“for what it is”

Excitement often follows suit after a good trip away and often we catch ourselves saying, “I really enjoyed  (insert geographical location here), I just love being there, the feeling I get while I was there”. Until a close friend comes around and says, “shut up about the love for a place you just traveled to”, with a smirk, “you just haven’t been to too many places yet”. Truth is, there is a lot of clarity in that.

People are afraid of commitment, people are afraid of uncertainty. Most settle with the comfortable lifestyle and operate with 50 miles of their hood, and many settles for the sense of safety and the comfort within the for sure certainty. Until they put themselves in a place thousands of miles away in a foreign country surrounded by words spoken in a language that brings to similarity and sweating from pure adrenaline alone.

People travel for many reasons, and if you are like me…. you get more excited about food than anything else while you are on the road. Since we are on the subject of food, I truly think it does more than just filling up your empty stomach and provide you the calories needed to keep yourself standing. It is a feeling associated with emotions, a deep emotion that is derived from memories, some, distant memories that have been… forgotten.

Take this bowl of beef noodles, by the looks of it, it is quite… insignificant. Most would say that it is just an average looking bowl of noodles, perhaps average tasting. No surprise here. To a certain extent, yes. But allow me to share with you this story.

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It is 9:07 pm, after 14 hours of work, my buddy who was also the lead for the project that I was working on over the summer, looked at me and said, “bro, time for dinner”.

“oh yeah?”, I was stoked, “bro, hit me with the best shit in town”.

“Dude, don’t worry, I got you”, he smirked back at me, “you’ll get to try the best noodle on this side of the world”.

I held him to his promised as we locked up the store and walked towards a white Volkswagen cross-over, filled with dents on the side doors because his ass can’t drive for shit.

As we are pumping some then really popular song and dancing away like two idiots in a pot, we slowly made our way out of the financial center and towards the outskirts of town.

From tall fancy brick buildings to mid-sized commercial halls, then to single tiered street side dwellings and back on to the busy main street of this town tucked away on the east side. People jam packed the streets, filled with puddles of wet dirty water, used napkins, plastic wrappers and old cigarette butts.

“Bro, prepare for some good shit”, as my buddy parked randomly on to the side of the street with the car’s ass sticking out onto an exit pathway, but you know, it’s China so no one gave a shit. Really. “Let’s go, it’s here”.

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To me, this type of experience has only been on TV screens, where peeps get down and dirty with the locals and truly experience the culture. When I put my foot down out of the car and into the dirty smelly streets of this side of town, I was fucking stoked.

We made our way into a narrow room within a building, there placed a couple of wooden cheap tables and chairs, and a line of locals waiting for a bowl of noodles. There a lady stands, yelling out “what do you want” in Mandarin while flipping her hair back with her fingers, which will make most germaphobe to nuts, but I didn’t care, I like the atmosphere. She was so chill, and… sweaty just like her man standing behind her.

Bowls of noodle with broth and plates of cold cut beef with green onions are ready for pick up soon after my bud figured out the payment issue. Apparently, they don’t take Alipay, wild. HA!

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Picked up a spoon, and sipped some broth, piping hot and filled with MSG. Hmmm, that local taste that you can’t duplicate. Threw in the plate of beef and green onions then dumped in some table side chili paste that a fly probably took a shit on, mixed that bowl up and it was borderline magical. 

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You know, at times it is not entirely about what you shove into your mouth, but where you are and who you are with. This perhaps average bowl of beef noodles won’t make it onto anybody’s page if it was served in your local Chinese restaurant somewhere in a shithole in DTLA, but the fact that it was in a back alley-way filled with trash and the smell of wet dirt and car exhausts, made it a whole different experience.

“Bro, tell me if this is not one of the best bowls of noodles”.

“Bro.”, I chewed with my mouth open.

I wasn’t being untruthful. It was for real. 

Needless to say, almost everything comes at a cost. Whether you exchange an item, or your spend your time working exchange for what you want. In this case, the satisfaction of the experience came at a cost – some out-of-bounds intense diarrhea.

It was all because of I got skewered.

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Note to self, when traveling, be mindful of the cleanliness and bacteria level of the food and water locally. If someone like me who is traveling to China for the first time in 13 years, perhaps a city center McDonald’s might’ve been the better choice.

