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Fool Magazine's Lotta and Per-Anders Jorgensen on the Italy-Focused Fourth Issue

Issue Four of Fool Magazine and its editors Lotta and Per-Anders Jörgensen.
Issue Four of Fool Magazine and its editors Lotta and Per-Anders Jörgensen.
Photos: Fool

Brace for the fourth issue of the award-winning Fool Magazine focusing on all things Italian. Beyond a cover story that involves Massimo Bottura and his Osteria Francescana team paying homage to iconic filmmaker Federico Fellini, this issue is filled with stories about Italy's chefs, cuisine, and diaspora. (Including pieces on Christian Puglisi in Copenhagen, Carlo Mirarchi in New York City, and the sizable Italian community in Sao Paulo.) It's also filled with well-known bylines: Lisa Abend explores the exuberance of Bottura, while coffee expert Oliver Strand writes about the state of coffee in Italy.

This morning, Eater caught up with Fool editors Lotta Jörgensen and Per-Anders Jörgensen by telephone to talk about why they decided to focus on Italy for their latest issue, what stories inspire them, and why they're expecting all hell to break loose with this issue's release in Italy. Here's the interview and a sneak peek inside:

So why Italy and why now for this issue?
Lotta Jörgensen: We have been speaking about doing Italy for quite some time and we thought it was good timing to do it right now since Italy's economy is bad. They need a pick-me-up, right?

Italy is never really in fashion. Or Italy is never really out of fashion, either.

Per-Anders Jörgensen: I think the reason also is Italy is never really in fashion. Or Italy is never really out of fashion, either. It's a country — well, speaking of gastronomy — that's constant in a way. Everybody speaks about Italian food, everybody loves Italian food in a way you never say that you love German food, for instance. So they have a very high profile in the world, a great reputation. But still there are quite few high-end places that people speak about. So that was the idea.
LJ: That is absolutely true. Especially since everybody knows "Italian food," but they don't really know it. That's why we wanted to give it another dimension as well.

With so much ground to cover, how did you decide what to feature? How did you narrow it down?
PAJ: That was the tough part, of course, and by no means do we say that it's the perfect complete image in any way. This is more like a snapshot of late Winter 2013 of the stuff we think is interesting [and the] people we think are interesting in Italian gastronomy. Not only in Italy, because this is about Italy in the world as well.
LJ: And of course we can't cover everything because that would be like books. But we tried to choose a few interesting things that we really wanted to tell about.
PAJ: People and things that could inspire others. That's the main goal always, picking themes that could inspire other people to do things.

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A piece on beloved pizzeria Pepe in Grani accompanied with work from an Italian illustrator. [Photo: Fool Magazine]

Tell me about what you're really excited about in this issue.
PAJ: We always try to make things a bit different and a bit difficult almost for ourselves. We wanted to do exclusively Italian illustrators. Every single illustration is made by an Italian. Quite a few of the writers are from Italy, but that's not really our goal. Our goal is to find the right person for the right piece. So we're very happy to have some very good writers with us in this issue, people like John Dickie. He usually writes books and is on the BBC as well. We were so happy when he agreed to do a piece on the mafia and food for us.

Yeah it seems like you got a lot of the perfect writers for each piece, like Lisa Abend on Massimo Bottura and then Oliver Strand on coffee. That was really great.
LJ: That's something we always try to do 100 percent. Sometimes it's really difficult, I must say. But we strive towards it in a way. But of course we're excited about all the stories that we have done actually. The fantastic photo shoot with Massimo Bottura and his staff...

Can you tell me how that happened?
PAJ: You know, we had been there since the early days when [Osteria Francescana] had very few customers. So we've seen the whole development over the years coming to Modena. It was really difficult. We were like, "Okay, we're doing an Italy issue. We have to do Massimo, of course. But how? How could we ever do this guy that we've met 20 or 30 times? And how do we photograph him? His food has been so well photographed."

8 1/2 is a very dreamy movie, and Massimo is so much about dreams and emotions.

So we decided to do a different take on him, being big fans ourselves of [Federico] Fellini movies. One of the weirdest is 8 1/2. It's a very dreamy movie, and Massimo is so much about dreams and emotions. So we wanted to do film stills that could have been from this movie. These people, they never even hesitated. We presented it and they were like, "Yeah. Fantastic." I never honestly seen anything like it in a gastronomic magazine and never ever heard Massimo or the others be so excited about something. They really liked it.

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Massimo Bottura and the Osteria Francescana team. [Photo: Fool Magazine]

It's a really neat spread. They do look excited.
PAJ: We also put a quote next to [the images] from the actual film to make it even more interesting. But [the image] with the foot flying away, some of them are almost copies or blueprints from the original film stills. So if you know your Fellini, you will have a big smile on your face, I think.
LJ: And then also I like doing a fashion shoot almost but not with a stylist. With [the piece on architect] Gabrio Bini and his dog and his horse. That is a fantastic way to put how a person works and how his life is and his surroundings as well.

Sometimes I wonder why these people don't just say, "Go away."

PAJ: We really try to spend time and be intimate with people. Like Gabrio, I think we spent four days with him. Sometimes I wonder why these people don't just say, "Go away. You're very irritating. You screw up my life." But they don't. It's fantastic. They're so open.
LJ: Also to have a story like the story about Carlo Mirarchi and his father and his mother Blanca. That story, it's from an insider's view by Aaron [Arizpe] who has been working there for a long time. It's really a good piece of writing about Carlo Mirarchi, Blanca, and Roberta's.

