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We Catch Up With Marcus Brown to Learn All About Food as a Subculture and His New Culture Magazine Picnic

9 May 22 words: Lizzy O'Riordan
photos: Marcus Brown and Oliver Truelove

Founded by Ilkeston lad Marcus Brown, Picnic is the culture magazine celebrating all things culinary. In preparation for its first ever release we catch up with Marcus about food as a subculture, hanging out with chefs and the Nottingham food scene

Instagram chefs with cult followings, bagel shops with viral fame and restaurant lines that twist all the way down the street. Things are shifting when it comes to food. Gone are the days of uninspired dishes and stale predictable restaurants; food is exciting, coveted, cool.

Food, Marcus Brown tells me, has become its own subculture. One that inspired him to found his own magazine, Picnic, a publication with food at its core, capturing and celebrating this emerging landscape.

Conceptualised by Ilkeston native Marcus Brown earlier this year, Picnic was born from a passion for food culture. After studying journalism at London College of Communication, Brown went on to work freelance, with a portfolio boasting the likes of Time Out, Mob Kitchen and London on the Inside. Yet even working his ‘dream job’ as a food writer, he craved the creative freedom of his own magazine, where he could experience “old school journalism, boots on the ground, talking to people, taking photographs. Work that makes me feel good about what I’m doing.”

From here Picnic was created, where “food is the central meeting point to all the characters we meet and interview.”

Marcus is keen to emphasise this isn’t a recipe magazine, though. “Food is the one thing that connects them all, but I wouldn’t necessarily say it even is a food magazine, it’s more a lifestyle and culture magazine. More about the people and their stories,” he tells me. It’s about the human element behind the cooking, the reasons chefs and restaurant owners love their work, and an exploration of how food tells a story. “Food is a great communicator. It’s a great way to pass on something about yourself. People have so many different reasons for starting up these businesses - it could be that you want to discuss your heritage, your family, your tradition. I think it goes beyond wanting to create something delicious.” 

Anticipating the first edition, Marcus has already been inducted into the food world, meeting a whole host of his culinary heroes along the way. “The whole reason I started this magazine was as a vehicle to live out my fantasies, it’s an excuse to hang out with Drew at Kold Sauce and get drunk making hot sauce at midnight, or go into the studio with Hugo at Allday and make knives. It gives me an excuse to go to these places that I’m interested in.” 

Gone are the days of uninspired dishes and stale predictable restaurants; food is exciting, coveted, cool

A lover of food, he tells me that the magazine was born naturally from his own interests: “I think there’s a whole group of people my age and older that would rather go out to a restaurant than go out to a rave. And in that way it’s an extension of my own lifestyle.” In that vein, the magazine is more interested in everyday food culture than pricey dishes or Michelin star chefs. “That’s an ethos of Picnic,” Marcus says, “it’s not about pretentiousness, it’s not about expensive or cheap. We could feature a McDonald’s apple pie or caviar, it doesn’t matter - if it’s good then it’s good.” 

Picnic certainly taps into the younger generation of gastronomes, those who have endless restaurant lists on their notes app, and who scour through food-related geotags. Marcus notes that people “are collecting restaurants almost like you might collect Pokémon cards”, comparing and contrasting them among friends. Alongside this, there’s a newfound interest in the chefs themselves, who have risen to celebrity status in many circles. “I think there used to be this invisible line between the kitchen and the dining area that you felt like you couldn’t cross,” Marcus says. “That’s blurring now, and in a symbolic sense you can see into the kitchen a bit more. There’s now a dialogue between chefs and diners, particularly through social media, and that didn’t exist before.” 

Food is the central meeting point to all the characters we meet and interview

Featuring chefs from all across the country, the first edition of Picnic will also showcase its fair share of Nottingham faces, notably Katharina and Joakim from Little Bricks and Pete Hewitt from Everyday People, who Marcus describes as “really lovely, great people”. Commenting on the Nottingham food scene, Marcus is complementary: “It’s definitely coming up. It’s always had a bit of a scene, but more recently it’s coming into its own. There’s room for anyone who wants to do something and does it well.” 

I’m curious as to the future of Picnic magazine, who are set to release their first edition in May. Will it always be about food as a subculture? “I think I’ve started relatively broad but then as I go on I'll refine it,” Marcus explains. “Each issue will represent a different focus. I’m not against doing a whole issue about butchery, a whole issue about foraging, a whole issue about vegetarianism.” But overall, it will always be for those who have an interest in “food and people, and knowing what drives them.”

Issue one of Picnic will available at the end of May. You can follow them on Instagram here. 

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