deck reviews

An Interview with Josh LaFayette, creator of the Food Fortunes deck

Any New Age Hipster worth their weight in Amazonite has been eyeing up the Food Fortunes deck by Josh LaFayette.

When I first cracked this deck open I was like - OMG the art is freaking incredible! Then I was like - OMG it's pizza on a Tarot card! Then I was like OMG how do I read this thing, like does this actually relate to RWS (Rider-Waite Smith) symbolism or what the actual heck is going on with this deck? So I made a video about that, basically like "what are you doing with this deck, Josh LaFayette?" along with my awesome interpretations of the Knight of Sides card (it's about following your mashed potato dreams, obviously).

When Josh popped up in my inbox with some of the answers, I was like OMG Josh is like the coolest Tarot deck creator ever! And then I thought I should probably get him on the blog and share these answers with you because maybe you've also been sitting around trying to make your pizza match up with your Magician or your banana split with your Wheel of Fortune

But never fear Tarot Nerds! Josh is here to explain it all! 

Josh, all the New Age Hipsters are loving Food Fortunes, it's such a cool quirky and fresh new take on the Tarot, where did the idea come from?

Thank so much, Vix! I drew a version of “The Slice” back in 2013 as part of my Daily Drawing series. My original idea/concept was to take something deeply mystical and revered and strip it of all that by making it about food. Tumblr loved it lol. Katy Perry posted it on her Instagram account (with no credit obvi!) and that’s when I thought “dang, people might really be into a full deck?”


Are you actually into Tarot and woo woo stuff? Or was this more of an art project than a spiritual one? (Obviously art is spiritual, but you know what I mean)

I had to look up “woo woo” if that gives you any idea! :) I was raised in a New Religious Movement in the Southeastern U.S. that was an offshoot of a Christian sect called The Shepherding Movement (I abandoned it in my 20s). As a kid, I was shielded from all things even remotely related to occult practice/imagery or witchcraft or clairvoyance or anything. But, I was raised with a heavy emphasis on numerology and spirituality and meetings with prophets and stuff, so I guess I basically just got one end of the spectrum and was “sheltered” from the rest. I was always taught to look for symbolism in the things around me and to take meaning from things that most people might otherwise ignore (also I went to art school and that’s basically what they teach you lol). All that to say—once I set myself free to explore all mystical imagery (not just Christian), I really fell in love with the RWS deck around 2012/13.


How long did it take you to create the deck and how many of the cards are based on your actual dinners?

As I mentioned, I drew the first card in 2013. I drew about 10 more that year. All for my own pleasure. Then in 2014 I started grad school for an MFA in Illustration and I used those 10 illustrations (and the concept of a full deck) as the focus for my thesis. In late 2014 Chronicle Books in San Francisco reached out and developed an interest in publishing a full deck. I worked on the 78 proper Food Fortunes cards from about October 2014 to July 2015.

I definitely put a lot of my favorite foods in the deck! Also, I hid a lot of easter eggs in the cards based on my personal experiences—words in Arabic, Latin, Italian, Japanese, and Turkish, old hobo symbols, alchemical symbols, a drawing of my childhood home, and the name of my wife, Lou. I really had a lot of fun doing all of that!


We're all super interested in how the cards relate to the Rider Waite Smith symbolism, or like, if they don't? I've been clawing my eyes out trying to find the symbolism between pizza and the magician (pizza is magic?), please explain! 

Haha I love seeing you and all the New Age Hipsters striving to make the connections! So, Food Fortunes is only related to the RWS deck superficially through imagery. When I started working with Chronicle to make the deck a real thing, I studied the RWS like crazy. I fell in love with Pamela Coleman Smith’s illustrations and with the thought of A. E. Waite basically rethinking tarot and making it something he wanted it to be. Tarot is such an old tradition with so many lasting concepts and guidelines, that I knew I didn’t (and still don’t) understand it all. Instead of taking years to familiarize myself with the interworkings of tarot, I decided to make something new (this is why the word “tarot” never appears anywhere on the deck/box/booklet). But I didn’t want to completely leave RWS behind, so I borrowed/appropriated/referenced imagery from the deck. The meanings of the cards don’t overlap—not intentionally anyway. I have heard some good arguments for how they do coincide, though! Maybe the Universe had deeper plans than me :)

My main hope is that this deck will help “regular” people decide what to eat. But after hearing so much from the tarot community, I hope that Food Fortunes can help card readers sharpen their intuition and deepen their practice in a not-so-serious way. 

What deck/s did you check out while making your deck? Do you have a favourite tarot deck?

