design magazine, but it’s packed with in-depth profiles of two gay New York City-based culinary professionals, Renato Poliafito (owner of Red Hook-based bakery, BAKED) and Chef Ty-Lör Boring (a contestant on Top Chef), a feature on West Berlin gay-borhoods and currywurst establishments, as well as tons of art work and sexy photos.
As for the connection to punk, Mac says he grew up around the stuff in small-town northern Nevada. “I grew up listening to punk and hardcore and came up in the heyday of emo, so I’m still kind of connected to that and I’m straight edge,” he said. “I’ve always thought there was a gay perspective missing from food media and that’s the same way I felt about the hardcore and punk scenes. Growing up, I always felt sort of isolated, I always thought I was the only gay, hardcore kid in my town.”
Mouthfeel, then, is a way for Mac to connect these various facets of his identity and to “connect with people in the punk and hardcore scene through the language of food,” he explained. “Because that’s the great unifier.”
Mac says he surrounds himself with people from the culinary world, so coming up with content for the mag was easy. Plus, he has almost a decade of experience in the industry to draw on– he’s worked back-of-house under Chef Daniel Boulud, front-of-house at Momofuku, and spent five years as a barista at Blue Bottle Coffee.
He’s also engaged with restaurants and industry workers through social media, which is how Mac met Renato, who is profiled in the first issue and admits he personally identifies more with alternative music than punk. “I grew up in the late ’80s and early ’90s, so it was more The Smiths, The Cure, that sort of thing,” Renato said.
Though hesitant to call himself a punk, Renato feels the connection between a punk attitude and the culinary world is an obvious one. “Chefs and people in the food industry tend to be a little bit rebellious, there’s a side that’s a little anarchistic. I think those are the trailblazers in the industry,” he said. “You have people who defy the norm and defy the standard and those are the ones who rise above and become the shining stars of the industry. You know, you rarely see a star chef or a cook or a baker who doesn’t have some form of rebellious and, for lack of a better word, punk side to them.”
Appropriately, Mouthfeel‘s look is a little more DIY and a lot more rebellious than what’s happening aesthetically in food media right now. “A lot of food magazines and publications are very similar now– very pretty pictures of salads and very pretty environment shots, lifestyle shots,” Renato explained. “There’s a trend right now that’s very Kinfolky, which is very of-the-moment. Not that that’s a bad thing, it’s just it’s own thing. It’s beautiful and it’s lovely and there’s room for it, obviously. But Mouthfeel doesn’t try to be that. This is something different, it’s at the opposite end of the spectrum, I would say.”
Mac agreed that, to a certain extent, Mouthfeel is a reaction to the homogeneity of food media. “I love Kinfolk and magazines that emulate Kinfolk-style, but as a whole I think it’s gone to sort of an extreme place,” he said. “I think the natural product of being gay and punk is to be pretty counterculture so when we were developing the design, it was sort of a conscious effort to get away from that Kinfolk style.”
He added: “I think the designers were very happy to not have to use very petite Helvetica font or very washed-out, airy photos.”
Pick up a copy of “Mouthfeel” online or wait until the magazine hits stores in the near future. Stayed tuned for web content, launching May 18.