APEX Express

APEX Express – 6.16.22- Celebrating Arts

A weekly magazine-style radio show featuring the voices and stories of Asians and Pacific Islanders from all corners of our community. The show is produced by a collective of media makers, deejays, and activists.

June Celebrating Arts – Show Transcript

[00:00:00] Opening: Asian Pacific expression. Unity and cultural coverage, music and calendar revisions influences Asian Pacific Islander. It’s time to get on board. The Apex Express. Good evening. You’re tuned in to Apex Express.

[00:00:18] Jalena Keane-Lee: We’re bringing you an Asian American Pacific Islander view from the Bay and around the world. We are your hosts, Miko Lee and Jalena Keane-lee the powerlee girls, a mother daughter team,

In honor of Asian-American Pacific Islander heritage month, we’re highlighting the ways that you can celebrate in the bay area and beyond.

[00:00:44] Miko Lee: Jason Bayani artistic director of Kearny street workshop. Welcome to apex.

[00:00:51] Jason Bayani: Thanks for having me.

[00:00:52] Miko Lee: We are so happy to learn about the 50th anniversary of, and a big gala that’s set for this weekend. June 11th. Tell us about your big event. That’s happening at the San Francisco mint.

[00:01:05] Jason Bayani: Yeah, we’re we’re about to have our 50th anniversary gala for Kearny street workshop. We’re the oldest, multi-disciplinary Asian Pacific American arts organization in this country founded in 1972. We wanted to celebrate all our 50 years of history at this gala that we’re having at the San Francisco mint. The name of the gala is titled to imagine is to exist 50 years of Kearny street workshop. And yeah we’re open to bring up. From all the different generations. And this is really going to be a celebration of those 50 years and a way for us to interact and share space together and to commemorate all the history of the many different communities of artists that have come through for all these decades

[00:01:52] Miko Lee: I know Kearny street was founded around the time of the political unrest of the seventies. Tell us about how Curtis street was founded and how that resonates today.

[00:02:04] Jason Bayani: In that time, there’s like many different forces swirling around. When we talk about the student movements the anti-war movements there’s just so many different things happening at that time. In Chinatown and what was remaining of Manila town at that moment you had different artists in that area decided to get together and one thing that hold on a second here, a second.

You have three different artists named Jim doll, Lord Joe Fu and Mike chin. They wanted to actually do workshops for youth at the time. They started doing like screen printing and, visual arts workshops. They were able to acquire space underneath the I hotel. those workshops expanded into more community-based workshops and like photography and literary workshops. They had a space underneath a hotel as a storefront under the hotel. The legendary Filipino poet Al Robeson was active there at the time. Jessica Hagadorn gangs of love there’s the, there has mentioned of a hour was like figure teaching workshops, that hotel and through chronicity workshop in, in, in this kind of a time period. And you had all that going on and, they will to create this currency workshop organization.

They operated out of that space until 1976 or 1977 when the residents of the hotel and all the different organizations that were based out of there, including us in not only us in, Clooney folks like Chinese progressive association we were all were evicted from this building. And a lot of our. Ties are, live our beginnings of rooted in community-based arts. And also at the, also through the intersection of art and activism.

[00:03:50] Miko Lee: Jason, tell me about what people will see when they walk into this gala celebration. The San Francisco mint is a really large space. So how are you taking it over an artifying it?

[00:04:03] Jason Bayani: Yeah. So when you enter the room, we have several different interactive activities. We wanted to really create a, an interactive space and also one that would pay homage to our history of programming. And also programming that looks at our four pillars of organizing our four organizational principles.

[00:04:24] Miko Lee: This whole gala celebration is going to be around renewal, autonomy, futurity, and solidarity. One of those things mean how are those organizing principles being portrayed in this big event at San Francisco mint?

[00:04:41] Jason Bayani: I think the main the main principle we’re focusing on here at the gala is renewal. And I think that is part of the spirit of what can we use your workshops have been about for so many years in that Yeah, we’ve always sought to not only create spaces for folks to be able to bring their art to the general public but also be able to help each other grow and also be able to have a space outside of mainstream art spaces where we don’t have to justify or contextualize what our art is about, what our artists speaking to. And we can focus on the things that, help us thrive and help us look towards the future and create the future that we want to see for ourselves. So one of the things is that when you enter the room at this gala we’re going to have this.

Weaving wall constructed by artists, Charlene 10, where you can write your wishes and hopes for the future and weave him into this weaving wall that Charlene has created. And when you walk into the courtyard where everything’s happening, we’re opening the we’re opening the night. We’re opening night with.

