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Forks Over Knives Magazine: The Brand That Delivers The Whole Food, Plant-Based Lifestyle In A Delicious & Passionate Way – The Mr. Magazine™ Interview With Brian Wendel, Founder & President, & Elizabeth Turner, Editor In Chief…

September 20, 2018

“I believe in print because we’re seeing quite a bit of success with it, honestly. When it comes to this type of magazine, I think there’s still a demand for it. The computer is great, but people still want to have something they can hold in their hand, take recipes from. It’s easier to bring a magazine into the kitchen that it is a computer. There’s just something more tangible about it. Something beautiful about a magazine that’s just not captured on a computer. And I’m not knocking a computer, I just think this type of content is still nice to bring into the kitchen or kick back in a hammock with. The need for it is still there.” Brian Wendel…

“It’s inspiring. You can keep a beautiful food magazine, any beautiful magazine, but it’s a keeper. It’s something you have on your coffee table; it’s something that you look at and it reminds you of how you’d like to live your life. I don’t think magazines are going away, they’re just getting more special.” Elizabeth Turner…

Forks Over Knives is a brand that empowers people to live healthier lives by changing the way the world understands nutrition. From the film to the books, from the meal plan to the complete lifestyle movement, Forks Over Knives strives to present a whole food, plant-based way of living that is not only healthier, but tastier and more fun than anything else out there. And now there’s a print magazine to add to the repertoire. In a partnership with Meredith, Founder and President, Brian Wendel has brought his beloved brand full force into the marketplace in a soon-to-be quarterly publication that promises fun, delicious food, and a healthier way of life.

I spoke with Brian recently, along with Elizabeth Turner, editor in chief of the magazine, and Michelle Bilyeu, editorial content director, Meredith, and we all talked about the beautifully done, well-executed print magazine that only edifies the successful brand. It’s a partnership, according to all three, that was made in heaven – a whole food, plant-based heaven anyway.

And with the frequency about to become quarterly in 2019, the magazine is obviously resonating with readers. Beginning with the 2011 documentary film, Forks Over Knives, and then the cookbooks, meal plan and website, the brand has embraced its passion and belief in itself wholeheartedly, and with the addition of a print magazine, it now has the potential to reach even more people on a regular basis. It would seem Forks Over Knives is bringing in readers and brand-lovers hand over fist. Mr. Magazine™ says keep up the good work.

And now the Mr. Magazine™ interview with Brian Wendel, founder and president, and Elizabeth Turner, editor in chief, Forks Over Knives magazine, with comments from Michelle Bilyeu, editorial content director, Meredith.

But first the sound-bites:

On why there seemed to be a need for a print magazine when the brand already had books, a film, a website, and meal plans (Brian Wendel): We wanted to put something out into the public that had a regular cadence to it, and was really beautiful, fun and approachable. So, Meredith approached us on doing this kind of thing. Obviously, we felt they’re the leader in lifestyle magazines and we knew they had the capability, so it seemed like a really logical partnership. Our goal, generally speaking, is to help people transition to this lifestyle, so being able to do this with Meredith seemed like such a great idea and we’re happy that we got onboard to do it.

On how Elizabeth Turner, editor in chief, approaches the magazine differently than the other platforms (Elizabeth Turner): The magazine, as Brian said, is very aspirational and glossy and it’s very heavy on recipes and very heavy on photography. Also, I think we’re approaching the front of the book, which is the non-recipe part, as sort of whole food, plant-based eating 101, so that anybody who sees it in Walmart and is curious can pick it up and get a good idea of what whole food, plant-based eating is about. Whereas our website is a bit of a mix. It’s for people who are very into it, but also for people who are very entrenched in the lifestyle. Forks Over Knives magazine is very much original and appealing to people who are maybe not familiar with the concept.

On what the role of print, especially with Forks Over Knives, will play in today’s digital world (Elizabeth Turner): Well, there’s definitely a demand for it. Our audience asks for it all of the time, so I think that print is never going to go away. It’s going to become more special, so it’s nice that our magazine has very few ads. It’s just cover to cover beautiful and aspirational content. And I think there will always be a demand for that. But I do think it will get more and more specialized. People want that and they’re never not going to want that.

On what the role of print, especially with Forks Over Knives, will play in today’s digital world (Brian Wendel): And especially because it’s a lifestyle magazine, it’s current, if you will, for a long time. So, in the lifestyle space, Forks Over Knives is still very relevant in print, more so than other types of content.

