Eddie Huang can tell you how to make it in America's food industry. First, suffer a miserable childhood at the hands of bullies, get a law degree, start a side business selling sneakers on the black market, and make a foray into stand up comedy. Then, open a restaurant. That's how he did it. Huang now runs the successful NY eatery BaoHaus.
You can also see him on Vice TV and the Cooking channel. His new book, "Fresh Off the Boat," chronicles his unconventional career path.
On the story behind the cover image of his book:
"My brother was born and they wanted a nice family photo, and they couldn't get me to look at the camera. So they gave me this toy car and that's what's in my hand, and I held the toy car, then when they went to take the photo I pretended like I was eating the car. This is exactly how I was all the time and that's why they picked the photo. It's very telling. You have the grandparents from Taiwan and the parents from China and us in America. So it's 100 years of Chinese migration on one cover with all of these colors that are very Harlem."
On why his family came to America:
"A lot of people that come to America, they don't even think about it. My parent's generation, it was like, you want to go to America. Wherever you are, that's the place you want to go. It's the land of opportunity. I think my story is one about how the American Dream did not always deliver, and I didn't accept that. My family came here for a reason, I'm going to find that America that people are talking about, and in a lot of ways I found it in New York."
On what makes Taiwanese cuisine unique:
"Every cuisine has its characteristics that differentiate it from the other countries in the region. I think what distinguishes Taiwanese from, say Chinese food, is this use of funk, which comes from preserved bamboo. Or cured stinky tofu...In its region its use of dried shrimp, dried fish, stinky tofu, everything has a smell and tannins to it. The other thing is there's a sweetness to the food that distinguishes it. Much like Cuban food in its region is sweeter than, say, Puerto Rican or Dominican. Cubans have the sweet tooth, I think Taiwanese have the sweet tooth in East Asia."
On experiencing American food as a young boy:
"I wanted readers to get into the mind of an 11-year-old Chinese kid growing up in Orlando and how strange America was to him, because everyone always saw me and my food and my family as foreign and exotic. but in a lot of ways we exoticized weird things in America like macaroni and cheese or tuna fish. My family, we may be weird in America, but America is just as weird to us. I think I really benefitted from having that duality."