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Eddie Huang: That’s My Spaceship

I’ve decided to combine these food blog posts with why I love NY. The city inspires me every single week. So why not start documenting that, right?

Last week’s moment of inspiration came from a free reading at Greenlight bookstore. Eddie Huang, the proprietor of BaoHouse, was in conversation with Sam Sifton, The New York Times national editor, who was once their main restaurant critic.

Huang wrote Fresh Off the Boat, a memoir about his family and finding his way in New York. After going to law school, working at a firm, and trying stand-up comedy, he opened BaoHouse, a small (but loud?) sandwich shop that serves Taiwanese street food. (He did this all before he turned 30.)

One key moment came when an audience member asked about Sam Sifton’s negative review of Xiao Ye, a restaurant of Huang’s that ultimately went out of business. Huang said, “Very rare are people that real with you” and Sifton talked about being bummed because he had bought into all that Huang was and represented.

“[It’s] really too bad,” Sifton originally wrote in his review, “Because if Mr. Huang spent even a third of the time cooking that he does writing funny blog posts and wry Twitter updates, posting hip-hop videos and responding to Internet friends, rivals, critics and customers, Xiao Ye might be one of the more interesting restaurants to open in New York City in the last few months.”

Huang has a voice. You have got to give him that. As Sifton alluded to, his original way of speaking no doubt helps his notoriety. I find that his language actually contains his interests. He regularly sprinkles in references to hip-hop, basketball, political and philosophical thinkers. When asked about the unconventional sound track at BaoHouse (He prefers rap and once cut the shift of an employee who switched the music to Taylor Swift), he said, “I play what I play in my house, because you are eating in my house.”

I think part of Eddie’s (yes, now I’ve switched to first name!) draw is that he seems to be putting his all into what he says. He’s open with many moments others (especially immigrants?) would keep private. For instance, at the bookstore, he shared that the first message he received from his dad after reading the memoir was a text that said, “I’m sorry.” Eddie’s dad read about the hardships his children had to go through in the U.S. that they had never told him about. He was sorry that he ever brought them to America!

People have made much of Eddie’s use of social media to build his brand, but a moment like that reminds me of Brene Braun’s vulnerability TED talk. The guy knows how to connect. He may have bravado, but he also has heart. I mean, there he was sitting and laughing with the critic who skewered him (Xiao Ye got zero stars!) in The New York Times!! He shares his failures, triumphs, and his opinions. He re-printed the letter of reprimand his mom wrote him after his poor review onto his blog! What’s so inspiring is how boldly and clearly Eddie communicates who he is to the world. It’s like he is finding –or, rather, creating the language that works for his experience.

The word part I loved most was this: when asked about spending less time at BaoHouse now that he has so many other ventures, Eddie basically said, ‘Oh no, no, no — BaoHouse is my homebase. I would never abandon it.’ But, that’s not actually what he said. His words were, “That’s my spaceship.” Like, BaoHouse is his spaceship.

Perfect, right? In a spaceship, you leave from home, but launch anywhere, even into unknown galaxies. Could be the perfect image for the immigrant experience.

One Response to “Eddie Huang: That’s My Spaceship”

  1. Jon says:

    I went to this too, great event! Linked to this post, hope that’s okay!

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