Interview with Chef Jesse Szewczyk
As a photographer, and a member of the art and design community, constantly meeting and befriending so many talented creators is one of the greatest privileges. Even better when these meetings evolve into working together on future collaborations! Today I am highlighting a project from one of those super talented people I’ve met through creative work: the first issue of Glutton magazine. Glutton is an art magazine focused on food and culinary themes created by Chicago-based food stylist and chef Jesse Szewczyk.
I met Jesse two years ago when he was looking to hire a photographer to produce images of some food styling concepts. We set up a studio area in his living room (a resourceful process I am very familiar with from my own food photography sets in my apartment!) Then, we knocked out five different concepts and lighting setups that morning.
Since then, we’ve kept in touch, and I look forward to seeing what Jesse is working on each week via Instagram. So when Jesse asked me to be a part of a new literary magazine, I was honored to contribute my photo series, Novella.
Glutton Issue One: Sugar Rush was released earlier this month. I’m very happy to see the final product and be included amongst so many talented artists! As part of my review, I interviewed Jesse Szewczyk about the process of creating Glutton, the first issue, and what we have to look forward to in the future…
Kelly Peloza: Hi Jesse! Tell me about your background in the culinary arts and visual arts, and your passion for food publications.
Jesse Szewczyk: Hello Kelly! I first and foremost work with food. I dabble in many areas of the industry and I cannot stop exploring all it has to offer. In college I interned at Bon Appétit Magazine. This was where my love of publications grew and my will to constantly create started. I worked in close proximity to stylists, photographers, editors and individuals I looked up to with great admiration. I really started to appreciate publications and became aware of all of the indie publications within the food world. This year I attended the Cherry Bombe Jubilee and my love for food publications was rekindled.
KP: In your words, what is Glutton about?
JS: Glutton magazine is about food as an art through an eccentric curation of work, all with a central theme.
KP: What projects or experiences sparked the idea for Glutton? What themes did you hope to explore from the onset? What made you choose ‘Sugar Rush’ for the first issue?
JS: The main reason I decided to create Glutton was to fill a void. When I lived in New York, I was surrounded by food publications. When I moved to Chicago, I realized that the industry was much smaller. I wanted to create something, even if it was a small contribution. I always had a love for contemporary art and knew I wanted to incorporate this into my work. I wanted a zine that bordered on being an art object and a practical food publication.
The idea of ‘Sugar Rush’ came about from a series of photos styled by Katherine Marineau. They are photos of shattered candy that really personified the juxtaposition of traditional beautiful food photography and the sometimes uneasy quality of contemporary art.
KP: I really enjoyed the combination of short stories, photo essays, and an interview in the first issue, and how it transitioned back and forth from personal narrative to eye candy throughout. Is this the general form Glutton will follow for future issues?
JS: I have a soft spot for photo essays and find that I am most drawn towards articles with strong visuals. Although I did not intend to make a zine that was so visual, I realize that it is a natural result of my personal taste. I predict that Glutton will always be eye candy with accompanying written work. The overuse of photography is gluttonous, and that is exactly how I like my food zines.
Curating the magazine
KP: Will photography be the main medium? Or rather, are artists encouraged to submit drawings, paintings, or illustrations?
JS: I am open to artists of all mediums to submit work with the central theme of food. I do predict that issue two will continue to use photography as the main medium. I work a lot with Jesse Nield who is a photographer in Chicago to produce quirky food photos and am lucky to know some very talented photographers (like yourself!).
KP: In ‘Tales of the Sandwich Assembly Line,’ Mark Hartman’s photography of the bologna sandwich assembly line is a perfect match for Annelise McAuliffe’s words. In Tilly Isaacson’s ‘Fruits of Their Labor,’ the floral still lifes more subtly reference the pollination metaphors throughout the story. Were the photos that accompany the short stories in Glutton created to illustrate the stories? Or were they curated from existing work that just happens to be complementary?
JS: I was very lucky to meet Mark Hartman through an online calling for submissions. He is a photographer in the Chicago area who has vivid food work and was interested in contributing. He read Annelise McAuliffe‘s beautiful article (Tales of the Sandwich Assembly Line) and was happy to produce photos for the article. I am extremely grateful for meeting him through this project and love the quirky sandwich photos.
Some articles such as Tilly Issaacson’s ‘Fruits of Their Labor’ were paired with preexisting work I had styled. The article is a dreamy and whimsical piece and I wanted photos that did the article justice. I tried to pair contributors articles with visuals that would complement their story.
Where to find Glutton
KP: Where and when will Glutton be available for purchase? Print, digital, both?
JS: Glutton is for sale in print format only. You can currently buy it at Quimby’s in Wicker Park and online on Etsy.
KP: While many publications have now translated to digital, more and more indie publications are starting up and focusing exclusively (or almost exclusively) on print. If given the choice, I’ll almost always choose to buy a print issue of a magazine or literary publication because of all the tactile design features and image quality that are not present with an e-reader. What factors did you consider when choosing to do print, and what design features unique to Glutton would you want your readers to know about?
JS: I also have a strong preference towards printed publications. I am able to submerge myself deeper into the content without the distractions of technology (email pinging, tablets running low on battery, etc) and I want my readers to be put into a unique mindset while reading that I believed a digital issue would not allow.
Printing is something that I do not have much experience in. I decided to keep the zine small in size to keep the photos from stretching or becoming less sharp. When it shrunk I really enjoyed that the size and stark black cover somewhat resembled a bible… [I thought the same when I saw it and love that connection with the subject matter at hand! -KP]
KP: Finally, is there a new issue in the works? If so, what can you tell me about it at this point? What upcoming personal projects are you excited about?
JS: I have been thinking through the idea of “Food Fetishes” for a possible second issue. My sister is a clinical psychologist and has some valuable knowledge about actual food-related fetishes and I am interested in exploring this subject more. For now I continue to practice my craft and love to collaborate with like-minded artists.