Updated Tuesday, February 5, 2013 at 11:01 AM
So, this is what it’s like to be the “It” boy in the New York food scene for 15 minutes.
Eddie Huang, restaurateur, enfant terrible and now author, has gone shark fishing off Montauk with “Top Chef’s” Tom Colicchio, rolled with Anthony Bourdain on “The Layover” and been named a TED Fellow. Recently, he scored two covers in The New York Times (a warm review of his new memoir, “Fresh off the Boat,” and a profile in the Style section.)
Owner of the hip Baohaus restaurant in the East Village, Huang will be at Town Hall Tuesday to chat with Geo of the Seattle hip-hop duo Blue Scholars about his memoir.
“It’s awkward, the attention,” Huang said during a phone interview. “It’s not that I don’t like it, but you only have so much energy. Sometimes I just want to be in my own head. But that’s a mega, mega First World problem.”
But there’s a reason the line at his book signing in New York City was an hour long, and that on the street people yell, “What’s up?” or “Hey Eddie!”
Huang’s book is full of candid and amusing writing — about his time as a street punk in Orlando, Fla., his rise to owner of a trendy Taiwanese street-food joint, and the dilemma of straddling western culture and his Asian heritage.
Writing with a Gawker-esque snarkiness and gangsta hip-hop swagger, the 30-year old Taiwanese-American tells how he dealt with racial taunts and slights with his fists. And damn if he didn’t look good in his kicks while throwing down.
After a scrap with the law, Huang writes, “I still remember the shoes I had on that day at booking: Carolina Blue Jordan XIVs. They made me take the laces out because they had metal tips, but it was cool, the XIVs looked good broke out anyway.”
In his youth, Huang sold porno and drugs, hardly the Asian model-minority stereotype. He rebelled against who he was supposed to emulate while trying to figure out who he wanted to be.
“Some of the expectations and pressures, they really weigh in on you,” he said. “I don’t think people understand the model-minority stereotype is negative. You are boxed in. You have to untangle that to find your own path.”
Huang did turn his life around, becoming a lawyer and then a comedian. But he was still a restless soul.
His big culinary break came in 2009 when he competed on Food Network’s “Ultimate Recipe Showdown” with his Chairman Mao’s Cherry Cola skirt steak.
The dish didn’t win, but his time was memorable for another reason. Fifteen minutes into the contest, “I had to go to the bathroom. They thought it was so crazy that someone would leave in the middle of the competition, ” he remembered. “But I had the braising down. It was on medium-low heat. So I went to the bathroom.”
Show host Guy Fieri gave him some encouraging words. Soon, a restaurant career was born. His pork-belly-bun-joint became critically acclaimed and made Huang a media darling.
His acerbic wit and edgy writing made him a sought-after voice in the New York blogosphere. Bourdain is a big fan of his writing, which is laced with rap lyrics and pop-culture references.
And Huang, a proud pothead — (“Way to go” Seattle, with Initiative 502) — is no stranger to the Pacific Northwest. He recalled visiting Seattle in 2005. “I was just a kid wandering around. I remember liking Piroshky Piroshky (at Pike Place Market) and staying in the Ace Hotel. I was looking at law schools. I applied to University of Washington School of Law, but I didn’t get in,” he said, laughing.
Tan Vinh: 206-515-5656 or firstname.lastname@example.org. On Twitter @tanvinhseattle
7:30 p.m. Tuesday, Town Hall, 1119 Eighth Ave., Seattle; $5 (888-377-4510 or www.townhallseattle.org).
Eddie Huang in front of his Baohaus restaurant in New York City.