With the legendary jazz musician, Francis Wong who’s done such an amazing job. Being able to contextualize the history of music and Asian American activism together and especially, how huge that jazz has been to a lot of historically to a lot of our R O G H in America.

No arts and community organizers. And so that’s how the night’s going to be starting. We’re going to have food from different like local chefs and caterers and we’re also set up a kind of how do you call it? You set up a kind of a. Human bingo game that we’ve, that we’re open to play that will encourage all the different generation of folks to be able to talk to each other and get to meet each other.

And so like people can, get to know some of our long time artists and also some of our newer artists as well. And yeah, so we’re trying to find different ways to get people to like really connect here in this space and we’re all kind of

[00:07:05] Miko Lee: coming out of the COVID land. We’re still in the covid, but the chance to be in person is really a lovely, having renewal as this chance to get to reconnect with people after so long, it was really beautiful.

[00:07:20] Jason Bayani: The great thing about the mint is. It has this nice, lovely courtyard that’s, outdoors and you all can speak to each other in a much more comfortable setting taking into account the precautions that we’re all trying to adhere to during these times.

[00:07:38] Miko Lee: Yeah. So that sounds fun though. Life live music and performances and DJs and poets. And I was like, it’s going to be quite the event. So back to my earlier question around, we were talking about how Kearny street workshop was founded in this kind of activist artists mindset. Can you talk to me about your. The project, which I know Kearny street is from the, originally from the I hotel. And you have been working yourself as an artist on a work that’s really pulling back, understanding Filipino artists, activists in San Francisco with this augmented reality map. Can you talk us through that and how people can have access to it?

[00:08:19] Jason Bayani: Yeah, it’s a what we did last year was gather stories from a couple different No, there’ll be up built the next artists and we sought out a group of people to interview, from different generations.

So the artists that we interviewed for this project included Joel tan amazing port and also I believe is running the wingman center in Seattle now. Rupert is Stanislau who’s longtime artists and an organizer in San Francisco. Mary Claire mob, MCM oblate. Who’s been like, local youth organizer in San Francisco.

And also Jessica Hagadorn the famous author. We interviewed them and just to tell some stories about where, and how art and activism has intersected for them in their experience in San Francisco. And we played it out on this map, depending on where the stories were.

Based in, and if you click on this map that we have on our website, if you go to our website, J street.org and look for the tab that says up built the next federal histories you can access it and then it’ll bring up this video. Where you can listen to a 92nd vignette of these interviews that are set to a AR VR video that helps to illustrate the story that they’re telling.

So it’s 360 video. So you can if you have one of those if you have an Oculus or something, you can look around. Move with you. And you could also do that on your screen. You can just use your mouse to move around the screen and stuff. So it’s pretty fun. We’re about to do it again this time. We’re trying to we’re trying to tell stories from Chinatown. And we’re going to be working on that over the next.

[00:10:06] Miko Lee: So you don’t need the Oculus pro to use it, but it just gives you a different element. You get the augmented reality part, but you could just go on the website and check it out too

[00:10:15] Jason Bayani: much.

[00:10:17] Miko Lee: Oh, that’s exciting. And that’s a nice combo of the old and the new that we’ve been talking

[00:10:22] Jason Bayani: about. Yeah. And the stories are amazing. And there was so much amazing stuff that we couldn’t even fit in to the fit into the AR VR video. But, we did we did drop some snippets some of the longer Which is this job, some some of the longer parts of the longest samples of the interview when we had when we had the when we had we won’t move running on APEC express.

And so people, if you wanted to go listen to any of those episodes, they’re still there, they should be still online.

[00:10:52] Miko Lee: Yeah, absolutely. And we can put a link to those in the show notes. Tell me one of the stories that really stayed with you. One of the stories that you heard that you thought, wow, I didn’t know that.

[00:11:03] Jason Bayani: What are the stories that I enjoyed most? And it really piqued my interest was that Jessica Hagadorn was very much into the music scene in the seventies. And I was, I like a lot of music from that time. And one of my favorite movies is is The last waltz.

The last waltz, which is directed by Martin Scorsese, and it’s like a concert film for the band and it’s one of my favorite concert films. And that was filmed in San Francisco at a venue that no longer exists. There’s like the winter ballroom or something. And Jessica was telling me like, yeah, I was there.