On the impact Brian’s growing up in New York around so much delicious food had on his decision to embrace the plant-based healthy lifestyle (Brian Wendel): Obviously, growing up in New York, but also growing up in a half-Italian, half-Jewish neighborhood, I think there was a lot of focus on really delicious food; we really do have a knack for it. In general, when I grew up there was no concept of vegetarian or veganism. I didn’t even know a single person who was either, to me it was a completely foreign concept. We really grew up on pizza and roast beef. The fact of the matter is the food is really good; Italian food is fantastic. But ultimately, this passion for great, awesome food is something that I’ve been able to bring to the Forks Over Knives brand and ultimately to the magazine. Just because we’re on a healthy plant-based lifestyle doesn’t mean that we view our food as being medicinal in flavor by any means.

On when the brand name Forks Over Knives was chosen (Brian Wendel): The name Forks Over Knives didn’t come until after the movie was made. The idea basically predated the name. I put out an email to my friends trying to come up with different titles for the film and it was something that bothered us, we never really had a good title. And one of my friends came back with the idea of Fork Over Scalpel, which we then turned into Forks Over Knives, a knife being like a surgical knife, if you will.

On whether he has any regrets about the way the magazine was done now that he has four issues out (Brian Wendel): I really don’t have any regrets. It’s really been an awesome partnership. The first issue we came out with was sort of a test issue, so we didn’t have the liberty to really go all out and create something as spectacular as the last three. The final three magazines are 100 percent all shot by Meredith, keeping a consistent theme throughout the magazine, and that was something that we weren’t able to do in the very first issue. But I wouldn’t say that’s a regret, it was a logical progression.

On whether creating the magazine and partnering with Meredith has all been a walk in a rose garden or there were some stumbling blocks along the way (Brian Wendel): I can honestly say that there has been no stumbling blocks. I hate to be boring, but there really wasn’t any, because they’re a great partner and they really listen to our wants and needs. And I like to think on our side we do that with them too. And they give us a lot of liberty to say what we need to say and they do a great job. There really hasn’t been a single stumbling block in this partnership.

On the point of differentiation for Forks Over Knives over all the other food magazines out there (Brian Wendel): I think our brand name is really associated with the healthiest lifestyle out there, which is what we call a whole food, plant-based lifestyle. So people know that someone with heart disease or Type II diabetes can come to Forks Over Knives and get great information on how to handle those conditions, but do it in a way that’s really, really a fun and enjoyable lifestyle with really delicious food. And I think that makes us stand out above the others.

On whether they will be happy with a frequency of three times per year, or they will want something more frequent (Elizabeth Turner): We’ve actually already agreed to go to four issues a year in 2019. So, it’s growing.

On anything they’d like to add (Elizabeth Turner): I would just like to say to back up what Brian said, what really makes these recipes different is just that they are all gold standard nutritious. They’re low in sodium, they’re low in fat; they’re made of whole foods and they’re plant-based. Anything that you made from this magazine would be something that you could feel very good about, which is honestly just not very common in food magazines. So, that really is a point of differentiation. And also the educational point.

On anything Michelle Bilyeu would like to add from the Meredith point of view (Michelle Bilyeu): I guess I’ll just say that Forks Over Knives is a great partner. We work really well together to support each other and create great products. And it’s ultimately about the consumer. We’re really excited with the fall issue; we’ve been able to over-double the draw that’s going out on newsstand, hopefully reaching more consumers. And introducing more and more people to such a wonderful brand.

On why they all three believe in print with everything that’s available (Brian Wendel): I believe in print because we’re seeing quite a bit of success with it, honestly. When it comes to this type of magazine, I think there’s still a demand for it. The computer is great, but people still want to have something they can hold in their hand, take recipes from. It’s easier to bring a magazine into the kitchen that it is a computer. There’s just something more tangible about it. Something beautiful about a magazine that’s just not captured on a computer. And I’m not knocking a computer, I just think this type of content is still nice to bring into the kitchen or kick back in a hammock with. The need for it is still there.

On why they all three believe in print with everything that’s available (Elizabeth Turner): It’s inspiring. You can keep a beautiful food magazine, any beautiful magazine, but it’s a keeper. It’s something you have on your coffee table; it’s something that you look at and it reminds you of how you’d like to live your life. I don’t think magazines are going away, they’re just getting more special.

