Many food writers’ journeys begin in homes filled with pleasant aromas and home-cooked meals. However, with two parents who don’t cook at all, I actually grew up on a ‘90s diet of Rice-A-Roni, Shake ‘n Bake, and Stouffer’s lasagna. My two favorite restaurants as a child? The Bay Area’s Chili’s in Mountain View and Chili’s in Menlo Park.
Despite this affinity for chain restaurants, my family visited a variety of eateries and spent many weekends in Cantonese banquet halls like the Hong Kong Flower Lounge. These local restaurants would eventually play a pivotal role in my life.
During my junior year of high school, my mother spent months in psychiatric care after losing her own mother. I became responsible for feeding myself, turned my curiosity outwards, and explored how restaurants and markets created gathering spaces in the Bay Area’s diverse neighborhoods.
Eventually, this curiosity regarding food turned into an interest in food systems. I wrote my college thesis on how countries maintain and gain culinary prestige. Working frantically in professional kitchens in San Francisco, I saw how local cooks work 16-hour days to afford the high cost of living. Later at Second Harvest of Silicon Valley, one of the nation’s largest food banks, I interviewed and told the stories of some of the 450,000 individuals the organization served each month.
After serving as an editor at the Peninsula Foodist and writing both food and general features for Silicon Valley’s leading newsgroup, I’m starting a doctoral program in sociology at UCLA and studying how climate change is affecting cuisines and consumption patterns.
Some quick facts about me:
- “Emily in Paris” is my guilty pleasure.
- In my free time, I compete in weightlifting.
- My greatest enemy is my lactose intolerance.
- My favorite chain restaurant bread is Red Lobster’s Cheddar Bay Biscuit.
- Boneless wings aren’t wings in my book.