Cheap Thrills Cuisine: Chef Peppi’s First and Last

It’s Wednesday, the day set aside for Chef Peppi’s Cheap Thrills Cuisine – but no more.

The last recipe on GoComics was January 27, 2021 (above); the contract was not renewed. If you are reading this soon after being posted the last couple entries are still up at the GoComics newspapers’ feeds (see The Oregonian) And though the copyright reads 2021 it was a rerun – the feature has been in reruns since maybe January 2014.

Cheap Thrills Cuisine began as a weekly strip and was a perfect fit for the Wednesday food sections that most newspapers had when it debuted on June 30, 1993.

As Thach (Tak) Bui relates in a 1993 Washington Post article about the “new” strip it was actually a revival of something Tak and Bill Lombardo had tried 15 years earlier:

Illustrator Thach Bui, on behalf of his very pregnant wife, borrowed their neighbor Bill Lombardo’s kitchen table because the Buis’ wasn’t big enough for the important task at hand: the home delivery of their second child, Liem.

That long-ago family intimacy has grown, and borne other fruit — and vegetables, and pasta dishes, and desserts and all manner of fine food. Not long after Liem’s arrival, Bui talked Lombardo, then a budding chef, into the idea of creating recipes in cartoon format. Aiming it at readers of Toronto’s alternative weeklies, they named it for a well-known Janis Joplin’s album because cheap thrills seemed to capture the feature’s two principal elements.

Their audience, back in the late ’70s, was, like the two of them, in its twenties — pressed for time, squeezed for money, looking for easy and exotic delights. Their culinary inspiration was and is Toronto’s exploding ethnic bouillabaisse — Slavs, Thais, West Indians, North Africans, Chinese, Italians, Greeks — whose offerings they feature in comic strip panels.

As much as I can piece together the lineage runs something like this:
It started in a Toronto weekly in 1977,
then it ran in a Toronto arts magazine for 4 years,
next, for two months, in a Toronto newspaper,
and finally in a different Toronto arts magazine until 1982.

In 1992 or 93 samples were seen by a Washington Post Writers Group editor and soon after the features was intoduced to American newspaper readers, and cooks, around the nation.

The weekly strip proved popular enough that the Washington Post Writers Group expressed interest in another Tak creation Chip, which began appearing in U.S. papers under the title PC and Pixel. (PC and Pixel, with 22,000+ followers, continues at GoComics – Cheap Thrills Cuisine had around 5 and a half thousand followers.)

Cheap Thrills cuisine ran for about 20 years when Tak retired from creating comic strips.
From the Spring 2018 issue of  ROOTS, the UTS Alumni Magazine:

Thach retired from producing new comic strips about five years ago, but reprints of his work still circulate thanks to an online syndication firm.

The last recipe I can find in a newspaper is from the January 25, 2014 Modesto Bee:

Chef Peppi and Cheap Thrills Cuisine © Bill Lombardo & Tak Bui

The Modesto Bee had run the strip and then dropped it. In mid 2012 picked it up again, but only because the strip had a sponsor.

As far as I can determine (but can’t confirm) since that January 25, 2014 Modesto Bee issue GoComics has been the only outlet for Cheap Thrills Cuisine. And those have been reruns for about seven years.

Bon Appétit.


4 thoughts on “Cheap Thrills Cuisine: Chef Peppi’s First and Last

  1. I’m strangely disappointed by this. I know times are tight but I do wonder how much it would cost GC to keep on some of these now expired features, since I think for instance The Creeps is now unobtainable in English. I presume licencing is the major cost.

  2. I lean toward the idea that it was just becoming unmanageable with 500 features. It is one thing to post thousands of comics like Webtoons does with no oversight, but I think GoComics needs someone reading each feature to make sure they don’t go “beyond the pale.”
    Also, if you read the Bui alumus article linked above Tak notes that he gets a couple bucks for his GoComics strips. So now we have someone keeping track of clicks and an accountant writing (monthly?) checks for a buck and a quarter to hundreds of creators. The costs in time, manpower, and dollars does add up.

  3. A little off topic though I never saw Cheap Thrills Cusine in my local Chicago newspapers, but do you remember there was a newspaper comic strip mostly for food sections called “On Sale Today” done by Carol Sherman? I know this comic strip ran in the Chicago Tribune’s Thursday food section from March 1987 to August or September 1988.

  4. I appreciate the need for curation, but for archival strips presumably they don’t need too much monitoring to see if they’ve gone beyond the pale (though I note GC pulled a few of Bushmiller’s strips a few years ago featuring racial caricatures unacceptable today).

    And surely they don’t have human accountants tabulating page clicks and manually typing up cheques these days. It seems simplicity itself to build pay systems around that, and it is kinda of their business to do so.

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