Fool magazine: international tasting

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As a Swedish international gastronomic magazine, Fool brings together the best of the culinary world in a beautiful glossy publication with mouth-watering photography, illustration and great writing. Averaging over a hundred pages per issue, Fool takes us across the world to discover the beauty of food. Q&A with Lotta Jörgensen, editor in chief and art director for Fool magazine. 

Baron: What’s the story behind Fool?
Lotta Jörgensen: Me and my husband first thought of creating our own gastronomic magazine when we became a couple, 14 years ago. Looking back, the first Fool draft is very much like what we are doing now. We wanted to make a gastronomic magazine that focused on people in the food scene and subjects that mattered to us. Chefs, farmers, fishermen, philosophers and scientists all have interesting and inspiring stories to tell, we have chosen to tell their stories, rather than running recipes. At the very beginning, we decided to leave recipes out of the magazine. We wanted long texts and amazing images. Since our professions are art director and photographer, to us, the visual identity of the magazine was extremely important. We wanted our food magazine to be like Vogue Italia, Life Magazine and the New Yorker: a mix of intriguing and mind-tickling pieces, stunning photography and out of the ordinary illustrations. We also preferred a graphic design focusing on “user friendliness” rather than making it oddly sized or “funny” looking. We wanted our readers to actually read our magazine not just say “oh that looks cool”. In 2011, we felt we just had to do the Fool magazine project because we would regret not doing it for the rest of our lives if we never tried.

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B.: How does that translate to an editorial policy?
L. J.: Since we are only two people running Fool, calls are tight. Our mission is to bring stories to our readers they never read before. Even if we interview a world famous chef, our angle would always be different. Well, different for as long as we can, since we now seem to have attracted a lot of attention and we are obviously a great inspiration to other magazines, which is flattering. In the last couple of months, we have spoken to editors and editor-in-chiefs from other food magazines and they say the same “we whish we could do what you are doing, but it is impossible since our publisher will not allow it”.

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B.: Why choose print? What kind of paper do you use and why?
L. J.: Just because we are old fashioned. We love the smell of ink and the feel you get while holding and browsing a magazine. Every little detail is equally important. We use high quality Scandinavian paper, coated and uncoated. Paper and print quality is extremely important. Why would we make all these efforts, commission and feature all these fantastic people and not care about the quality of the final product in print? We print Fool at a fantastic print house in Northern Finland. It is a suicide commission, economically, but the quality is unbeatable. Regarding typography, the most important thing for us is making it attractive and readable. We use Caslon Book for text and Bookmania, Verlag and Alternate Gothic for the rest.

B.: How's the public’s response?
L. J.: We have not received any hate letters – yet. The response is amazing. Readers contact us all the time and we are lucky to be able to work with the most fantastic contributors and feature people we respect.

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B.: Good print mags get a lot of love, but this isn’t always reflected in sales or advertising. How are your sales doing? What is your advertising philosophy?
L. J.: We do not have an ad sales department. Again, we are only two people running Fool. Most of the ads in Fool are there because the advertisers have contacted us. This is something we work on. The difficult part is that ad sales business is as conservative as magazine or book publishing. Ad sales agents work in regions and we are not a Swedish magazine nor an American one (most of our readers reside in north America), so they do not know how to label us. We simply do not fit in. It would be different if we were part of a big publishing house; they sell ads for many publications in bulk. But this is a completely different story.

All of this is quite exciting. We are “beating” the system by doing an independent magazine in print. The next step could be reinventing how food books are made. It has become a craze, as publishing houses are striking deals with every chef on the World's 50 Best Restaurant list. There is an opening in the market for exciting food related books made differently rather than nice food images and recipes.

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B.: Any upcoming projects?
L. J.: We will finally move into our new office. We have been looking for a space for some time and we have finally found it. This means we can implement our dream of Fool Agency. Our goal is to be the think tank in the world for great gastronomic related ideas. Our base is Malmö. Conveniently close to Copenhagen Airport. The South of Sweden is an innovative region filled with scientists, food projects, new ideas and Malmö is a hub for app and gaming development. It is extremely exciting. We are more than just a gastronomic magazine, run by a photographer and an art director: we have a built a network of people who can create products never thought of. This is the future, in approximately three years. Our office will be a gallery, a place for presentations and workshops as well as a publishing house for both magazines and books, as well as a filmmaking and design studio. We are very excited.

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