The chef and author of Fresh Off the Boat talks about his first experiences with cooking in this exclusive clip from the PBS documentary series Breaking Big.
Chef Eddie Huang, co-owner of BaoHaus in Manhattan, and author of the memoir Fresh Off the Boat, an exploration of his identity as the child of Taiwanese immigrants, invited PBS to cook with him and his family as part of the documentary series, Breaking Big, which tracks his rise to success.
In this clip from the documentary, Huang (who is also an attorney, by the way) recalls growing up in the kitchen, where he was exposed to his mother’s cooking from an early age. In the kitchen, Huang found a “safe harbor.” The family bonded while preparing meals, in particular, Eddie and his mother, Jessica. Throughout his childhood, Jessica often prepared buffet-style meals for the whole family.
“Chinese food in the home was something that I connected with,” says Huang. “That was something no one could take away from me.”
Huang recalls that he was often bullied for his weight, height, and the shape of his eyes, but that he drew confidence from the fact that he knew the food his family cooked was “slammin’.” However, Huang might not have become so passionate about food if it wasn't for his mother.
“The philosophy of cooking, the way to eat and taste, is from my mom,” says Huang.
Jessica taught her son how to identify complex flavors and, on an even deeper level, how to taste the “character, the identity, of this ingredient.” She jokes that Huang didn’t just learn from her, he actually stole all her recipes, but it seems as though these initial lessons about food had a profound impact on Huang, who later developed a deep curiosity about foods from all over the world—he even went on to host a travel show for Vice called Huang’s World.
Jessica might have been responsible for teaching her son how to appreciate food properly, but the first dish that Huang ever cooked was a recipe of his father’s—beef fried rice.
Eddie Huang’s episode of Breaking Big premieres on June 22 on PBS.