Restaurateur and chef Justin Cucci’s mind is kind of like a fun house.

Exhibit A is the multilayered, dream-like design of his Edible Beats restaurants: LingerOphelia’s Electric SoapboxVital RootEl Five, and Root Down (and Root Down DIA).

Exhibit B is Cucci’s newly released print zine, the Edible Beat—something he calls a mixtape for the palate.

The hybrid magazine-cookbook is 156 pages, containing 39 recipes and also an inner look at Cucci’s take on the world. The idea came from deciding to shift creative energy from opening restaurants to focusing on the day-to-day. Why not create an Edible Beats cookbook? Cucci felt that space was too crowded and cookbooks were inherently stagnant. “I wanted to do a cookbook at heart and not make it look like a cookbook,” he says. “I wanted what we’re into, what we’re cooking…and I wanted it human-food-mojo centric. A lot of [the zine] is centered around food without food.”

Interspersed between recipes for Ophelia’s Carolina Gold barbecue ribs, El Five’s boiled peanut hummus, and Vital Roots’ chia pudding, there are stories (a Linger server’s second chance at life), rants (the destruction wrought by white sugar), and recommendations (Top of the Lake, seasons one and two). And then comes the discovery that the first letters of each restaurant form the word “Lover”—something Cucci uncovered when he was “looking at the pedantics of the letters to see how they all worked together. It was an anagram.” His mind is truly like a fun house.

What started as a 60-page zine quickly grew to 80 and then ultimately even longer, with 20-plus pages left on the cutting room floor. With begs the question, will there be more? Yes, although Cucci isn’t quite sure how often the zine will be published. “Originally, it was three times a year, then two, and now I think once every nine months,” he says. But that’s the magic of Cucci, his restaurants, and the Edible Beat: They never have and never will follow the rules.

Find copies of the Edible Beat online, at the restaurants, or the Tattered Cover, Whole Foods Market, and the Perfect Petal.

Amanda M. Faison
Amanda M. Faison
Freelance writer Amanda M. Faison spent 20 years at 5280 Magazine, 12 of those as Food Editor.