And apparently the. She was telling me a story about how she was there. And at one point everyone was onstage and her friends started eating up all the food. They went through the catering area and they ate up all the food stuff. And that was laughing because I know exactly what part of the movie that.

That’s when everyone came to the stage to sing, I shall be released and all, and now watch it. And I, I watched the film now and I get to that part and I can just like, in my head, see, like Jessica friends in the back, just eating all the,

[00:12:15] Miko Lee: especially behind the scenes movie, but. Yeah, that is fun.

And have you started collecting, curating the stories from Chinatown yet?

[00:12:25] Jason Bayani: Or are you in, yeah, not yet. It’s we’ve had to focus on the gala for right now, but that’s something we’re going to get back into the center.

[00:12:32] Miko Lee: My one more question for you, Jason is how do you are an incredibly brilliant artist in your own, right?

Then also run this, major arts institution. How do you balance the being the artist and being the administrator?

[00:12:48] Jason Bayani: It’s not easy. It’s not easy, but It’s, I don’t know how well I balance it, but I do it because I have to do it. I don’t, I love this job and I love everything that we do here and I’m completely dedicated to it, but I’m also dedicated to myself as an artist and like I have to make the time. To be able to do that as well.

Sometimes I, there’s sometimes during the year where one takes precedence over the other and I think that’s okay. I it’s finding the balance is something that you have to keep figuring out how to do. But the, at the end of the day, you like you do it people who have kids have to find like the balance, but it’s like, Yeah.

There’s never enough time, but you have to find the time. Do you

[00:13:47] Miko Lee: carve out time to write or to create? I’m just, I’m curious because this is a balance for me too. And I speak with a lot of different artists about that. And some people have really like regimented, like I saved this. Just for making art or I do it at night or, I take a couple of weeks off or whatever.

I’m wondering if you have a set thing or is it more organic for you?

[00:14:11] Jason Bayani: Honestly, it has to be more organic because things shift so frequently, especially when it comes to the work sometimes like it’s. Sometimes it’s oh, things have opened up now I have to like, it’s not so busy at work.

So now I can focus on this. I know some people who are able to do this thing where they wake up at 5:00 AM every morning and write for two hours and then get up and get ready to go to work or whatever. I can’t. That’s not me. I just get it in where I can fit it in, it’s that’s just that’s just kinda how I’ve had to do things for as long as I’ve been in adult.

[00:14:50] Miko Lee: So 50 years Kearny street workshop. What is your vision for the next 50 years of Kearny street workshop?

[00:15:00] Jason Bayani: That’s a great question. We think a lot about, what is the kind of future we want to see for ourselves. I think a lot about the, how we move through the idea of, Asian American, and now it’s like Asian, Pacific American and like the necessities that created it, but also how we’re beginning to, or how we’ve been. Maybe trying to outgrow it or move beyond it. I’m wondering what that will mean for our communities. It’s such a vast umbrella term, which is still connected to services and still connected to ways in which we’re able to fill needs for our different communities.

What it would mean for us to get past the point of needing it. And you know what it means for all the different. Cultures that exist underneath it. Who do we get to be once we’re able to move beyond the idea of Asian America? Especially cause as much as the term is helpless in these days, I think that it can also serve to at times, erase and overload different cultures that are kind of shoe horn underneath it. How do we create a space where we’re all visible and And not just visible, but able to have control of our stories and narratives and and the directions for which our communities want to grow into. When we think about those four organizing principles, what is an autonomous future, what is a future that is That is guided by solidarity.

And what is the future where we continue to, feel renewed and refreshed. What is a future where we can have all these things. I don’t often know what that looks like or how that gets there, but I think, these principles are aspirational, and something that we want to keep working towards. As we continue to work with different artists over the years, They continue to help make that picture more clear. And for these ideas to grow into newer ideas, one of the things that’s when things that’s wild about, like the title that we’ve named, the gala, called to imagine this to exist. I think after It actually came out of someone mispronouncing a a phrase that we were throwing around for a bit, after the 2016 election.

We created these buttons and on it said to imagine this to raise, to imagine is to resist. We were like using that phrase here and there every so often. And then I think our podcast crew Kazumi Darra and Michelle were doing a talk at a college and one of the attendees thought it said to imagine is to exist. we thought about that and we thought about how, at that time to imagine is to resist felt, but at this point to Matt at this point, we don’t, there’s this feeling of. Yeah, we’ve been resisting and fighting. And why does everything have to be framed from this point of opposition?

