What is Omakase Magazine?
My name is Aaryn Coker and I’m the Editor-in-Chief. This is the introduction.
Omakase is a Japanese phrase that, broadly speaking, translates to “I leave the decision to you.” Where most of the people reading this are familiar with the term is within the context of cuisine, specifically American Sushi. Ordering food omakase style is the opposite of ordering a la carte, where, if your imagination is good enough or experience vast enough, the only wonder left is the exact taste. Ordering omakase style is giving the chef carte blanche to do something aspirational, something hopefully incredible, to deliver what you didn’t know you even wanted. It can be a gamble, but what’s life without a little risk? Besides, there’s no gamble better than a gamble made in good faith by both parties; the only way for anyone to win is for everyone to win. Trust, then, is a major component of the entire experience, the secret ingredient that can elevate the whole meal. Do you, the customer, trust the chef to deliver on his promise? Do you, the chef, trust the customer to appreciate your work? Do you have faith?
Omakase Magazine is built around that tension, the friction between the anticipation of getting what you think you want and the delighted surprise at what you actually get. Surprises can be good and bad, mundane to spectacular, but the feeling of surprise, of encountering the unexpected: that sticks with you, and that’s what we’re trying to capture here. That said, surprises are only meaningful with context. The death of a stranger is a tragedy but winning the lottery? That’s a shock. Omakase style works so well because of the slight constraints on it. You’re there to eat, you expect it to be Japanese (whatever that means to you), but beyond that the limits are far and away.
But Omakase Magazine isn’t a meal. It’s a magazine, with things to read and see, so we have to set constraints some other way. Each issue starts with a prompt, dictated by yours truly (and probably others in the future). Each prompt is as open as possible because the editorial staff wants to see things beyond what we can imagine. We’re here to help push and prod people to refine their ideas into something great, but that original idea is the real prize. Subverting a cliché, or honoring an old standby, or fearlessly creating a world: surprise can have many catalysts. The process of throwing meat into the void and seeing what the void throws back, trusting in the void to delight - that’s fun to us, and if you agree then you’re in the right place.
There is a smaller, looser predecessor to Omakase Magazine. It exists in two forms: as a PDF on my computer and as ~20 (color) print copies. It was appropriately titled “Omakase Vol. I.” I started Omakase Vol. I because I believed that the people I knew had something interesting to say but they just lacked a reason or a meaningful place to say it. I started it because of ego, because I believed that I was friends with creative engineers and beautiful dreamers, secret geniuses and burgeoning romantics, and that all of them were just waiting to be unleashed. I don’t finish some of the things I start, a personal failing of mine, but I did finish Omakase Vol. I. I compiled and edited it on oil rigs in the Gulf of Mexico and in AirBnBs across the South, working around a job I hated, because it turns out that I was right. I had dared to dream, something I’m scared to do, and had been rewarded for my impudence. My friends were as great as I had hoped. It wasn’t perfect, because nothing is, but it gave me and a few of those involved the confidence to try something even greater.
This isn’t a group of professional writers. This is a new adventure for almost all of us. We will stumble. We will falter. It is inevitable. But we will continue to strive to deliver on our promise of creating something worth being surprised by. We want to create works that will rattle around your skull for days, works you’ll bring up on dates and at the dinner table to spark conversation, works that are worth sharing because they mean something to you. Actions speak louder than words, effort is no guarantee of quality, creativity is no guarantee of impact, but I ask you to trust us when we say, quietly, confidently: we will create something worth your time.
—Aaryn Z. Coker, Editor-in-Chief
As the Managing Editor, Type A, left-side brain guy on the editorial staff, I’m here to take you the rest of the way. What is this? When is this? How is this? Keep reading, brothers and sisters.
Our first issue (which we’ll be referring to as an “issue” since we’re trying to imitate much about the printed-magazine form online) will run for two months, from the beginning of September through the end of October, and each of our issues after that will run for two months each. We’ll start with a letter from the editor describing the prompt that was given to our writing staff, and then dive right in with some great pieces from our writers and other contributors. For Issue One, we have essays and personal narratives, poems and short stories, sci-fi and more all lined up for you.
Through the rest of August, we’ll be running a handful of articles and essays to keep you busy until the full launch—call it our "soft opening," I suppose. Most of these have been handpicked from previous writing projects Aaryn has led, and should give everyone a taste of the breadth of topics and styles you’ll be seeing on Omakase.
We’d love to have you as a reader, and you can make sure you hear about every one of our new posts by signing up for our email list using the box in the footer of every page.
We’d even love to have you as a contributor, if that’s your thing! We can’t guarantee we’ll publish everything you send in, but we’ll definitely give it a read.
We love it when our writers and contributors push their own comfort zones and boundaries. We love experimental and format-bending pieces that are as unfamiliar to the writer as they are to the readers. We love the em-dash and editor’s notes [ed.—See?]. So be warned...you’ll be seeing a lot of that, and hopefully much more.
Thanks for joining us.
—Ryan J. Gimarc, Managing Editor