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Focus on Wasabi with Editor in chief Patrick Duval

Patrick Duval
Patrick Duval
Wasabi is a quarterly magazine specialised in Japanese cuisine. Editor in chief Patrick Duval, who lived in Japan for five years, tells us about his projects and gives us his reaction about the catastrophe that struck the country in March 2011.

About the publication:

Who reads Wasabi and how many readers are there?
Wasabi is aimed at all Japanese cuisine lovers as well as professionals from this sector. 50,000 issues are distributed for free in 500 Japanese restaurants and other places like the Maison de la Culture du Japon, Japanese Tourism Office, etc.

What subjects do you cover?
First of all, Japanese gastronomy and restaurants. We also publish reports on Japan, but always dealing in some way with gastronomy.

What makes you different from the other publications in your sector?
We are the only one in this niche, which is really narrow, let’s admit it. There are other free magazines about Japan (Jipango, Ovni) but they’re not much, or at all, oriented towards cuisine.

About PRs:

Do you work closely with PRs or will you keep them at arm’s length?
So far we haven’t felt the need to work with PR specialists but it might happen in the future.

Do you have a Features List? Why? Why not?
We decide about the content of the issues three months before their publication. We find this freedom of improvisation and adaptation to current events (restaurants openings or, more dramatically, Fukushima’s accident) more suitable.

How should a PR approach you about their client?
Their activity clearly needs to be related to Japanese gastronomy. We are very often approached with products that are completely unrelated (wine, ham…).

What information/input from PRs is most useful to you?
Japanese restaurants opening, new Japanese products launched on the market and, more generally anything that is linked to our field.

When is the best time for PRs to contact you and what is your deadline for contributions?
We publish four issues a year: March, June, September and December. People should contact us three months in advance.

Do you have any advice for PRs?
No: I admire their courage. I wouldn’t be able to do this job…

About freelance journalists:

Do you regularly call freelance journalists? Why?
Yes. We exclusively work with freelancers because we can’t afford to have a permanent team.

Do you like freelance journalists to get in touch with you directly to pitch ideas? And if so, how?
Of course! Though, they definitely should have an affinity with Japan and cuisine.

If you can, tell us about the best approach you've seen from a freelance…and the worst…
I only had good experiences. Usually, freelancers know that their situation is fragile and thus do their best to give their article in time and with the least rewriting to do as possible. They are always very happy when we think about them to write an article.

About you:

What has been your career until becoming editor in chief of this magazine?
I wrote my first articles for Libération in the 80s. Then, I worked for about ten years at Télérama. After that I became director of France Japon Eco, a quarterly magazine published by the French Chamber of Commerce in Japan (where I lived for five years) and I finally launched the free magazine Marco Polo (focusing on Asia) before launching Wasabi in 2006.

What interests you most about your job?
As any other journalist, I love investigating and writing. I also love to elaborate the magazine and building it with my graphic designer.

What are you projecting/wishing for the future of you publication?
I am currently more worried about Japan than about my magazine. I actually am trying to implement a project that I called “solidarity sushi”: I have asked about 30 famous French chefs to each create an original sushi. I would like to publish a book about it within June and sell it and give the profit to Fukushima fishermen. Several famous chefs like Guy Martin, Thierry Marx or Guy Savoy have accepted but the other chefs I have contacted haven’t replied yet…
In the continuity of the magazine, we have created two years ago a Japanese cuisine cooking school where we train “sushi chefs”, whether they are amateur or professional. This new activity currently takes us more time than the magazine…

What was your first job?
Warehouseman in Monoprix

Do you Twitter? Why, why not?
Twitter, Facebook… I know things go through these networks nowadays, but it’s a leap I find difficult to make. I would love someone to do it for me…

Dead or alive, who would you love to interview? And why?
Paul McCartney. I adore and hate him at the same time, and I would like to understand why.

In a dream world, if you could do any job, what would it be?
I never understood the meaning of this word.