Or why does everything have to put us in this position where we’re having to Struggle in move against or we’re having to like start from this base position. What, if it, what if we are able to have a space where we can engage in, in dreaming and imagining and being able to move on from just having to react. I think that’s something we want to see for ourselves because it feels that we are in this state of disruption and that is very much the point that we are continually being disrupted because so that we can’t sit in a space of quiet in those spaces of quiet and in those spaces of like calm, those are spaces of dreaming and we want to dream more.

[00:19:36] Miko Lee: Thank you. I hear the. Beginning ruminations of a deep poem. But yes, I really love that your heart getting back to the mission and vision of Kearny street workshop around this is the space to dream and grow and create. I think that’s what we’re all working towards. Is there anything else you want to share with our folks about how they can get involved with Kearney street?

[00:20:00] Jason Bayani: Yes. If you go to our website there’s, there is a form on there. If you want to get involved with us, you can get our contact off of our website, Kearny street.org. If you’d like to attend the. Go to Kearney street org slash case w 50. And we still have we still have tickets if you want to also volunteer.

There is a form on there that you can fill out. And this won’t be the only a celebration of our 50th adversity. This is a year long celebration, which will include our regional food. Our Our yearly festival for emerging artists, aperture. And we’ll also be bringing back our body empowerment fashion show.

Celebrate your body in 2023. And now it’s part of our 50th anniversary celebration. Yeah. That is like I said, each of these events will be focused on one of our organizing principles. The galleries renewal aperture is focused on the autonomy celebrate your body is focused on solidarity and we’re going to be having a exhibition and also hoping to put together anthology which will be focused on futurity.

[00:21:09] Miko Lee: So many things. Thank you so much, Jason, from Kearny street workshop for sharing all the lovely things that are happening for the 50th anniversary.

[00:21:17] Jason Bayani: Yes. Thank you so much.

Next up, listen to turn you by Rocky Rivera.

That was turn you by Rocky Rivera. And next up we talked to Foo Nguyen, who is a contestant on the new PBS show. The great American recipe.

You’re listening to apex express on KPFA 94.1 FM.

Today, we’re talking about Asian American events and media that’s happening in June that you can tune into attend or watch. So stay tuned for more. Thank you so much for joining us food. When who is a new contestant on the great American recipe, a new PBS show that blends food, family fun by highlighting the amazing variety of tastes and traditions found across the United States. Thanks so much for joining us. Foo thank you for inviting me. I’m so excited to talk with you about this new show.

How did you find out about the great American recipe? So I believe it’s odd. I believe so. I enjoy cooking and my friends posted some pictures. I have some, a few pictures on Facebook, but I believe a friend of mine. They found a producer from the show saw the picture of a dish that I made a recipe I made, and then they contacted me through.

Wow. And what was that recipe that got their attention? They didn’t share that with me. So there’s a few, a sprinkling of pictures that I was unaware of, that some of my friends, like my wife and I like to, we like to host and entertain and so forth and I enjoy cooking and experimenting. So there’s some dishes that I made and they have.

It took some pictures without me knowing, and they post them on social media and and then they contacted them. And then all of a sudden I got a contact from the producer of the great American recipe. They asked me if I’m interested in participating in this. And I was leery because it’s something, through social media.

And so I agreed and here we are. Yeah. Did you think it was a scam at first? Or how did you decide to join onto the project? Totally. I was leery about it. I thought it was a little bit initially. I thought it was a scam because how many times does somebody contact you to participate on a telephone?

Cooking competition show through a social media platform. So yes, initially I thought it was a scam and then they started, they asked for my email, so no harm. So I provided my email, we exchange emails and so forth. And then they started sending me legit. Contractual binding agreements to review without any, without me signing anything as of yet then they shared with me, you will be flying.

Oh I’m sorry. Prior to that, they we had a couple zoom interviews as well as me cooking in front of them. Through zoom I made a meal for them. And then from there. I got cast it and they provided my airline and all that stuff. And once I landed and once they said cook in the competition I knew it was real.

And I know that the spirit and the point of the show is about diversity and what home means and how food is such an integral part of home and culture. So what are some of the flavors that remind you of how. Flavors for me that remind me of home are stem strictly from my mother as well as my five sisters my, I come from a family of eight and so mom cooked breakfast, lunch, dinner, and snacks.

It was V it would stem from Vietnamese flavors. A lot of flavors of Vietnam. We came immigrated here in 1975 after the fall of Saigon from the product of fall of Saigon. And so mom had to try to feed her children and her family. So then she tried to source ingredients that were very hard to find in Cincinnati, Ohio, where I was raised and grew up.