But… nooo…. I had to jump into the experience. I also 1/2 blame my buddy for this dick move. But fuck, it was a great meal, and now a great story make.

The point is, travel when you can. The road more traveled, put things in perspective. For someone like me, great stories are always better than a Brand New Fararri. 

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Looking at Here’s Looking at You

The restaurant business is an forever evolving organism to its own. A line cook you worked with could be your El Jefe 5 years down the road. Conversely, your boss now could be your dishwasher after your 90-day probation at your new gig. You would be amazed how inclusive this circle is, everybody knows everybody, there is no escape the constant name dropping whatsoever.

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A former Student Assistant and a former student is now learning and burning his way up the culinary world at this newly developed gem inside the respected K-town of downtown Los Angeles. Chef Jonathan Whitener and his cooks are not shy about flavors, I mean, not at all. The entire menu is designed in a way that takes Asian-inspired cooking to the next level.

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Food provokes memories, and very rarely you’ll come across a dish that leaves your speechless in the moment. “Heritage Pork Belly”, like the drag queen off 42nd in Manhattan, “nuff said, drop em panties”

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It haunts me. Beautiful haunting dreams. Fat loving dreams. It.. haunts me.

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M.HA

A respected mentor once shared with me, that “if you are the smartest person in the room, you are in the wrong room”. This mindset for me will perhaps forever be a matter of life-long growth and self-fulfillment. There are many reasons why the field of hospitality struck me the most, but ultimately it all boils down to three – Passion & Fulfillment, Satisfaction out of “never a dull moment”, and more importantly, being the reason why someone else will have a better tomorrow. In my opinion, the last reason in particular; is the true definition of hospitality.

I’m sure the idea of “if you love what you do, you’ll never work a day in your life”, has been widely accepted as the definition of the term – Career. How many dare say they live exactly that? The fuel for my passion in cooking and hospitality is derived from my early childhood. While laughter on the playground served as an indicator of happiness for other youngsters; my grandmother’s heated kitchen was my sanctuary. It was one of those experiences that cannot be explained or replicated and it is safe to assume most people whom thrive in the field of hospitality management all share this common denominator.

The adrenaline generated by standing near the edge of a cliff symbolizes my inner deep desire and love for this business. Throughout my nearly a decade of managerial work in the field; one thing that never seemed to change is that yesterday’s blood, sweat and tears are the biggest preparations for today’s new rush of adrenaline. The corporate food and beverage sector perfectly outlines my forte. After years of tossing and banging in the corporate restaurant world; the idea how powerful knowledge really is never fails to amaze me and how crucial training and development really is. Not just only for field hospitality, but for almost everything.

Some of my proudest moments throughout the years, believe it or not, is when one of my best team member hands me his or her resignation letter. If someone else will be having a better tomorrow because of me; I smile from within. My thirst for knowledge and skillsets needed for me to continue to teach, train and develop talents so they can one day become their own success story is the very reason why I am constantly pushing myself to the next level. With the UNLV, M.HA program, I can continue to shine light on students that I will have the pleasure to cross path with while maintaining the essential ability to put food on the dinner table for my family. More importantly, fulfilling my hunger for knowledge to shape the future of the field of hospitality management one step at a one time.

You are always a student, never a masterYou have to keep moving forward.” – Conrad Hall

“Loneliless” is underrated.

Circle, Square, A, B, Triangle, Up, Down, Left, Left.

As a kid I used to smash my controller as of there was a cross-eye scarred cave bear after me and the only way to stay alive is to smash buttons as hard as I possibility could.

and… when I do, I was usually alone.

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It quite interesting now, thinking back, that this representation of self-rejuvenation through video games, made… perfect sense.

As I always tell people when they ask me, “you are so entertaining! you must be the life of the party and love it too!” Sadly… I’m the shy shy boar farest away from all these spotlights and commotions. It is like.. I have an energy bar. 

Somewhat like “street fighters” back in the 90s, “taken” back in the early 2000s, your character has above it, an energy bar that takes a dip every time your character takes a hit. People like me, we operate the same way as the day go by.

