Magazine F is a bimonthly food documentary magazine co-created by Magazine B and Baemin publishing in South Korea. This magazine helps capture a multi-faceted perspective on food, by diving into an ingredient's journey – from the origin to the table. Our Finland & Korea correspondent Su Hyun Park spoke to the magazine's editor-in-chief Eunsung Park, editorial director Sojeong Jeong and marketing manager Hyunjoo Kim, for us.
What is magazine F?
Eunsung Park We firstly need to mention Magazine B. That is one of the co-creators of Magazine F. Magazine B is a form of documentary that tells the stories of the world’s well-established brands, one per issue. Instead of brands Magazine F introduces one particular ingredient that has had a significant impact on people’s tables. So far it has come out with a selection of 13 ingredients, including salt, cheese, tomatoes and kimchi. The concept of documentary provides various spectrums for the issue including the fundamental story of food rather than a consumer-style food culture. It deals with origin of ingredients, cultivation, distribution and making food. The entire process of making and consuming ingredients is documented. We try to give a flow that looks like readers are going to the scene and seeing the situation with visual images.
The magazine introduces interviews with producers, sellers, and chefs around the world on how one ingredient is used. It also covers the overall knowledge of history, tradition, trends, statistics through the Academy Manual. F Cut contains pictures of the material from an aesthetic point of view. There is also a section about experimenting with food where people who produce or handle ingredients demonstrate interesting ways to use them.
"The characteristics of the ingredient determine the characteristics of each magazine."
How do you decide what to focus on in each issue?
Sojeong Jeong We are constantly discussing this in the research phase. The characteristics of the ingredient determine the characteristics of each magazine. The keyword is different for each material. In particular, we look at current trends to see if ingredients are used and accepted. We collect information thoroughly from the origin to the table and decide how to place the most important elements and make it flow.
Eunsung Park Together with Baemin CEO Bongjin Kim and publisher Suyong Joh we talk about the different aspects of candidate ingredients. We look at whether an ingredient is used in different ways in different cultures and regions so we can emphasize that in the magazine. We try to avoid materials that are limited to one area and choose those that have strong characteristics in each area. We also look whether it will still be used in the future.
Why are trends important in a documentary?
Sojeong Jeong In the same context as design, it points out how the ingredients are used now and how they will be used in the future. It is important to acknowledge fashionable brands/foods at the moment, but we also look at how sustainable they will be in the future. We determine whether sustainable consumption will be possible in the future; check and select whether it was valued in the past and worth it in the future. Whether ingredients can bring out the topic of the future.
With some ingredients the more in-depth information focuses on Korea. Do you think these details are interesting to non-Korean readers?
Sojeong Jeong Foreign readers are considered when writing in depth information particularly about Korea because we want to show them lesser known aspects of Korean food culture. It is informative not only for the global market but also for Koreans as an archive. For example, rice: Asian countries are the main consumers of rice and the magazine also covered a variety of Korean native rice breeds. The story of Korean native rice breeds may seem like a story limited to Korea, but it becomes a story of the staple food of each country that is disappearing.
What are the unique challenges of printing a magazine about food?
Sojeong Jeong The difficulty is that there is so much information and a lot of choices to make. How to select the ingredient and place elements throughout the magazine well is challenging. We have to make sure that the topics and theme do not overlap with other issues. We also constantly check whether core information is not missing and correct. It is quite difficult since food is universal.
What is the appeal of F Magazine for designers?
Eunsung Park We can’t specifically target designers but the magazine is about fundamental stories that can inspire anyone. Food is an essential element of life: it’s about the relationship between humans and nature, restoring relationships, and coexistence. Eating is all about life, therefore we embrace stories of humanity.
What do you think about the role of design in food?
Sojeong Jeong The design starts with the ingredients themselves. It’s about slicing and cooking, creating aromas and even sounds. It does not matter whether a plate of food is from mom or a Michelin star chef. Everything that goes on a plate has intention. A plate of food is the result of the aesthetic vision of the maker and it evokes five senses.
Eunsung Park There is extensive information on food in Magazine F. People want to know more and more detailed information about food, such as where it comes from. This is why our magazine has grown in popularity.
I think the role of design could be how to convey the in-depth information of food. It seems design in food at the moment is focusing more on commercial aspects. But in the future it will be more important to provide more detailed information.
Do you have an unlimited list of ingredients to talk about?
Eunsung Park It is unlimited but at the same time limited. We don’t always choose the original form of food. For example, curry is a mix of spices which is considered one ingredient. In this sense it seems like it’s unlimited, but we avoid repetition of food in a similar category, that makes choices limited. We do have a list of ingredients for 3, 4 years ahead.
You can find more about Magazine F on their website.
Interview by our Finland and Korea correspondent Su Hyun Park.