How Chef Jenny Dorsey is Using Food to Spark Dialogue | Her Stories | NowThis

How Chef Jenny Dorsey is Using Food to Spark Dialogue | Her Stories | NowThis


My mom used to say, you know, you have to be a nice Chinese girl, you have to be docile and sweet. Asian women are always fighting against that stigma that they’re very meek. Growing up in a pretty
traditional Chinese family, I didn’t really see food
as a career option at all. My food takes people through
the Asian-American experience. They’re watching a
brushstroke by brushstroke recreation of the food
that they’re about to eat and they’re hearing
audio narration from me, explaining all the
aspects of the symbolism. I’m Jenny Dorsey. I’m a professional chef,
writer, and artist, specializing in using food to talk about bigger social topics. (ethereal music) (people chattering) Growing up as a first
generation immigrant, here in the U.S., there
was many times I felt my food culture was not accepted. I think it’s really important
for immigrant children, yes, but also just people in
general to realize how powerful of an impact
food has on their lives. I really fight against
the fact that food is only meant to make us feel good or it’s supposed to be delicious and kind of that’s it. It’s a very shallow way to
interpret something that is so integral, not
only to like our lives, because we have to eat to live, but also how we understand
our own communities, how we understand our upbringing. (ethereal music) I was born in Shanghai and my
parents actually left China about two years after I
was born, to come here. Going back to when I was six, I have a pretty distinct memory
of being in like summer camp and getting this, like,
giant slice of ham. Especially in Chinese
cuisine, things are served relatively small bite-size,
easy to grab via chopsticks. I just remember stabbing
the whole thing with a fork. Didn’t know, and I was was
kind of like trying to eat it, like from the side, and my teacher just grabs it
out of my hand, and she’s like, “We don’t eat like this, we have manners.” And it was a very distinct
and kind of early memory of feeling very othered. I really wanted to tackle
that through one of my dishes. (fork scraping) (ethereal music) (hands shuffling) Growing up in a pretty
traditional Chinese family, I didn’t really see food
as a career option at all. After I started a career
in management consulting, I had like an existential crisis where I just didn’t like my job, I could feel that it was
sucking the life out of me. I didn’t wanna get up in the morning. So I applied early to
business school at Columbia, got in and essentially had nine months to do what I wanted to do and immediately I just knew I wanted to go to culinary school. With that, I started a pop up series. It was kind of like, you
know, put my foot in the door, see how I liked it, called
Wednesdays with my husband who does mixology. We were trying to expand our
repertoire of what we could do food and drink wise, but
also bring people together in a deeper way. Everyone’s here, amazing! – [Woman] Okay. – All right, game time, ladies! (restaurant patrons murmuring) Hi everyone, thank you so
much for being here tonight. We’re really, really
excited to have you all for the very first Asian America for 2019. Asian in America has been a
project about specifically the Asian-American identity
and topics within that. Everything from, ya know,
the white savior complex to substitutions, whether
in food or in people. Where people say, Asians
all look the same, to the model minority myth. And three of the courses are
presented with virtual reality. And three of the courses
are presented with poetry. One of the other dishes
is called stereotypes and I don’t think I need
to go into how many of us are impacted by stereotypes, but what I also wanted to explore in that is that many times it is
the minority that also imposes some of those stereotypes on the rest of their community. My mom used to say, you know, you have to be a nice Chinese girl, you have to be docile and sweet. And Asian women are
always fighting against that stigma that they’re very meek, and at the same time, here’s my mother telling me to
like fall into that, as well. (ethereal music) One of my earliest memories
is going to Chinatown with my parents when we
still lived here in New York and being like, oh it’s so smelly, and it’s so gross and it’s dirty and, ya know, not liking it. And it’s so ironic, ya know,
years later, coming back, and I’m like, oh it’s so
nostalgic, I miss all of this and not saying that all the fish stands always smell really
great, but there’s also a little bit of that, like, loving feeling that I get
walking through Chinatown. So, I hope that through my
food and reading my writings, that they can better understand
what I was thinking about at that time and how my
food as turned out this way. (people chattering) (ethereal music) I think Asian-Americans
and other just minorities can really help everyone
and each other a lot by giving everyone the
space to be an individual. I think that’s the biggest fight, is that everyone is trying
to be their own selves, and not be blanketed into a community. I hope that most people,
after they experience, will go home and be able to
take a good look at themselves. A, we’re all complicit in so
many problems in our society and how can we individually become better? But also, maybe reevaluate aspects of their worldview that they had before. (ethereal music)

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