Inspired by his relationship with food stemming back to when he was a child, Christopher O’leary, alongside photographer Emily Leonard, has created FatBoy Zine, a new magazine acting as a tribute to the wonderful world of Asian cuisine and culture.
Born in then UK governed Hong Kong, Christopher grew up building memories of food in the kitchen. Three kitchens actually. One in Hong Kong, one in the Philippines where much of his family is from and where he moved to while still young, and one in Liverpool, his family’s home since the age of 10. “In a short space of time, in pretty formative years, I got to live three distinctly different lives,” he explains of this time. During this period he acquired the nickname “fat boy” from his parents, which as a “chubby asian kid dressed entirely in tie-dye” stuck in a “caring way”.
A passionate cook himself, Christopher has always had a soft spot for the street food where he grew up, around the new territories of Hong Kong,“These restaurants along the side of the street sold the most amazing dishes," he tells It’s Nice That. "You’d sit on cheap plastic stools, glancing at the menu, but already knowing what you’re going to get. For me it was Siu Mai dumplings or Har Gow.”
After the passing of a close family member, Christopher searched for an outlet to provide some solace, which soon materialised into a diary of family recipes. This “slowly changed and became a way to build on those memories and start thinking about my own relationship with food and culture,” Christopher says on FatBoy’s initial formation. “It was pretty revealing to start looking back and trying to understand why certain recipes were so intrinsically tied to an emotion.”
Speaking about the publication’s design, Christopher explains how he took most of his inspiration from Asian product packaging with its loud colours and bold typography, describing them as vibrant and acidic. “I sourced a lot of the patterns and textures from Asian shops and scanned them in. There’s something really amazing about how all these colours and layouts should be so messy but they’re not, they have their own structure to them and I really appreciate that.”
Another side to the publication is its use of photographic stories which saw Christopher and Emily steering clear of glossy perfection, opting instead to showcase how people actually eat: "It’s in people’s hands, it’s on odd plates, but it feels more fresh and human.” This editorial decision is obvious when flicking through the zine, with the photos a far cry from the cleanly framed and rigidly staged images found in most cookbooks.
When asked about the future of FatBoy Zine, Christoper says he’s already got some ideas for the second issue. As opposed to the broad net cast around Asian food in this first release, the next “will be more focused on things that aren’t often seen here in the UK. Taking a specific ingredient and really showing how diverse and incredible it can be.”
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