At times I just want to be at the beach absorbing its breeze, there is something nostalgic and gentle about that words cannot explain. Alone.

At times I just want to be sitting down with my feet dangling off a cliff absorbing the sunshine, there is something warm about it, that words cannot explain. Alone.

At times I just want to be somewhere completely strange, far far away from thing that I’m used to seeing, hearing, and feeling. A random street underneath a random lamp post, in a random country. Alone.

Loneliness, at times, is underrated. Perhaps one day, a girl, a beautiful creature, could redefine, the definition in my book of self-ponder, self-fulfillment, and self-reflection. Making me, no longer an underrated loner by choice.

Perspective

Rather you believe in it or not, I do think Horoscope at time is ridiculously accurate describing a person’s behaviors and personalities. With me being cancer, apparently I’m more likely to believe is this bullshit, but hey, shit is entertaining.

As a cancer, being sentimental and emotional is up in neon EDC styled lights and lasers, like omfg-ly true. For most of us, home is where the heart is, home is where the fun is, home is where the tears fall,  and home is where all the binge eating and drink happens. Never had strong thoughts of going anywhere far, anywhere new, and anywhere fun, and most of the trips were circumstances and was forced to be taken.

We can literally spend two weeks inside the house and not see a single person, well, the pizza delivery boys do not count, and sometimes 3 cases of Shin Ramen will do.

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I recently lead a international study group to Italy, the funny thing is that as a cancer, I’m suppose to stress over it then fall deeper and deeper into a emotional limbo about how, when, where, why, and what the fuck was I suppose to do. Instead, I felt calm and collected, as if the sky can fall down and shit will still be okay. The trip turned out to be more than splendid as our group ventured from city to city, sure there were problems but the pros definitely outweighed the cons.

As I sit on the street of Florence, left hand holding a sandwich, right hand shaking a can of coke, the world seemed to calm and things seemed so effortless. As the gentle breeze roams through, my mind drifted away unconsciously as if nothing mattered and as it is slowly goes blank – much like fishing.

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Life now is not about how high you can climb, how rich you can get, sure having mega-billions of dollars could make A LOT of things come true, in fact, a lot of money is pretty… good. BUT realistically speaking, I’d rather be in a country side, grow my own food, dig my own water, instead of being wrapped in all the judgement, politics and frustrations. Well, as long it as WIFI, AC and no bugs.

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A pair of shoes, can take you anywhere, accept who you are and what you are given. Count your blessings, my grandmother would say.

It is a matter of perspective. 

 

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Once is a while you’ll find yourself inside a restaurant with yours eyes rolled into the back of your head and your jaw in an up and down motion while savoring every bit of the bite that was just placed inside your mouth saying, “this shit is fucking delicious. Bit of a Gordon Ramsay moment sometimes.

Wether you’ve planned for a long time before you finally got your lazy ass off the couch and showed up or you simply stumbled upon it thinking – “Oh this place looks interesting”, you’d be speaking to yourself like god is looking upon your face – “this is one of the best thing I’ve had, ever”. Sometime that is all it took for your perspective on food, to be forever changed.

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Bone Marrow, Chimichuri, Caramelized Onions. 

Chef Jon Shook and Vinny Dotolo swept the Fairfax restaurant scene with their flagship eatery – Animal. It will take four to five visits before you can decide on your opinion of which dish is the best on the menu.

I, tonight, had one of the best meal in about 4 years, and quite of a pallet reviving in my desire for just straight up – damn good food.

Bone Marrow, Chimichuri, Caramelized Onions. Classic technique with bone marrows. Rain some seasoning onto the bone, brush it with infused butter and throw it into a screaming hot oven and watch it all melt. Hmmm… Anthony Bourdain once said the secret to a lot of good Jewish cuisine is properly caramelized onions, but caramelized onions is caramelized on
ion, in short, it can make my boogers taste like god given joy! Okay, maybe not that much, but along with the herby and garlicky chimichuri this dish is so well balanced between richness and freshness that it is like god speaking to us through food!

