May 27, 2013

Food for Thought: ACQTASTE Magazine

The next time someone concocts you something to eat, be it a friend, parent, lover, or chef; and whether it is a morsel, a picnic, or an eight-course feast, don’t ask that person how she or he made it, but why.

You’ll receive something far more thoughtful than the methodical steps and how-tos (though essential, they can come later). A deep sigh, an upward glance, a crinkling around the eyes. Then a story. Maybe that dish was born from a nostalgic glance into childhood, a trip made half way around the world, or from a desire to experiment based on a whim and the ingredients at hand.

At its core, food is fuel. But the kind of nourishment we want doesn’t always equate with that requisite fact. Food is for gathering, sharing, and storytelling. It’s for pleasure, indulgence, and an experience. When Chuck Ortiz (pictured below) started ACQTASTE (pronounced ‘acquired taste’ or A-C-Q-taste), first a blog, now an internationally read magazine, it wasn’t to categorize recipes and boast images of tantalizing food shots (you can check out his instagram for that), but to seek out the people behind the food. He features those who harvest it, cook it, and make a living out of the delectable eats—however strange and experimental, however popular or underground. Armed with an eye for design and a rapturously healthy appetite, Ortiz has made ACQTASTE a must-read for print-lovers and the voracious alike. Gastronomes, run, don’t walk. You’re going to want this in your kitchen.


Tell me about your journey from starting a humble blog to running an independent magazine. 

I’m from the food background in that I’ve worked in the industry my entire life. I started off as a dishwasher and worked my way up in the kitchen. At some point I fell in love with catering and front-of-house; the whole idea of service and hospitality, that was a passion of mine growing up. I never became a full-out chef, but I’ve worked in many kitchens and eventually opened a catering business with a good friend of mine. And along the way I met numerous people and was intrigued by their stories—like meeting dishwashers from Sri Lanka who were working three jobs to bring their family to Canada. It was about understanding how the food system works, how it’s important to shop locally, and getting a sense of the lifestyle. I wanted to tell these stories and fell in love with photography at the same time, so I started taking photos of people as well as a little bit of video just to get their stories out there. I made a tumblr blog and it snowballed into this idea of [portraying] food culture form a different perspective.

I didn’t think about a print magazine from the start but I knew we had to take this to another level, so we decided to put more work into curating our features and interviews, and we launched an online magazine. We built up all this really original and unique content, and I realized that no one in Canada was doing what we were doing, especially not the print world. We decided to put it out there that we would eventually do print and everyone loved the idea. Even before we went to the press people were ecstatic about the idea of a Canadian-based food publication.