What does the insider perspective lend to that?
LJ: Sometimes if you spend so much time with a person, you get another story than if you just go there and spend a few hours with him doing an interview. So I think this is a very, very nice story about Carlo.
PAJ: I've never seen anything about his parents. Like his father, he's there a lot when it comes to Carlo, making like salami and stuff.
LJ: But it's so much fun to show his mother as well. After all, the restaurant Blanca is named after her.

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New York City chef Carlo Mirarchi and family. [Photo: Fool Magazine]

PAJ: But can I return to one thing you said, why Italy. I think Italy is one of the hardest things to choose because Italians have a habit of complaining about everything. If there's something they will complain about, it's this magazine. They're going to complain about this issue. "I'm not there; my region is not there; my restaurant is not there."

It's going to be like hell breaks loose when this hits Italy.

There's going to be a lot of flak for us. And then printing something like the Italian cooking chart that we did. It's very well-researched by an Italian journalist who knows her stuff, but still, who to omit and who to include, it's going to be like hell breaks loose when this hits Italy.

I think what's really striking about this issue is it seems that what everyone loves about Italy but also finds frustrating is that obsession with tradition and nonna's cooking and the difficulty to move beyond that. What did you guys learn from that and how it's changing?
PAJ: One of the things that's hidden in the magazine which is quite central [is there are] quite a few very great Italian chefs, young people, cooking in Paris. Like Giovanni Passerini of Rino; and Agata Felluga, who was at Chateaubriand; and Simone Tondo, who worked with Peter Nilsson and started a place of his own. Normally, they would travel somewhere like Paris and they would go back to Italy and form their own restaurants. None of them want to do that. We spoke a lot to them. I actually wrote a piece about this, why Italian young chefs stay out of Italy. That's quite interesting. Due to the business climate, it's hard to get loans, you have to be wealthy. And, in the end, they are very conservative, the Italians.
LJ: They are conservative in a way: they love their mother's cooking and they live at home for a very long time due to a lot of unemployment. But then it's also interesting to go to a place like Sardinia because there it's almost rural still. So rural that it feels a little bit extremely modern in our eyes. Everybody makes their own cheese, their own olive oil, their own wine of excellent quality. It's absolutely fantastic. That is really beautiful to see. So they have caught up to what's modern today, actually, in the rest of the world.
PAJ: We called the piece on Sardinia, "Welcome back to the future." That's what it's all about.

I thought it was funny in that piece how everyone was so upset about the cold pasta.
LJ: Yeah that was an absolutely amazing story. We were sitting there, we didn't really understand what was happening. But they really hated the cold pasta because pasta should be warm.
PAJ: I'm not sure if there's anything really that could upset Swedes or Americans about food in the same sense.
LJ: I think that is about food culture inherited. Up here in north Sweden, we don't really have that strong of a culture in food, so we can't really say that gravad lax should be this way because you can only do it one way.

It does kind of remind me of the New York versus Chicago-style pizza where New Yorkers won't acknowledge that Chicago-style pizza is pizza at all.
PAJ: And where does pizza come from?

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Christian Puglisi's Relae in Copenhagen. [Photo: Fool Magazine]

Well yeah. Touché. Also, I wanted to talk to you about how this issue shows Italy's influence elsewhere, with quite a bit on Sao Paulo, but then also Christian Puglisi and chefs in the US. How did you look at the Italian diaspora and decide where to tell stories?
LJ: In a way, we wished we could have had more pages in this issue. Then we might would have done a larger piece in Sao Paulo, for instance, because they have such a large community of Italians there. So we tried to cover it anyway, and we tried to cover how Italians have been moving around the world a lot for many hundreds of years. That's why it's great to have Christian Puglisi — half-Italian — and Carlo Mirarchi in this issue as well.

We try to make a magazine that can live for a long time.

PAJ: As always, we try to mix easy reads with the harder stuff and images. We try to make a magazine that can live for a long time. That you can pick up in six months' time and find interesting still.
LJ: This time also it was a coincidence that we [featured] two three-star restaurants. We never really work with starred restaurants. We work with good chefs. We went to Niko Romito in Abruzzo and we just said, "Wow, this is fantastic chef and what he is doing is absolutely amazing." And then a couple of months later, we received a message from the writer, "Oh, he has received a third star for his restaurant." We were like, "Wow, that is really cool. Good for him." Because it's very hard to run a restaurant far away from everything like his restaurant is. So a third star helps a lot in that.
PAJ: The most important thing is he was not chosen because of the star. He's there because of the quality.

Yeah. And finally, it seems like the magazine is constantly growing. I just wanted to see how things are going for you on that front.
LJ: We have more resellers. We actually get new resellers every week. And most of our readers are actually in North America. And then Australia and the UK. We printed more magazines this time than last time. So we printed 15,000 this time. It's not that much, but we're still small, independent magazine, so for us it's quite a lot.

Right. But at least people have more opportunity to get their hands on one.
PAJ: Absolutely. That's the whole idea.
LJ: We wish we had more resellers in areas like South America and more in Asia. That would be fantastic. And Africa we have a few now in Capetown. That is fun. We're reaching more people and that is a lot, it's so important to us.
PAJ: The most important thing is we reach the right people, people who care. Because the feedback is always incredible.
LJ: It's amazing to receive these emails from people who say, "I usually never read magazines. I always leaf through them and look at the pictures. But your magazine, I read from page one to the last page." That's the best feedback we can ever get.

Being able to connect people is incredible.

PAJ: That and some chefs even they contact us and say, "Hey, I read about this guy, this perfume-maker or whatever. Could you introduce me to him?" Being able to connect people is incredible. To actually help people, to open their minds in a way, that's cool. But I'm a bit scared of what the Italian feedback is going to be.

Tough audience.
LJ: Yeah it is. They are tough. But it's good for us. We need that.

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