On why they all three believe in print with everything that’s available (Michelle Bilyeu): I would agree to that too. I think it’s all about that tactile experience with it; it’s being able to take it to your own space and get away. It’s a point of relaxation and inspiration and motivation. It’s a great place to find lots of ideas, besides just the information. So, I think they’re very inspiring. And I have a huge stack on my bed. Every night I look forward to that moment with my magazines.

On what he would have tattooed upon his brain that would be there forever and no one could ever forget about him (Brian Wendel): I’d like to be known as a good citizen and someone who loves his family and friends. I’d like to also be known as someone who took a chance on something that I really believed in and it’s had what a lot of people believe is a profound impact on many people’s lives across the world. If that could be my legacy, I’d be thrilled to have it.

On what she would have tattooed upon her brain that would be there forever and no one could ever forget about her (Elizabeth Turner): That’s really a tough question. Always creative and always pushing forward.

On what someone would find him doing if they showed up unexpectedly one evening at his home (Brian Wendel): I would be with my partner, Darshana Thacker, who happens to be the chef and culinary project manager for Forks Over Knives, and who has a good handful of recipes in each issue. So we might be having a delicious meal together; it might be a corn chowder or something like that, some potatoes. We live pretty simple lives, so that’s what you might find us doing.

On what someone would find her doing if they showed up unexpectedly one evening at her home (Elizabeth Turner): I’ll be eating fruit, probably watermelon. Brian and I have this funny thing in common that we’re both obsessed with fruit, so if you’re at my house you’re going to see a lot of good fruit at all times. And I’ll probably be eating it.

And now the lightly edited transcript of the Mr. Magazine™ interview with Brian Wendel, founder and president, and Elizabeth Turner, editor in chief, Forks Over Knives magazine, with comments from Michelle Bilyeu, editorial content director, Meredith.

Samir Husni: Brian, you founded Forks Over Knives. You have the website; you have the books; you have the film, and you have the meal plans; why a magazine too? Why did you feel that you needed a print magazine to add to the brand?

Brian Wendel: We wanted to put something out into the public that had a regular cadence to it, and was really beautiful, fun and approachable. So, Meredith approached us on doing this kind of thing. Obviously, we felt they’re the leader in lifestyle magazines and we knew they had the capability, so it seemed like a really logical partnership. Our goal, generally speaking, is to help people transition to this lifestyle, so being able to do this with Meredith seemed like such a great idea and we’re happy that we got onboard to do it.

Samir Husni: Elizabeth, as editor in chief, how do you approach the magazine differently from the website, the books, the film, and the meal plans?

Elizabeth Turner: The magazine, as Brian said, is very aspirational and glossy and it’s very heavy on recipes and very heavy on photography. Also, I think we’re approaching the front of the book, which is the non-recipe part, as sort of whole food, plant-based eating 101, so that anybody who sees it in Walmart and is curious can pick it up and get a good idea of what whole food, plant-based eating is about. Whereas our website is a bit of a mix. It’s for people who are very into it, but also for people who are very entrenched in the lifestyle. Forks Over Knives magazine is very much original and appealing to people who are maybe not familiar with the concept.

Samir Husni: What do you think the role of print, specifically with Forks Over Knives, in today’s digital age is going to play?

Elizabeth Turner: Well, there’s definitely a demand for it. Our audience asks for it all of the time, so I think that print is never going to go away. It’s going to become more special, so it’s nice that our magazine has very few ads. It’s just cover to cover beautiful and aspirational content. And I think there will always be a demand for that. But I do think it will get more and more specialized. People want that and they’re never not going to want that.

Brian Wendel: And especially because it’s a lifestyle magazine, it’s current, if you will, for a long time. So, in the lifestyle space, Forks Over Knives is still very relevant in print, more so than other types of content.

Elizabeth Turner: And I’ll also say, you have the recipes that you can get online, but the magazine also includes great success stories and has the medical expert backing that adds that extra layer.

Samir Husni: Brian, you mention in your editorial in the fall issue about your childhood and growing up on Staten Island, playing football on the streets, enjoying the delicious family meals. Can you explain to me the impact of your upbringing and your childhood on this lifestyle, and what veered you toward this healthy comfort food, rather than the heavier, meatier foods?

Brian Wendel: Obviously, growing up in New York, but also growing up in a half-Italian, half-Jewish neighborhood, I think there was a lot of focus on really delicious food; we really do have a knack for it. In general, when I grew up there was no concept of vegetarian or veganism. I didn’t even know a single person who was either, to me it was a completely foreign concept. We really grew up on pizza and roast beef. The fact of the matter is the food is really good; Italian food is fantastic.

