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Behind the scenes: Jarry magazine

Posted by Stine Fantoft Berg on Wednesday, October 28 2015

Alex Kristofcak on Jarry – a magazine exploring the intersections of food and gay culture

There’s a new food title on the block. Jarry, which according to its makers is slang for “a man who loves men and food”, is dedicated to exploring the connection between food and gay culture.

The New York-based title started as an experiment to see what a food magazine targeted at gay men could look like, and with the first issue just out I caught up with publishing director Alex Kristofcak to find out more about the magazine and its niche subject matter.

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Could you start by telling me about how Jarry magazine started?
Exactly a year ago now, our editorial director Lukas Volger came to me with the idea of starting a magazine about food from a male gay perspective. Having the conversation with him I immediately felt like it was something I would be passionate about, and something that’s definitely missing out there. There are a lot of gay men working in the industry, but for most food magazines, the presumed audience is women. We wanted to see what a food magazine could look like if the presumed audience were gay men.

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Did any of you have any prior experience with magazine publishing?
Not specifically. Lukas had some experience from book publishing, and Steve Viksjo who’s our creative director had some experience with print from running his own business. Personally I just love food!

My background is in finance and venture capital so it made sense that I’m responsible for the more administrative tasks of the magazine. Right now I’m knee deep in dealing with distributors and negotiating contracts, and it’s made me realise how lousy that part of the magazine publishing business is. I’m learning a lot about how businesses are run – a lot more than in my job.

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Making Jarry has been the perfect way to make friends in a field I’m not professionally involved with, but which I have a lot of respect and admiration for. We didn’t get into this with the vision of creating a massively profitable business, but with a desire to create a community that we thought was missing. From the start, we made a very strong commitment that all our contributors are paid. It’s very important to us, and sadly not the standard in many of the magazines that we consider comparable to Jarry.

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Reading Jarry showed me that there’s a link between gay culture and food culture that I personally didn’t know much about – could you tell me a bit more about that?
Three of the key personalities who were instrumental in bringing about what’s considered modern food culture, were gay men – James Beard, Richard Olney, and Craig Claiborne. A lot of people didn’t know this until John Birdsall kind of synthesised it in his writing. He wrote an essay for the Gender issue of Lucky Peach titled “America, Your Food is So Gay”, and he has also written a piece in this issue of Jarry on the state of queer chefs in America.

In Jarry we explore the different ways in which gay and food culture intersect. Some were quite obvious to us; gays love to entertain, and there are elements of community tied to both. But there were also a lot of unexpected connections; a Greek husband bonding with his mother-in-law through cooking, a portrait series exploring the 1950s idea of domesticity, and an excerpt from a photographer’s collection of gay cookbooks.

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I really like your use of illustration throughout the magazine. The visual language of Jarry is quite playful – what’s the idea behind that?
We wanted the logo and the soft touch coating on the cover to reflect the approachability of the magazine – something you can take into the kitchen with you and that’s warm and friendly. We were envisioning the typeface of the logo to be the kind of handwriting that people use when writing down notes for a recipe.

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I may not be in the core target group for the magazine, but I do find Jarry very compelling – partly, I admit, due to all the handsome men in aprons.
Yeah, we get that a lot. I recently had dinner with my mother-in-law, and she told me that “as a straight woman I’m very happy with the magazine”. I mean, it sort of makes sense, but it’s not something we really expected or had accounted for in any way.

What’s in store for the upcoming issues?
I’m really excited to see where to go from here. Our first issue, “What is Jarry?”, was a way for us to answer that question and to define our universe. For future issues, we’ll have the freedom to have a more focused scope and will probably work more with themes. We have received a lot of great submissions and ideas, and it’s already starting to look like a really strong issue.

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