When you talk about your idols, the people who inspire you and motivate you to be a better you, who do you think of?
I don’t often fan-girl over celebrities. Living in NYC, you see them shopping or walking in the park quite often like any other regular person. But I will always be a little starstruck and humbled in the presence of who I discern as my “hospitality heroes.”
One of these people, though I have many more you’ll probably hear about in the future, is Eddie Huang.
I’ve been a long-time fan of Eddie Huang and his work in both the culinary industry and in entertainment: I’ve read both of his books, Fresh Off the Boat and Double Cup Love; watched both his Viceland mini-series Huang’s World and the sitcom based off of his life, Fresh Off the Boat on ABC; I’ve eaten at Baohaus on the regular.
On the last weekend of September/first weekend of October, Eddie Huang dropped his collaboration with Adidas Originals, and kicked it off with a three-day pop-up restaurant affair featuring the likes of Chef Creole and Chez Javier Wong Chong.
What was so crazy was not only did I meet Eddie; I got to meet the other partnering chefs and even more faces than I expected. Some dope people from Adidas. Some people I had only read about or seen on TV and suddenly they were in front of me in the flesh. Some local peeps just tryna hang, just like me.
If I was truly acting upon the overwhelming emotion of meeting my idols, I could have asked for their secrets or to drop everything to learn as their apprentice, but I didn’t. Instead, I just wanted to see how everything played out. I sat on the leather couches in the VIP lounge with them, I drank liquor and ate plenty with them, I partied to “OOOUUUU” with them, and I saw them for who they were as people, not as idols on a pedestal. And it made me love and admire them that much more.
Because what mattered most was that for a moment, I became a part of their story…Whether they remember me or not, I was a witness to their life’s work in keeping the real culture of the food world alive. I was pushed by their commitment to creative vision and how it translated into taste. I was reminded to keep my head high in times of struggle, and keep chasing the dream. None of this would be possible if I let fear of judgment envelope me.
Yeah, I may not be up there just yet. I may not know the same parties or connects as them. But this was only the first step and I’m glad my foot is in the door. Because one day will be my own to share in the same way, and I’ll look back on that weekend as the catalyst to it.
Will, one of Chef Creole’s partners, spoke to me on the last night and said what he admired most about me was my “tenacity” — that fact that I act upon both passion and opportunity as soon as it presents itself.
To be honest, I needed that more than anything.