Episode 55: The Asian Food Mafia

Episode 55: The Asian Food Mafia

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Chefs Chris Cheung of East Wind Snack Shop, Doron Wong of Northern Tiger, and Jonathan Wu formerly of Fung Tu, are members of the Asian Food Mafia -- a collective of culinary professionals who support the education and growth of Asian food. We talked about the mission of the group, what they've been up to, what they can do with a bigger voice, and what they’re up to next.

“There’s a shortage of cooks, and chefs -- across the board [not just in Asian food, or NYC] in the entire restaurant industry. Where does one find help? You can go to Craigslist or you can reach out to your friends in the Asian Food Mafia. I mean that’s what’s so huge”, said Jonathan. Chris adds, “we’re here to help each other out in every possible way”. Sounds like the Asian Food Mafia have each other’s back from staffing, events, promotions, and more. But beyond that, they are taking on the negative stereotypes towards Asian food step by step. There are unfair low pricing expectations to Asian food, a bad rap surrounding MSG, the list goes on.

We know it’s not going to be a quick turnaround. Those things take steps to break it down, and there’s a lot of us, and we’re all on the same page with it, and we want to break those things down.
— Chris Cheung on defending the honor of Asian food

Why else is it better to be banded together? There’s a ton of competition in the City, and maybe you can do more with a shared support system than trying to make it on your lonesome.

I think that New York is an incredible restaurant town. I think most people can easily name 20-30 fantastic restaurants right off the top of their head. World class places. So the competition is extremely fierce. It’s oversaturated in my opinion. There are too many fantastic restaurants for the amount of diners. So it’s a difficult environment.
— Jonathan Wu on why it’s hard to sustain a business in New York

The Chefs talk about what they would like to see for the collective and the Asian food landscape in the City. One thing we can all look forward to is the Asian Food Mafia cookbook - coming soon! In the meantime, the guys encourage diners to eat out and support all those great Asian restaurants, with chefs cooking from the soul and defining their own regional cuisines.

Have comments about the show or an idea of a topic or person we should speak with? Drop us a line at feastmeetswest@heritageradionetwork.org.

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