The food-themed animated short features a dumpling come to life.

By Adam Campbell-Schmitt
February 24, 2019
Jeff Kravitz / Contributor / Getty Images

At tonight’s 91st annual Academy Awards ceremony, a whimsical baby dumpling and beloved chef and activist were given the spotlight on what’s considered film’s biggest night. Chef José Andrés joined actor Diego Luna to introduce Best Picture nominee Roma by director Alfonso Cuarón. The film follows Cleo, an indigenous domestic worker in 1970s Mexico City, as she helps a pregnant mother care for her children in the wake of the father abandoning the family. Andrés, never one to let a moment in front of a microphone go without making a statement, said that Roma "reminds us of the understanding and compassion that we all owe to the invisible people in our lives: immigrants and women, who move humanity forward." Cuarón won Oscars for directing and cinematography on the film.

Earlier in the evening, Domee Shi’s Bao, which was produced and released by Disney Pixar along with Incredibles 2 last summer, won Oscar gold in the category of Animated Short Film and marks the first Pixar short helmed by a female director. In Bao, a Chinese woman who discovers one of her dumplings has come to life and serves as an allegory for a mother reckoning with a child growing up and leaving home. Last year, Shi told Food & Wine she took inspiration from her own upbringing as a Chinese-Canadian in Toronto in creating the story of Bao and even shared her mother’s dumpling recipe.

"Dumplings were a huge part of my childhood because I would make them with my mom—a lot," Shi said. "We made them during the holidays, before new year's, and every time my mom would visit me in Oakland, California, she would make a bunch of dumplings for me and put them in the freezer so I could eat them at any time. To me, making dumplings is a family activity—you never really do it alone, you do it with your mom or your grandma, and she learned how to make dumplings from her grandma." Shi’s mother was even hired by Pixar as a consultant on the short film to help studios the animators get the look of the food and preparation just right.

Shi accepted the award along with producer Becky Neimann-Cobb, saying, "To all of the nerdy girls out there who hide behind their sketchbooks, don't be afraid to tell your stories to the world. You're gonna freak people out, but you'll probably connect with them too. That's an amazing feeling to have."

This year marked another milestone, as Chef Wolfgang Puck catered his 25th Governors Ball afterparty in a row. We spoke with Puck earlier this month about his menu and how a famous Spago party got him the gig with the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences.

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