Fresh Off the Boat

"Fresh off the boat"--FOB for short--is used derogatorily to describe immigrants who have not yet assimilated into their adopted country's cultural environment. Eddie Huang, the notorious chef of BaoHaus, a New York eatery known for its Taiwanese-style street sandwiches, turns this negative meaning into an affirmative cri de guerre. Huang asserts that he "refused the American Experience [he] was sold, remixed it for [himself], chopped it up, and sold it back." Told in a voice replete with hip-hop ethos, Huang's tale of growing up Taiwanese-American is a "recipe" for how to thrive in a culture that values individualism but judges its citizens by a pre-pack standard of success.

Eschewing measurements for this recipe, Huang instead describes how he arrives at "good food," relying on humble ingredients steeped in personal history but free from neurosis. By turn contradictory, belligerent, yet surprisingly reflective, Fresh Off the Boat emphatically rejects the Asian American male's standard narrative, discarding the emasculated "mandarin" stereotype to embrace the model of a shrewdly contentious marketer--a 21st-century version of Ralph Ellison's (In)visible Man.

Ultimately, Huang's rebellion represents a quintessential American story. From drug-dealing undergraduate to streetwear designer to restaurant owner (and also attorney for a white-shoe law firm along the way), Huang intuitively understands the power of self-invention as a means to realign social and racial inequalities: "I tell people all the time. Whether it's a girl, a skirt steak, or a record, you know in the first five seconds if it's a hit." --Thuy Dinh, editor, Da Mau magazine

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