But ultimately, this passion for great, awesome food is something that I’ve been able to bring to the Forks Over Knives brand and ultimately to the magazine. Just because we’re on a healthy plant-based lifestyle doesn’t mean that we view our food as being medicinal in flavor by any means. I believe at heart that food is meant to be enjoyed and that’s what I really learned growing up and that’s an element that I tried to bring to the brand.

Samir Husni: Do you remember when the idea for the name Forks Over Knives hit you and you told yourself that was what you needed to create; a brand called Forks Over Knives?

Brian Wendel: The name Forks Over Knives didn’t come until after the movie was made. The idea basically predated the name. I had been into a healthy plant-based lifestyle since 2001. And overtime I just became more and more knowledgeable about it and more passionate about it. And then when I read a book called “The China Study” it really made me realize the depth and breadth of what’s out there, that we have more control over our disease outcomes than what we ever realized. And I felt like it was a story that wasn’t being told.

An analogy that I always use, and it can actually relate to the magazine, is if we could affect these outcomes with a pill the way we could with food, it would have been headline stories in weekly magazines and newspapers, but it wasn’t. So, the message wasn’t really getting out there through mainstream media. It occurred to me that it wasn’t going to come out that way, so I had to help get it out. And ultimately I decided and felt that a visual presentation through a feature film was the best way to do that.

The name Forks Over Knives really came later. I put out an email to my friends trying to come up with different titles for the film and it was something that bothered us, we never really had a good title. And one of my friends came back with the idea of Fork Over Scalpel, which we then turned into Forks Over Knives, a knife being like a surgical knife, if you will. Most people don’t know that, because the inclination of our logo doesn’t include the scalpel, but the original logo that was on the movie poster and in all of the movie’s branding actually had a scalpel on it.

So, it really means Forks Over Knives and kind of choosing what’s at the end of the fork over basically, I don’t want to say surgery, because the knife is kind of metaphorical for the medical aspect. And it’s not that I’m against the medical system, it’s just that we’re trying to get away from overuse of medication for chronic diseases when there’s a much better alternative.

Samir Husni: So far, if my calculations are correct, you have four issues of the magazine. Since the first issue came out until now, when you look back and you maybe say, I wish I had done that or I wish I hadn’t done that; is there anything that comes to mind?

Brian Wendel: I really don’t have any regrets. It’s really been an awesome partnership. The first issue we came out with was sort of a test issue, so we didn’t have the liberty to really go all out and create something as spectacular as the last three. The final three magazines are 100 percent all shot by Meredith, keeping a consistent theme throughout the magazine, and that was something that we weren’t able to do in the very first issue. But I wouldn’t say that’s a regret, it was a logical progression.

Samir Husni: And has the creation of the magazine and the teaming up with Meredith been a walk in a rose garden, or has there been some stumbling blocks along the way?

Brian Wendel: I can honestly say that there has been no stumbling blocks. I hate to be boring, but there really wasn’t any, because they’re a great partner and they really listen to our wants and needs. And I like to think on our side we do that with them too. And they give us a lot of liberty to say what we need to say and they do a great job. There really hasn’t been a single stumbling block in this partnership.

Samir Husni: Please correct me if I’m mistaken, but I can’t find the magazine on your website. I can find the meal planner, the cooking course, the articles, the recipes, but there’s no mention of the magazine. Is that intentional?

Brian Wendel: No, our website is being revamped, and we’re going to have a brand new website in November. And it’s going to integrate all of our products a little bit better.

Elizabeth Turner: But we sell it in our online shop and we definitely promote it on social media, so our digital audience is very aware of it. And we have a very active product-based book group and people are showing pictures of where they’re finding it in the stores, so our audience is definitely tuned into the magazine.

Brian Wendel: I’ll also add that we have a very substantial newsletter following and we promote it enough to probably get some people irritated. (Laughs)

Samir Husni: Probably 10 to 15 percent of all magazines on the newsstand are now food magazines. What’s the point of differentiation for Forks Over Knives versus all of the other food magazines out there? Is it Meredith? Is it the name? Is it the content? Is it the concept?

