Interview: Eddie Huang

ACCLAIM jumps on a conference call with the star chef: “I don’t think any other food show has collaborated with an online porn organisation to talk about food.”

Words

Food. Travel. If there’s one way to appreciate the world we live in, it’s by combining the travel bug with an insatiable appetite. And with shows like Anthony Bourdain’s No Reservations and Andrew Zimmern’s Bizarre Foods showcasing a whole range of delicacies from around the globe, it’s hard not to want to jump on a plane with a bag full of cravats. New York chef, Eddie Huang, has taken that concept along with Vice magazine to create Fresh Off The Boat, an online video series that explores cuisine and culture.

Born in Washington, D.C. to Taiwanese-born parents, Huang grew up with a whole range of food, people and cultures. The online series is a direct homage to his upbringing and culinary exploration, with the now-established chef finding that there’s always more to be found, even in your own home.

“We went to LA because of the budget and we couldn’t afford to fly,” says Huang. The entire crew drove from San Francisco to LA – it kind of happened because of the budget. But, me and the producers were driving out of San Francisco and were like, don’t you hate food shows that are always like ‘This food is amazing! This neighborhood is the greatest thing ever!’? We were like, we’re not biggest fans of LA, let’s go try to make the best television we can, let’s go find the coolest shit we can and try to let it win us over. And if it doesn’t, we’ll just say that, cause our show is about keeping it real.”

Originally from the east coast of America, Eddie decided to dip his feet into the unfamiliar west coast of his second home. “You know, New York is tough. When we went to Miami, we knew exactly what we wanted to do, we knew what to scope out and what was different. We live New York every day. The things people find interesting are very mundane to us.”

But despite New York being his home, he is still excited to show the city as he knows it, rather than the standard skewed or fake view presented by the media. “I’d love to do a New York episode! If I did New York, I’d probably go to East New York, like the Linden Diner. I think that’s where the FBI got Gotti, recording his conversations at the Linden Diner. I’d love to do something on Arthur Avenue, and Brighton Beach is very interesting. But our thing is, we try to find stories in neighborhoods that other people wouldn’t gravitate towards, that aren’t the obvious thing for a food show to come to. Like in Miami when we did an episode with The Bang Bros. Bus, I don’t think any other food show has collaborated with an online porn organisation to talk about food…”

A dead silence goes over the conference call for about 10 seconds until the question, “Do you think you can elaborate on that?” is finally asked.

“The first meeting I ever had with Vice about the show they asked me, ‘If you could do any episode, one episode, where would you go?’ And I said I wanna eat with the pornstars on The Bang Bus. I wanted to make a parody of how companies are always collaborating, I was like well… I think it would be funny to do a food show with the Bang Bros. cause it’s a brand that every single guy or girlfriend of a guy has seen and knows about, it’s a cultural phenomenon.”

Being a proud fan and paying gold member of the porn site, he had his own questions about the business and the people working within it. “My suspicion about the porn business is that it’s not as weird or taboo as people would think it is and those thoughts were confirmed. I met Jada Stevens – if you didn’t know she did porn, you’d think she’d be the girl next door. I just wanted to lift the skirt up on porn – no pun intended – get in the guts and show people why they shouldn’t be over-eroticising things: it’s tits, ass, pussy and they eat too. I asked Jada, what do you eat? And it was super interesting to me, like she eats this on days she has to shoot and she doesn’t eat certain things when she has anal sex.”

Being an obvious fan of food and culture, Eddie explains a frustration with other travel shows “I’m hyped about every episode of this series. I think the camera gets in the way of the truth a lot of the time and that’s what our show is trying to do. I don’t want the camera to be a character; I want the camera to be the truth. I don’t want to tell stories; I want everything to be in the raw and show it in its most natural state. We get a lot of people high on our show so they can open and you know, be themselves. I’m hyped about every episode, we’re doing a good job at telling real stories.”

Being one of the most interesting characters in the American restaurant scene at the moment, Eddie Huang and Fresh Off The Boat, continues to be a raw document of the exploration in the diversity of locally produced global food, people and culture. And with dreams to do episodes in Jamaica, Russia, New Mexico and Borneo, it seems that the young chef isn’t quite finished with his adventures.