And so those flavors, she tried to mimic them from from home from Vietnam. So there are basis. There are other light there’s a lot of there’s a lot of levels and components generally broadly speaking. When I eat Vietnamese food, very full-flavored and healthy, and I saw that you have two daughters as well.

What are some of the values that you pass down to your daughters through cooking and through being in the kitchen? Yeah. Cooking the two things cooking his food to them. What we try to instill to them is that it’s a part of who we are as an individual, whether it be culture, individual Food defines people in certain ways.

So we try to educate them and introduce them to different cultural foods and so forth. Even within the identity of Vietnamese food my wife has Korean Vietnamese and Korean food. We expose them to everything. So for example I have no qualms about and we did sharing Ballou.

Or a sea snails or a grilled tuna heads just exposing them at a very young age so that they’re not shocked so that they’re not unaware that these are types of dishes that the culture eats that people eat from not only Vietnamese, but other cultures and it defines who people are. We’re really cool about exposing them to as much as possible. And secondly, having them help out in the kitchen. So if they’re like cutting carrots or helping me trim the green beans believe it or not, it actually helps them eat their veggies because they’re, they have a hand in making those.

And what do they think about their dad being on TV? Oh, they don’t care too much about it. They care about, going to Disneyland and things like that. They saw some of the trailers it’s comical. My younger one is she has, she’s very witty. She, the other day I made her breakfast and I accidentally left the toast.

We have a, we don’t have a toaster. We have another. Conventional counter oven and I left it in there a little bit too long. So it got a little bit singed on the side. So when I served a tour, she looked at and she said, dad, if you presented this on the show, you probably would not be on that show.

So she’s. Yeah, you got the judges at home as well.

And I know you can’t, talk about particulars of the show, but we’re excited to watch it. And I’m curious, along with what you’re saying about exposing your daughters to a bunch of different flavors and different foods, was there any new flavor or. Food element using a new way that you’re exposed to through the show that you thought, Hey, I should try this back home.

Or I should incorporate this into some of the dishes that I already make. Probably not the specific flavors, but I was in all. It was a very it’s a diverse cast. So I was in all of the different diversity di diverse cuisines that were served and put together. In a limited time for that matter.

So it exposed me to that aspect of flavors, but not a specific unique flavor, if you will, or ingredient. I also was some of the judges lent their, these are Michelin star, highly celebrated judges were so sweet and kind to educate and inform us about. Or way that the way to serve or the process of cooking efficiently or making a certain proteins or veggies more flavorful.

So the technique and process, those are things that I picked up a lot, not only from the judges, but also from the my colleagues, the contestants. Wow. And how has being on the show changed or shifted your relationship with cooking? Oh, wow. I came home and I started thinking it really turned on the light bulb for me because I’ve been exploring more and I’ve been experimenting more.

I’ve been jumping into different culinary dishes that I tried infusing more. So I’m working on like a Mexican Vietnamese type of burger right now and steak. So it’s I loved it. I love every minute of it. It’s that light bulb that I. That kind of gave me the boost to explore even more culinarily.

And what did you do to prepare for the show? I thought about what my mom raised me on what my sisters cook like to cook. My brothers liked to eat. I thought about my home. I thought about food that I was brought up on. I thought about the culture, the Vietnamese culture. Why, what, why certain flavors were used on different regions?

I really looked back at the fundamentals of my upbringing as well as the funding tried my best to educate myself about the Vietnamese culinary culture. And then from there, I just, I believed in that and I just pushed myself. And are there any particular dishes that you remember your mom making or your sister’s making that just remind you of growing up?

My, my mother, we came up from humble beginnings, so my mother during Christmas she would. Have us, her little sous chefs at that time, I was around probably six years old, five, six years old as early as I can remember we would go to the local book, butcher market. That’s the days when we didn’t have these commercial Costcos and so forth.

And you could speak to a specific person behind the. To request a certain enhanced select bits and pieces of protein or meat protein, or what have you and veggies for that matter. And so she would go out and source ingredients to make Vietnamese egg rolls, and then she would, pick the freshest of the vegetables she could and spices and herbs to try to mimic certain herbs and spices and ingredients that she did not have in Cincinnati, Ohio during the winter for that matter.

And then she would come home and recruit as involuntary, really recruit as many kids as she could or sous chefs to try to assemble and cook egg rolls. And then she would wrap them up and put a bow on them and she would ask us to come out and deliver it, hand, deliver to folks that helped my family and I assimilate and move to the United States specifically, Cincinnati.

