As 112BK returns for another season, the BRIC TV team is thrilled to welcome new host MacKenzie Fegan. Having written for Paper magazine, Playboy, NPR and others, MacKenzie's pieces often "sit at the intersection of food and identity, politics, and power." As a video producer, she's worked with the Ford Foundation, Human Rights Watch, and Cinereach, and has created a few viral spoof videos if you need a good laugh.
We're excited for her to bring her insights and energy to 112BK, and spoke with her about her inspiration, working with the BRIC TV team, and most importantly, her favorite cocktail in the city.
Who are some of your favorite writers, journalistic influences, or creative folks you look to for guidance and inspiration?
I would say 90% of my worldview and aesthetic can be traced back to Pee-wee Herman. Pee-wee’s Playhouse is a perfect show, fight me. Anne Fadiman is one of my favorite essayists and writers. When I graduated from high school, this stoner sk8er friend of mine gave me a slim volume of her essays, Ex Libris. My friend’s mother was a professor in the English department at San Jose State, and the inscription is something like, “My mom said you’d like this or whatever.” Her writing—a sort of literary journalism that combines research with personal experience and nerdy humor—is a delight. She’s so unapologetically smart. I also look forward to reading whatever Taffy Brodesser-Akner, Caity Weaver, and, on the food front, Tejal Rao and Samin Nosrat are writing in the Times.
You’ve written great pieces on food and beverage for a number of publications. How do you connect food to wider cultural trends and sea changes in your work?
I come from a restaurant family, so food has always been a big part of my life—even when I was a picky kid who subsisted mainly on processed cheese and canned fruit cocktail. Fun fact, my grandparents owned a restaurant that the New Yorker called “the best Chinese restaurant in the world,” but I didn’t really eat Chinese food until I was a teenager.
When you’re the only kid in your Chinese day care chomping on a hot dog, you start subconsciously to draw the connections between food and culture and identity and power.
We all have a set of lenses that we use to make sense of the world around us, and food and drink is definitely one of mine.
As both a writer and a video director, can you tell us about the different and similar ways you approach each of these storytelling mediums?
Writing and filmmaking offer different types of freedoms. With video, you have the opportunity to shape a story using all these separate elements—the imagery, the sound design, the editing. There are more creative levers to pull and more possibilities for collaboration, which is something I love about the medium.On the other hand, with writing, you’re naked and alone, like that reality TV show my mom likes.
But [writing is] its own type of freedom—being able to tell a story without a team, equipment, or a budget from wherever in the world you want to be.
What do you do to prepare to have meaningful conversations with guests and interviewees?
The amazing producers of 112BK make it easy. They compile a briefing document for every guest with a summary and relevant links, and from there I just read and watch and listen to whatever I can so I don’t sound like a complete idiot when we tape. I’m used to interviewing people for documentary film, where everything gets edited down and my questions get removed, so I’m accustomed to giving broad prompts like, “So, tell me about what you do” and “Do go on.” The format of 112BK is way harder.. I don’t have the luxury of letting my guests meander their way to the interesting topics, so I have to know enough about Buddhism or the Reproductive Health Act or contemporary performance art to focus the conversation.
I know 1000% more about local politics than I did when I started.
Lastly, what’s your favorite cocktail and where in New York can we get it?
This barely qualifies as a cocktail, but I’m a big fan of the Picon bière, which is a drink favored by French grandpas. It’s just beer with a shot of Picon, which is a bitter orange liqueur, but the problem is Picon doesn’t have a distributor in the US. I have a bottle on my bar cart, but if I haven’t invited you over yet, Toby at Long Island Bar sometimes has a special stash. And if he doesn’t, China-China is an acceptable substitution.