Los Angeles’s Chinatown is experiencing a food revolution. Only the eateries making a name for themselves aren’t Chinese, they’re Thai, Korean, Mexican… and even Southern. In episode one of The Great American Cooking Story, I explored two of the restaurants shaping the future of L.A.’s Chinatown: The Little Jewel of New Orleans and Chimney Coffee House. Join me on my adventure of great food made with local ingredients and sold at affordable prices as I explore the role that these two restaurants are playing in Chinatown’s revitalization.
When I got back from my whirlwind trip across the country, I knew I had a story to tell, but I wasn’t quite sure how it would come together. Filming wasn’t perfect, and with only 5 hours or less in each city, it was hard to know whether what I captured would amount to anything at all. Over the last few months I’ve watched hours of footage, crafted story lines, and mixed and re-mixed the sounds of the kitchens with the soundtrack of each city. I’ve been hungry for months–the shot of a delicious burger never gets old!–but I’m so excited to finally be able to share the finished product with you. Thank you for joining me on my journey so far. I can promise you that it’s only just begun.
“Yeah, people were completely taken aback and pleasantly surprised that someone was going to ask them about something other than the rockets and the siege. Of course, it all figures together, but they were all just extremely delighted that people were thinking about them, and interested in learning about them, as human beings.” –Laila El-Haddad, who grew up in Gaza, speaking in Bon Appetit magazine about the Palestinian families in Gaza she interviewed for her recipe book The Gaza Kitchen. I enjoyed reading the whole interview–a conversation between El-Haddad, her co-author Maggie Scmitt, and Israeli chef and author of cookbook Jerusalem Yotam Ottolenghi–and learned about the politics of naming food, the creation of new recipes when conflict makes ingredients unavailable and the struggle to establish a cultural cuisine in a nation of immigrants.
“The question of ‘is this our food, or is this your food—who gets to name this food,’ is not occurring in a void. If it occurred in a void it would be silly, but it’s not in a void. It’s in this intensely laden political question, with so much life and death material sustenance also being debated. So these food items become sort of symbols of a much bigger, much broader question of ownership.” –Schmitt