So that dish happened on an annual basis at a very early in my family’s early life in Cincinnati, Ohio because of our humble beginnings, we didn’t, she couldn’t afford to buy them gifts. So this is her way to convey a thank you to them every holiday Christmas holiday. And it’s touching to me, it’s something that.

Dish that egg roll dish recipe speaks volumes to who I am as a cook and who I am as a person. Wow. Thank you for sharing that. That’s so beautiful. I’m curious too about, sourcing these ingredients in Ohio and how that works and what kind of, Maybe accidental fusion dishes were created just from, the kind of ingredients that you grew up around.

Sure. For example fish sauce, we as I shared with you, we immigrated here in 1975. So in the middle. In the winter of Cincinnati, Ohio believe it or not, fish sauce was very scarce. Not really not compared to now where there’s like a whole aisle full and they’re in Western grocery chains grocery stores.

But back then, it was very hard to find there was only one or two at the most that I could recall. And the flavors I never asked my mom about it, now going back, those fish sauces I re they still exist. That brands still exist. They don’t taste as well as because fish sauce is there’s a refinement to it.

And as time progresses, they’ve refined it, they’ve made different brands and so forth. So mom had to figure out a way to alter what you have. With the flavor using a little bit of a rice vinegar or certain vinegars or certain acids, or if she didn’t have access to vinegar, she would use lemon.

So to give it the acidity. So she played around with it to try to replicate what the dipping sauce was like for an egg roll in Vietnam. That’s one key example that I very much re remember sourcing it was hard to find your herbs. So lot of times those egg rolls are served with a bed of herbs.

They’re like coriander Thai basil and so forth. Again, it’s the winter of the Midwest. You don’t have access to that due to the season. Number one, number two the one or two Asian grocery stores that were available carried maybe be Thai basil or cilantro for that matter. So you had to make the best of what you did or what you have.

And so she would find the local mass produced veggies that were accessible, like the M two Cumbers or what have you to try to replicate that herbaceous salad, if you will, of that accompanies the Negro. And what was your relationship to your culture? Like growing up in Ohio? There was not very many Asian folks.

There was only actually one other Asian. Let me think. Yeah. One other Asian guy, Filipino a guy that was in my class growing up in grade school. So that’s first grade through eighth grade. And then in high school, there was two other Asian folks. It was predominantly white. But yeah, so not very not as culturally diverse as where I reside now in college.

And how did your relationship to your Vietnamese food play into your understanding of your own culture? Especially, going to school, I assume your mom packed your lunches. What was that like? Growing up if you’re by default not by default, but you’re impressionable that typically as a child.

So when you’re going to a school where you are the only Asian out of out of the only two Asians in elementary school, and you want to assimilate, you want to belong you want to have friends but when mom is packing you agro. With fish sauce. It can be a daunting lunch. It can be an embarrassing lunch.

So you just, I remember wanting, I would sit at the lunch table and I remember there was a Vietnamese crepe called bun sail that my mom served us for dinner. So the night prior. And so that was my lunch. It’s a Vietnamese crepe. It has. Pork sometimes shrimp and so forth and also company, would they a sauce and some herbs.

So she wrapped it up in aluminum foil. I re I really remember sitting down at lunch, opening my lunch and it has a fragrant now. Realizing it was very aromatic. It’s so delicious. And I just remember when I opened my lunch brag, it’s one of a kid next to me was like, what is that smell? That’s so awful.

And he’s pulling out, he has a bologna sandwich and he has Doritos and a Twinkie. And. I felt a little bit embarrassed because I, you look around at the lunch table when you have all these, commercialized foods, Twinkies, Doritos, things that were advertised on TV growing up, and here I am eating this home cooked quote unquote, exotic lunch compared to my classmates.

And it was, yeah, it was humbling to say the least and slightly embarrassing. So what. What is odd now is it’s in high demand. It’s a celebrated food. Me personally I absolutely love it. I’m connected through more so with my culture through the food. And growing up, did you ever try to get your mom to pack you something else or you knew that wasn’t going to happen?

My mom made two westernized dishes. I can count them on my two fingers the entire time growing up and that was spaghetti. And I think one of it was some sort of meat loaf, if you will. And I don’t even know if that was intentional. But so no, to answer your question there were. Very few, no, I take that back.

She did pack a couple Turkey sandwiches or deli sandwiches two or three of them. I think she got the sense that I don’t know how now I know because I’m a parent that I wasn’t eating some of the lunches maybe cause I came home when I was hungry or whatever, the indicators that her spidey senses felt.

