Eddie Huang on Non-Rock Star Chefs and the Pitchfork/Gawker Media
Yesterday we chatted with Big Gay Ice Cream's Doug Quint about The Great GoogaMooga and Gawker's reaction to the "food-is-the-new-music" piece in the Times. So when we got Baohaus chef Eddie Huang on the phone, we figured we'd ask him his opinion (especially after his sharp blog reaction yesterday).
Huang runs New York City's Taiwanese restaurant Baohaus, hosted Cheap Bites on the Cooking Channel, and is currently working on a memoir (350 pages, he tells us), all while hanging with Anthony Bourdain and recapping Girls episodes (and other cultural commentary) on his blog. We spoke to him about why chefs aren't rock stars, how Gawker was kind of right, and why we should enjoy The Great GoogaMooga anyway.
The Daily Meal: So you seemed pretty ticked off at that Gawker piece.
Eddie Huang: Just because you’re visible doesn’t mean you’re a sellout, doesn’t mean you’re dishonest. There’s ton of people who have been visible have been vocal who stand for something and they are genuine. I was very unhappy because I think that guy confused symptoms with the real problem.
TDM: What would you say is the real problem?
EH: I think it’s just that people get too excited when another magazine gives some props to a restaurant and they start forgetting why they get into it, what their story is. There’s a lot of temptation to repackage yourself for whatever people want you to be as opposed to who you came as. I just wish people stuck to their guns and knew what their voice was. You don’t need to be a f*cking sideshow.
TDM: Right, so don't try to be something you're not.
EH: This is where I agree with the Gawker article. I think people jump the shark when people say chefs are rock stars. Let other people tell you you’re a rock star. You’re on Food Network Star. No rock star would ever go on Food Network Star. I don’t need to be a rock star and rock stars don’t need to be chefs, but I would love to eat food and listen to good music at the same time. Why is it not enough to be who you are?
TDM: So who would you consider to be a rock star chef, then?
EH: I hate to say it, because he always has such nice things about me and I say nice things about him and it seems like we have some cartel thing going on, but it’s Tony Bourdain. I don’t even think he would claim it himself even if you told him he’s a rock star. Same with me, I don’t like it when people call me a gangsta chef, I don't even like being called chef. I’m Eddie. I’m very fond of my name.
TDM: So do you think GoogaMooga is more about the food than the chefs?
EH: GoogaMooga definitely puts food before the music. The music acts are good but I think people are going for the food. Honestly, I’ve never been a part of a festival that’s so produced on every level. The theme, the magnitude, the talent involved. As long as people are not being snarky and having their Pitchfork Media/Gawker hats on they will enjoy it.
TDM: How do you mean?
EH: I really like Pitchfork and Gawker a lot, but they have this superhuman ability to make anything great sound sh*tty. They're really good at that. I think GoogaMooga is one of those things, if you’re just going to go, enjoy food and enjoy the music. I really don’t think there’s anything to distill about it, not like the cultural food relevance and the timeline and history of food. Go eat good food and listen to music. It’s really that simple.
Huang will be serving up Baohaus' fried chicken bao at the Great GoogaMooga this weekend, plus he's participating in an ExtraMooga panel Sunday with Patton Oswalt and Tom Colicchio. Next year, he wants a throwdown between Eddie Murphy's McDowell's and Kenan Thompson's Good Burger.