My main source of inspiration and study was the RWS—I bought that deck right away when I had the idea and I bought and read books about RWS to learn as much as I could. I’d have to say it’s my fav. I did look at a lot of other decks to familiarize myself with the tradition and make sure that I gave myself context before I started. I looked at a lot: The Épinal Tarot, The Marseille Tarot by Charles Cheminade, The Marseille Tarot by Jean Dodal, Oliver Mundy’s Tarot (which I believe is contemporary), Il Tarocchino Bolognese, Il Tarocchino Lombardo, The Aquarian Tarot (1970), The Black Power Tarot (a majors-only novelty deck), The Major Arcana by Oliver Hibert (another majors-only novelty deck); I also followed the creation of the art for the forthcoming Modern Spellcaster's Tarot by Melanie Marquis and illustrated by (my friend!) Scott Murphy, and the forthcoming Everyday Witch Tarot by Deborah Blake and illustrated by Elisabeth Alba (Scott Murphy’s partner).


Your art is pretty awesome. How did you get into it?

Thank you!! My mom would buy me sketchbooks and markers very frequently when I was a kid. I honestly didn’t grow up thinking that drawing was something unique to me—I thought everybody drew the same way everybody watches T.V. or eats or whatever. Art classes weren’t offered in the public schools I attended, but I went to college for a BFA in Graphic Design and really fell in love with expressing ideas through design. In 2012, I transitioned from design to illustration in my personal practice and now I’m magically an illustrator. In July 2016, I’ll have a big piece of paper that says I’m a MASTER of illustration and it’ll have a gold seal and everything on it so it’s super official, and that’s cool :)


Do you have any advice for people who might want to create art but think they suck at it? (I'm just asking for a friend)

I used to suck at art. It was nearly impossible for me to translate what was in my head onto the paper (this is even after I transitioned into calling myself “an illustrator”). I started a daily drawing project in 2011, so I’ve done over 1000 daily drawings and that is how I became “good at art.” If you want to be good at anything all you have to do is practice it over and over and over and over and talk to other people who are practicing the same kind of thing over and over. I think there are certain people who are born with a natural ability to do something and that’s great. But most normal people suck at everything and we just have to try and fail one million times until we’re good at it. I find no shame in that whatsoever!


What else do you do when you're not creating art? 

I’ve been writing/recording music and playing in bands since I was 16, and I think that’s something I’ll always do! Going to listen to bands, going to look at art, and playing with my son are some of my favs. I also love to eat (obviously!!)


Which card in this deck best describes you?

Ooo that’s a tough one! After much thought, I think I have to say for who and where I am right now it’s The Refried. It’s not my favorite card in the deck, but it feels so somber and introspective. There are two suns, which I find disorienting—and there is green grass beyond the sand/dirt landscape, but it’s upstream and there’s no clear path to get there. I’m juggling a lot right now in life and work and I find myself feeling confused frequently—but at least it’s bright outside and I’ve got plenty of water. Also I love beans :)

What's your favourite pizza topping?

I haven’t always felt this way, but after living in Italy with Lou for a while in 2009/10 I gotta say just gimme fresh mozzarella! Nothing beats a proper pizza margherita!


Do you actually keep your deck in the kitchen to help with meal planning? And can you provide us with a printable meal planner to go along with the deck? :D

Yes! Sometimes we use it to help decide which restaurant to visit and sometimes we use it as a list of ingredients for a meal to cook. It has actually been really helpful for us a number of times! Haha I already provided a meal planner—it’s called Food Fortunes! :D


Do you have any tips for vegans, vegos or pescatarians on how we can substitute some of the meatier cards?

Yes! So, my family and I are definitely omnivores, but we eat vegetarian/vegan often because, really, it’s better all-around for the earth and our bodies. I think when you’re in the veg mindset, you sort of develop an intuition that helps you quickly know what to substitute in for meat/eggs/dairy. For example, the King of Mains is a huge steak. But if I’m in the veg mindset and I pull that card, the first thing I think of is a big ol’ grilled portobello mushroom—yum! This is making me hungry. 


Do you have any plans to create another deck? If so, what themes are you considering?

I’m glad you asked these last two questions together because while I was drawing Food Fortunes I kept thinking that it would be so great to have a vegetarian or vegan version of the deck. I would personally love that. Sometimes planning a vegan diet is exhausting, and I forget what I’m able to eat and I just end up eating tons of sweet potatoes and lettuce. Having a handy deck of 78 vegan ingredients would be super helpful! We’ll see what the future holds—maybe I’ll have to sign up for a genuine New Age Hipster reading and find out whether that’s a good route to pursue! :)


Thanks Josh! It's been so awesome to chat with you and we're all eagerly awaiting the next deck! :D


And now you're going to wanna check out Josh in all these places:


collection of Food Fortunes promo images and links:

@joshlafayette on twitter and instagram.




And make sure you grab this deck for all your meal planning and culinary intuitive needs!

With love, light and dinners done,