She went out one time a couple of times and then picked up, a wonder bread. Th the makings of a quote-unquote traditional Midwest lunch and served at several times. And quite frankly, I was happy and elated to show off that, Hey, I have a ham sandwich.

Yeah, that makes sense. Especially at that age, when do you think, or how old do you think you were when that kind of shifted to wanting to, connect back with that food that you were raised on and share it with people in your everyday life and your peers? Probably when I went to college maybe senior year in high school and college, I started to have a grasp and appreciation for my my, my mother’s.

And the culture’s cooking more my, I, as I shared with you, I come from a large family and I’m like the third youngest down at the bottom of the totem pole. So it’s rare that we all would sit together as a family and eat because there were so many schedules. My older siblings were in college.

They were working. The ones that were in high school had part-time jobs and so forth. So it’s me and my two younger sisters were typically at home. We were at the end. The younger ones. So collectively as a family, it was very rare that we all sat down. So when we did, it was on Sundays for about an hour or two.

And so at that time, I vividly recall that’s the time where we had a lot of fun bonding together over food, and I realized how valuable food. To my, to myself and to my family, because we laughed, we talked about our week, we talked about our day. We connected so we were supportive, we were loving.

So it was always connected by food. And the and I would remember this is a sign of how a sign of Asian upbringing. We would sit there and have a beautiful meal that my mom would Hours preparing like a Vietnamese hotpot and we would sit there and enjoy it. And then while we’re eating, we would talk about other meals that my mom would make or other meals at other Asian restaurants like, oh, we would eating hot pot and we would talk about all.

Did you remember when we had that paging duck at a Chinese restaurant? That that, yeah. So that’s when I. It started to really sink in that food was valuable to me. And is that when you started moving from a sous chef to head chef? I think that was like, I tested an experiment, my poor younger sisters, I used to I enjoyed cooking.

I do remember that because I would try to replicate certain dishes my mom made and when you’re young and experiment may I I’m thankful I wasn’t the one that tasted it and ate it. I would feed it to my younger sisters. So I experimented with it when I was living at home, then when I went to college I fed it.

I experimented cooking with roommates. They enjoyed it, my friends started enjoying it. So then I knew that there was something there. And then as I got older finishing school, I dabbled more into it and I slowly started immersing myself in the food and learning about not only the enemy’s food, but exploring other ethnic foods as well.

And learning about behind the food, not necessarily the taste, but what this food means to people and their culture. On your ideal day, what would you eat throughout the whole day? On my ideal day if health was not a factor, I would have steak and eggs for breakfast. And then I would probably go to I’d love a good burger and a good and fries for lunch.

And for dinner, it’s such a tough question. I love everything. Sushi, really good sushi for dinner or a if it’s a Sunday and it’s overcast or it’s a little chilly, I’d love, there’s nothing like a bowl of pho. Yeah, it depends on the. Those all sounds so good. Now I’m really hungry.

What advice do you have for other aspiring chefs or home chefs out there? Particularly ones that want to use food as a way to get in touch with their culture learn, expose yourself to as much as possible go into it, knowing that. Be inquisitive, ask questions really learn the fundamentals of it, why? Because I feel like when you find out the fundamentals of, let’s say, a dish or what have you then you start to understand the flavor and the balance of what they’re trying to do or what the dishes, what the cook or chef is trying to do with those flavors. And then think about where the region they’re coming from.

If it’s Southeast Asia or if it’s. Yeah, Africa, if it’s Russia, if it’s Europe somewhere, you understand, you know what that culture is like, what is the geography? What is the weather like? And then under, and then when you’re eating it, you understand oh, this is why they are a high protein diet or high protein in their menu or whatever.

But be open to learning. And then from there you will be able to be patient and learn, ask questions. And from there you just make it. I think I really resonate with what you’re, what you’ve been talking about the importance of experimentation and play in cooking to come up with new things and just trying new things out in general.

What would you say to people who might be a bit, I feel a bit intimidated by all of the technical elements of cooking and some of these different techniques, maybe that, the Michelin star judges shared with you and the other contestants.

My apologies. So can you repeat that question? Oh yeah. I think some people are often intimidated by like the technical element of cooking and the different techniques that are needed. And sometimes these techniques. Get kept by these like big culinary schools and other institutions like that.

So what would you say to someone who is feeling maybe a little bit nervous about having that spirit of experimentation and play when it comes to cooking and worried about the technical elements? I feel I feel like you have to accept failure to me. Failure is a, it’s a route to success.