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Foie Gras, Loco Moco, Spam, Hamburger. When you have a plate of food that is total completely simplicity – it is a bit of a speechless experience. I dare you to find another Chef that has the balls to put foie gras and loco moco together, and make it taste nothing like you’ve ever tasted before. The foie gras was cooked perfectly where it is almost like tasting little pillow of buttery heaven. Break the egg yolk and mix it all up and you got a plate of goodness that you’ll remember for quite sometime.

Screen Shot 2016-05-16 at 10.59.43 PM.pngBack in the days people dislike sweetbreads and most were thrown away being labelled as disgusting and inedible. Nowadays a small piece will cost you more than the best cut of filet out there.

The server shared with us that one day “Chef was bored, so he made this out of pure boredom in 5 minutes”, and the goddamn thing is so addicting that it makes you say “what the fuck, and how the fuck?”. Crispy, light, sweet asian style soy sauce reduction pair with the freshness of the green onions. It is just so damn good.

Pig ears with the chili lime sauce was good, but not mind blotting like the rest. Braised and deep fried crispy pig years, tossed together with a sunny side up eggs.

Oh and lets not forgetting the opener of Chicken Liver Toast, simple but memorable.

Decision Shapes Destiny

So the idea is this – “decision shapes destiny.

Anthony Robbins brilliantly placed people in perspective while at the same time demolishing excuses and flat out lies across the entire country.

People around the world are drenched in agony and are dishing out complaints after complaints after complaints but never analyzing their own deficiencies, and of course; everyone’s got an opinion that the other person MUST come to agreement with or else all hell breaks loose. Right?

“I didn’t have enough money.”
“I didn’t have enough time”
“I didn’t have enough support”
“I didn’t have enough power”
“I didn’t have good parents”

 What are some of the excuses you’ve used yourself to lie to yourself? How many times have you allowed your own laziness and inefficiencies dominate your decision making?

It has never been about the resources, hasn’t it? The truth is resourcesfulness.

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“Be a sponge” – Gordon Ramsay

Between the age of 17 to 30, make yourself a sponge. Absorb as much as you can and as quickly as you can. Don’t chase after money. Chase after knowledge and what will make you who you are in the future.”

As a Chinese American, what is the most fundamental thing that is on the top of the list in our family teachings? Study hard, get good grades, get into a good college, study harder, get a good job and work your way up. There is absolutely nothing wrong with their teachings – because that is how they learned. That is what has worked and produced results in their time.


But, how likely is it for us to follow their footsteps and success in this world? The truth is, we will survive. No more than that. This piece of art “On a Plate” by Toby Morris perfectly presented that simply just working hard is not going to promise you the future that you want. Don’t get me wrong, I am by no means saying that we shouldn’t work hard. We should. the point is to work hard – with a purpose into the right direction. 

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Most of us weren’t born with a silver spoon. Most of us weren’t born with a golden plate. If you are like me? You’ve probably been through a lot and has many stories.

Some people were given the best. Some people were deeply love, given the best. The the $100 computers but the best computers out there. But sadly, these are the people that spend the rest of their lives in and out of rehab. There are people that has been through ultimate pain, Physically, emotionally, spiritually, but these people are those whom contributes the most to society.

Back in the days, it is all about what you know and that is the very reason why our parents want us to study hard and get good grades. When we were in high school, things have changed. It is not ONLY about what you know, but also WHO you know. Hence all the clubs, extra curricular activities, the organizations, and the charity events. That gave us a edge over those who only studied hard.

Now it is not only about WHAT you know, WHO you know. – but, WHO KNOWS YOU.

Life is a game of contribution, the more you contribute. The more that knows you. Work hard, AND smart. So cliche is it.


Spicy Tuna Crisp

Focus is the key that defines one preference and meaning and it is something many has yet to obtain. Marco Pierre White is a wise man and a legend, and he stands firm on his belief that “we live in a world more of refinement, not entirely of creation.”

Foodies around the world chases after what tickles their taste buds, and many recreates those memories by revisiting taste by deconstruction, recreation or refinery.

Tastes are associated with memories, and this particular dish is associated with a very special young lady. Three words can be used to describe this dish, “Sexy, Brave, and Spicy”

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Cooking a philosophy, and why should their be recipes? Cook the way you like, eat the way you enjoy, drink the way that makes you happy, and mix according to your palate. Don’t ever let recipes dominate your creativity.