Food for thought: Rhia Cook on indie food publishing, inclusivity in the kitchen, and community

In the storm of a pandemic many people turned to the kitchen for comfort. The same can be said of Rhia Cook, Editor and creator of Potluck, cheerleading a new cohort of food writers and lovers alike.

Birthed in May of 2020, Potluck was a response to the media Rhia was consuming during the start of the pandemic: food. “It was kind of all I was thinking about,” says Cook. Not interested in the superficial customs of traditional food media Rhia decided to focus on “people who felt similarly to me about it – home cooks, not chefs – because I’m equally interested in people and getting to know them through their stories.” And she’s not alone. The pandemic being a catalyst for a whole new generation of independent presses and online food communities sharing recipes and their understanding of food. From the likes of Cheese, Filler, and the ever-growing Vittles newsletter, contemporary food media is undoubtedly having its moment.

Assistant Marco

The result of this person-first philosophy is a close-knit community of food enthusiasts from all over the world. From intimate tales of the diaspora, to the small joys of the kitchen, Potluck and its contemporaries truly invite everyone to the table. As Rhia says, “Ultimately everyone has to eat, and so everyone’s got some kind of story to tell.”

The topic of food is not a chance decision; aside from personal interest, the theme of food is as much about inclusivity. Since starting Potluck Rhia has realised, “how great a topic food is for getting people talking.” Food media has typically been a middle-class white man’s world, but recent challenges to the industry has led to greater discussion around the nuances of culture, race, and class; and who has the authority to tell who’s stories, and share their recipes. Like many smaller publications Potluck has given a voice to those from marginalised communities, and allows the experience of their food to be told in correct context. As Rhia says, “What we focus on is stories,” and Potlucks writers undoubtedly have ownership and jurisdiction over their narratives.

This diverse and inclusive environment has allowed Potluck to quickly grow into a sizeable online community. Rhia describes herself as, ”Lucky,” when starting Potluck; “There was a whole other Instagram food community starting to emerge,” she says.  This along with the “Inherently collaborative” nature of zines proved to be the perfect recipe for establishing an engaged community. Cook modestly says, “It’s definitely become more of a community thing that I just happen to put together.”

Speaking of he future plans, Rhia has no plans to slow down. Potlucks recent collaboration with SPOONFEED is out now, a collaboration that has both been an educational exchange and an enjoyable project for the pair to work on together. The next issue of Potluck will be out before Christmas, with Rhia planning to take a few weeks off in the New Year before launching into more issues. Despite her demanding workload, Cook is still eager to support others, and maybe, time allowing, do some writing herself.

Pre-orders for issue 5 open 26/11/21

You can find Potluck here

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