So I don’t, I, you got to go out and experiment. You got to play a, as you say, as you stated earlier, playing I met my wife I moved to Chicago. I spent nine years there, met my wife there and she and I met through an improv sketch comedy, Asian touring group. Wow. Yeah. So the improv is, you’re on your feet.

You’re thinking outside of the traditional structure of a conversation if you will, or a script and beads. So to me it’s, there’s a parallel with that with improv and cooking. The parallel is that you have to have structure. You gotta have if you’re gonna make a pizza, you’re gonna need the dough.

You’ll need a traditional dough, or you need some sort of sauces or not. But there are fundamental outlines and frameworks in that recipe. Allow yourself to experiment and allow yourself to fail. Because if you don’t fail, you’re not going to learn and you’re not going to get better. You won’t be able to find out your identity of who you are as a cook.

And so yeah, I really firmly believe in, don’t be intimidated by Michelin star star techniques be who you are as a person. And it will come through 10 folds. My mother’s, I. Absolutely loved my mother. And as I said earlier, it’s prime. Primarily. One of the huge factors of me enjoy cooking is because of my mom cooking for me and my siblings and growing up.

And she cooked from love. So when you go out and you try and you fail when you fail, use that as a lesson of learning, and then eventually you will be able to the techniques and the fundamental juvenile adventure. But learning and fail, failing and learning is what makes you become a, your dish, personalized your food, personalized to who you are as a person.

Thank you so much for sharing that. Is there anything else that you’d like to share in our last minute? No. I don’t know if I feel like if, we’re we live in a world that’s at the moment that can be, that is divided and tense at times. And I feel like if we would just be able to, I feel like food is so monumental, it could be monumental in repairing a lot of this the ignorance and the walls that we have divided between each other.

You sit down and have a meal with somebody that you have differences with food is so important to me, in my humble opinion, it is a great tool to learn about somebody’s food, and that would open up your mind and their mind about who you are and what they are. And it’s a great it’s a great bridge to potentially resolve matters, or if not resolve them at least have an understanding for differences between.

I completely agree. Thank you so much for coming on our podcast. And we will have all of the information on how to watch the great American recipe in our show notes. It premiers Friday on June 24th, and we’ll be running every Friday till August 12th. So you can catch foo Wynn on there and some of his lovely cuisines that he just talked with us about.

So thank you so much for joining us, Fu yay. Thank you. Thank you. I have a great day. You too. Thank you. Bye bye.

That was Fu when who’s a contestant on the great American recipe, a new cooking show on PBS that premieres June 24th.

Next up, listen, to find my way by Rocky Rivera.

That was find my way by Rocky Rivera. And now I want to shout out some other Asian American pieces of film, television, and media that you can watch this month. And that have just been released. The first piece is fire island, which is directed by Andrew on. And that is streaming on Hulu and it’s a great.

Gay Asian romcom that we love to see. So watch that on Hulu. And it just came out recently and it stars Joel Kim booster, who also wrote it and Bowen. And yang and Margaret show. So it’s quite a stacked. Gaijin comedy cast. And Ms. Marvel also recently came out, which is a new show on Disney plus. That features a day. See miss Marvel. So we love to see that as well. And on the more independent media side another movie i’m really excited about is called liquor store dreams it’s a documentary directed by so you um and it’s premiering at tribeca this week so we’re really excited to see that and we’ll be talking with the director when they have They’re west coast premiere later this year.

We’re also excited that Tribeca film festival is premiering the three short narrative films from their future gold film fellows who are three Asian American fellows who are selected in a long selection process. And their short films were supported by Netflix, Tribeca and gold house. So those are streaming online starting now and we’re excited to to watch those as well And let us know what you’ve been watching, what you’ve been liking. And if you want us to review any movies, TVs, books, anything like that, it’s such a great time for Asian American media. And we’re just loving all the different options that we have. And all the different pieces of media that are truly so great coast premiere see that film

[00:55:11] Miko Lee: Thank you so much for joining us. Please check out our website, kpfa.org backslash program, backslash apex express to find out more about the show tonight and to find out how you can take direct action. We thank all of you listeners out there. Keep resisting, keep organizing, keep creating and sharing your visions with the world. Your voices are important. Apex express is produced by Miko Lee Jalena Keane-Lee and Paige Chung and special editing by Swati Rayasam. Thank you so much to the KPFA staff for their support have a great night.



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