Brian Wendel: I think it’s all of the above, but most importantly, I think our brand name is really associated with the healthiest lifestyle out there, which is what we call a whole food, plant-based lifestyle. So people know that someone with heart disease or Type II diabetes can come to Forks Over Knives and get great information on how to handle those conditions, but do it in a way that’s really, really a fun and enjoyable lifestyle with really delicious food. And I think that makes us stand out above the others.

There’s a lot of other ways of eating that say they’re healthy or promotes something else, but I really believe that for disease reversal and prevention, the science really is on our side. And I think people are realizing that.

Samir Husni: And do you think you’ll be happy with three times per year or do you want to see the magazine going into a more frequent circulation?

Michelle Bilyeu: We’ve actually already agreed to go to four issues a year in 2019. So, it’s growing.

Samir Husni: So you will become a quarterly magazine starting in 2019?

Elizabeth Turner: We have three issues in 2018 and we’ll officially have four in 2019.

Samir Husni: Is there anything else either of you would like to add?

Elizabeth Turner: I would just like to say to back up what Brian said, what really makes these recipes different is just that they are all gold standard nutritious. They’re low in sodium, they’re low in fat; they’re made of whole foods and they’re plant-based. Anything that you made from this magazine would be something that you could feel very good about, which is honestly just not very common in food magazines. So, that really is a point of differentiation. And also the educational point.

Samir Husni: And Michelle, anything you’d like to add from the Meredith point of view about the relationship? We’ve seen it done before; Forks Over Knives is not the first partnership that Meredith has done. Or the first magazine they’ve brought into the marketplace with that partnership.

Michelle Bilyeu: I guess I’ll just say that Forks Over Knives is a great partner. We work really well together to support each other and create great products. And it’s ultimately about the consumer. We’re really excited with the fall issue; we’ve been able to over-double the draw that’s going out on newsstand, hopefully reaching more consumers. And introducing more and more people to such a wonderful brand.

Samir Husni: So all three of you; why do you believe in print with everything that’s available out there?

Brian Wendel: I believe in print because we’re seeing quite a bit of success with it, honestly. When it comes to this type of magazine, I think there’s still a demand for it. The computer is great, but people still want to have something they can hold in their hand, take recipes from. It’s easier to bring a magazine into the kitchen that it is a computer. There’s just something more tangible about it. Something beautiful about a magazine that’s just not captured on a computer. And I’m not knocking a computer, I just think this type of content is still nice to bring into the kitchen or kick back in a hammock with. The need for it is still there.

Elizabeth Turner: It’s inspiring. You can keep a beautiful food magazine, any beautiful magazine, but it’s a keeper. It’s something you have on your coffee table; it’s something that you look at and it reminds you of how you’d like to live your life. I don’t think magazines are going away, they’re just getting more special.

Michelle Bilyeu: I would agree to that too. I think it’s all about that tactile experience with it; it’s being able to take it to your own space and get away. It’s a point of relaxation and inspiration and motivation. It’s a great place to find lots of ideas, besides just the information. So, I think they’re very inspiring. And I have a huge stack on my bed. Every night I look forward to that moment with my magazines.

Samir Husni: If you could have one thing tattooed upon your brain that no one would ever forget about you, what would it be?

Brian Wendel: I’d like to be known as a good citizen and someone who loves his family and friends. I’d like to also be known as someone who took a chance on something that I really believed in and it’s had what a lot of people believe is a profound impact on many people’s lives across the world. If that could be my legacy, I’d be thrilled to have it.

Elizabeth Turner: That’s really a tough question. Always creative and always pushing forward.

Samir Husni: If I showed up unexpectedly at your home one evening after work, what would I find you doing? Having a glass of wine; reading a magazine; cooking; watching TV; or something else? How do you unwind?

Brian Wendel: I would be with my partner, Darshana Thacker, who happens to be the chef and culinary project manager for Forks Over Knives, and who has a good handful of recipes in each issue. So we might be having a delicious meal together; it might be a corn chowder or something like that, some potatoes. We live pretty simple lives, so that’s what you might find us doing.

Elizabeth Turner: I’ll be eating fruit, probably watermelon. Brian and I have this funny thing in common that we’re both obsessed with fruit, so if you’re at my house you’re going to see a lot of good fruit at all times. And I’ll probably be eating it.

Samir Husni: My typical last question; what keeps you up at night?

Elizabeth Turner: My cat. (Laughs)

Brian Wendel: I’m going to decline to answer that. (Laughs)

Samir Husni: Thank you all.

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