Fresh Off the Boat: A Memoir

eddie huang

Fresh Off the Boat: A Memoir‘ is a 2013 autobiography by American food personality Eddie Huang. The book relates Huang’s early life and rise in the food celebrity scene in New York, and his relationship with his Asian background.

Huang, educated as a lawyer, became prominent in New York’s restaurant scene after the success of his BaoHaus, a purveyor of Chinese Cha siu bao, or pork buns. He developed a reputation as a food personality after hosting food-themed programs on the Food Network and Vice TV.

The memoir is Huang’s first published work; his previous writing experience was mostly limited to his popular blog, which covers both food and topical issues. The book shares its title with Huang’s blog and his Vice online video program, and refers to Huang’s Taiwanese immigrant background. Huang stated in an interview with ‘Publisher’s Weekly’ that expressing the experience of being an ‘other’ in America was a major impetus for writing the book. He has mentioned Mark Twain, Jonathan Swift, and hip hop as inspirations for his writing.

The memoir relates Huang’s childhood, spent first in Washington, D.C., and later in Orlando. Huang, one of three sons of Taiwanese immigrants, struggled with his identity growing up. Hip hop and African American culture provided a sympathetic counterpoint to the racism and exclusion he experienced at school. He was exposed to cooking through his parents; his mother prepared traditional Taiwanese dishes at home, and he learned American regional cuisines through cooking at his father’s Orlando restaurants.

Huang writes about his college days, his short careers as a lawyer and as a stand-up comic, and various forays into illicit commerce, such as pornography and marijuana dealing. Success came with the opening of BaoHaus, but there were failures, also – his restaurant Xiao Ye was closed after being panned by critics. In the book, Huang discusses Taiwanese cuisine and his relationship with Asian cooking in general.

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