Here’s a sneak peek into my shoot with @luckyricedotcom. This dish is named “Model Minority” and it’s an ode to all my fellow Asian Americans who have (and still) struggled with what it means to be some sort of example for others - but only within the narrow bounds of some preset success “allowed” for those of “ethnic” backgrounds. It is so complicated to reckon with wanting acceptance while realizing how narrow the parameters are. Like only the part of you that fits a story or a stereotype has a place. I remember how scary it was to admit I was struggling with deep depression or changing my career path because I didn’t want to be reallocated to the group of Asians who couldn’t live up to our “American dream”, a path so baseless it marginalizes more than empowers. But for so many years, it felt like the only path to be on if I wanted to be accepted.
Being a model minority is like a maze, so I constructed a circular maze of chrysanthemum purée, a bitter herbaceous green that has gone ignored for years but was recently “discovered” by some “innovative” chefs as the base for Caesar salads 🙄 The protein is veal sweetbreads, serving as a double entendre as sweetbreads are considered “high brow” in culinary circles, but still infrequently used, like a...model minority. I want to shout out to Chef Dianna (@dough_eung) for inspiring me with tales of her mother using crispy shallots as “breadcrumbs” when frying, as that’s what I did here! The veal is accompanied by grilled celtuce, another prominent Asian vegetable that’s been “found” recently. The sauce is a (real) sweet and sour sauce from my Shanghai roots - the sweet is Chinese rock sugar and the sour is black vinegar.
No one benefits from stereotypes, even a gilded positive one like “model minority”. I know change takes time, but it can’t happen without each of us standing up and saying, “No, you don’t know me. You don’t know about my family. We are different from others in our race, from others who immigrated here from the same country. We are multifaceted and complicated and unique. You need to listen, because it’s time for us to paint an accurate picture of who I am, who we are.”