Kitchen Table issue no. 5, "The Roots Issue," is due to hit newsstands in late October. But like many projects in 2022, and the very industry it covers, the locally produced food magazine has encountered unanticipated cost increases and is facing an uncertain future, and finds itself relying on a crowdfunding campaign to continue production.
The independent magazine’s founder, Brett Warnock, says production and printing costs have more than doubled amid COVID-related supply chain issues. But instead of cutting costs to make ends meet, Warnock is bulking out the magazine with upgraded printing and binding and adding 40 pages of food stories, recipes, and illustrations—all in an aim to give Kitchen Table a longer shelf life and coveted coffee-table real estate.
Making space for people all around the food world has been the mission of the magazine from the beginning, but the hardships of putting together the ambitious project have been eye-opening for Warnock, he says. He launched the magazine in 2019 via a Kickstarter campaign, but footed the bill himself for the following three issues and struggled to make the numbers line up. When it came time to print the latest issue, he says covering the costs out of pocket was no longer an option, and he's trying a Crowdfundr campaign.
“I can’t just keep putting money into this. So, I’m gonna level up the magazine. I’m going to add half again as many pages, it’s going to have a spine, it’s gonna be a little bit wider, a little bit more of a presence on a newsstand,” says Warnock.
Independent publishing is expensive. In the food space, magazines like Toothache and Whetstone stand out, both run independently by veterans of the restaurant industry, like Warnock. As a community-based project, Kitchen Table has found a niche in Portland’s food scene, bringing chefs, farmers and seed breeders, and artists and activists together, often giving subjects space to write their own stories, like the Culinary Breeding Network’s founder Lane Selman and Creole Me Up’s Elsy Dinvil.
It’s also a hub for national talents: Issue no. 3 featured a story on food equity from Leah Penniman, author of the James Beard Award–winning book Farming While Black, which Vogue called a “part agricultural guide, part revolutionary manifesto.” Issue no. 4 included a comic strip titled Valentine’s Day at a Waffle House in Houston from the writer and frequent New Yorker comic artist Natalie Dupille.
Warnock got his start in comics. He cofounded the publisher Top Shelf Comics in 1997 and served as its creative director for 17 years before selling his stake in the company in 2014. At the same time, he’s always kept a foot in the restaurant industry, both as a wine steward and beer buyer for New Seasons, and he currently pours wine at a local wine bar.
After selling Top Shelf, Warnock was in talks to purchase the local imprint of a national food magazine, but the deal never materialized. However, the prospect sparked the idea to join his two passions, a dream that eventually manifested in Kitchen Table: a food magazine redolent with Warnock’s comic background that bursts with art and an exuberant DIY spirit.
At Top Shelf, Warnock was the designer and creative director, but he’s responsible for Kitchen Table cover-to-cover. He says he knows how to make a great-looking publication, but had limited experience on the business side of a magazine before starting Kitchen Table. The magazine is distributed through Small Changes, a distribution company out of Seattle, and is available around town at New Seasons, Oui Presse, the City Reader on Division, and Floating World Comics at the Lloyd Center, among other spots.
The fundraiser to get the fifth issue printed is at 80 percent of its $21,000 goal at press time, and ends Saturday, September 24 at midnight. Preordering the issue ($25) is the most straightforward way to contribute, but Crowdfundr’s system allows for à la carte shopping, in contrast with package-based, tiered systems like Kickstarter. Aside from preorder copies of the issue, farm dinners from longtime Portland cooks Mary Hats and Rodrigo Huerta’s Mexican food truck Comida Kin, featured in the upcoming Kitchen Table issue, are on offer, as well as expanded prints of some of the issue’s illustrations.