Free Conversation Series CULINASIA Explores the Future of Asian Food in America

April 19, 2021
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Culinasia: The Future of Asian Food in America. Free!

Smithsonian Associates, in collaboration with the Smithsonian Asian Pacific American Center and the Freer Gallery of Art and Arthur M. Sackler Gallery, Smithsonian’s National Museum of Asian Art, presents CULINASIA, a dynamic, free series of virtual conversations that will explore food legacies and the ways in which Asian diaspora cuisine continues to change and enrich people’s lives. Four panel discussions will be held May 5, May 19, June 9 and June 23 at 6:30 p.m. ET.

Asian foods and cooking have long been an indelible part of America’s food culture, and yet people also harbor complicated relationships with those who prepare their meals. Earlier this year, Asian American activists carried signs reading “Love Us Like You Love Our Food” as they denounced a surge of anti-Asian racism in communities across the United States during the global pandemic. In a four-part conversation series, chefs, food writers, food entrepreneurs, home cooks, cookbook authors and other participants whose heritage and experiences span the complex spectrum of the Asian diaspora in the United States will discuss the successes, challenges and future of Asian food in America.

CULINASIA is curated by Burmese American restaurateur and cultural connector Simone Jacobson. The series received federal support from the Asian Pacific American Initiatives Pool administered by the Smithsonian Asian Pacific American Center. The free conversation series is presented on Zoom; registration is required. The public may visit to register.

Saving Chinatown and Our Legacies
Wednesday, May 5; 6:30 p.m. ET
In the COVID era, anti-Asian racism and violence has been widespread, and many Asian restaurants large and small have permanently closed their doors. Why are the survival of Chinese restaurants and the preservation of the legacy of Asian food in America so essential to the soul of cities? A panel of chefs, advocates and activists will discuss the future of Chinatowns across the country. The panel includes food writer Grace Young, a James Beard Award-winning cookbook author and co-creator of Coronavirus: Chinatown Stories; Brandon Jew, chef and owner of Mister Jiu’s, Moongate Lounge and Mamahuhu in San Francisco and author of Mister Jiu’s in Chinatown: Recipes and Stories from the Birthplace of Chinese American Food (Ten Speed Press); Jennifer Tam and Victoria Lee, founders of Welcome to Chinatown, a grassroots initiative supporting New York City’s Chinatown businesses; Daphne Wu, co-organizer of Save Our Chinatowns, an arts and culture initiative uplifting Bay Area Chinatown communities; and Wellington Chen, executive director of the Chinatown BID/Partnership in New York.

Southeast Asia Got Something to Say
Wednesday, May 19; 6:30 p.m. ET
Opening a Southeast Asian restaurant, bar or food business was always an uphill battle. How can they keep their doors open during a global pandemic with the doubly stacked odds of anti-Asian racism at an all-time high? A panel of Southeast Asian chefs and restaurateurs from across the country discuss how they are meeting the moment. Attendees will hear from celebrity chefs and restaurateurs Jet Tila, Food Network star and chef partner in Pei Wei Restaurant Group, and Christine Hà, the first blind contestant of MasterChef—and winner of its third season in 2012—and owner of The Blind Goat and Xin Chào in Houston. Then they can follow along as Genevieve Villamora, co-owner of the award-winning restaurant Bad Saint in Washington, D.C., and Vilailuck “Pepper” Teigen, author of The Pepper Thai Cookbook: Family Recipes from Everyone’s Favorite Thai Mom (Clarkson Potter), demonstrate a recipe from the new cookbook.

“Fast, Casual, Ethnic”: Asian Food Beyond Misnomers and Myths
Wednesday, June 9; 6:30 p.m. ET
A national panel of Asian American food professionals explores the pervasive, harmful and persistent myth that so-called “ethnic” food is supposed to be cheap and fast. Speakers examine the origins of long-held assumptions about Asian food and challenge people to grapple with how to collectively move beyond them. The panel includes Kim Pham, a first-generation Vietnamese American and co-founder of Asian pantry staple company Omsom; chef Katsuya Fukushima, co-owner of Washington, D.C.’s Daikaya, Bantam King and Haikan; chef Dale Talde, a three-time contestant on Bravo’s Top Chef, with restaurants in Brooklyn, Jersey City and Miami; Sana Javeri Kadri, a third-generation Mumbai native and Diaspora Co. founder and CEO working toward a more equitable and delicious spice trade; and Food and Wine restaurant editor Khushbu Shah, whose primary interests include the foodways of the South Asian diaspora.

Asian American Farmers Look Back to Go Forward
Wednesday, June 23; 6:30 p.m. ET
In film and popular media as well as farming and land ownership, Asian Americans have been historically underrepresented and repeatedly denied opportunities for advancement. The Oscar-nominated film Minari offers a unique opportunity to explore how being Asian in America is further complicated by the model minority myth and the “perpetual foreigner” burden carried by diverse communities. Asian American farmers and vintners come together for a discussion inspired by the semi-autobiographical story of a Korean American family that embarks on a new kind of American dream, traveling from their California home to a rural Arkansas farm where they nurture the father’s hopes of growing Korean produce to sell to vendors in Dallas. Presenters include Mai Nguyen, founder of the Asian American Farmers Alliance; Kamayan Farm co-founder Ariana de Leña; and Thai American winemaker Kenny Likitprakong of the family-owned, California-based Hobo Wine Co. Participants can view Minari in advance of the program, Friday, June 18, at 7 p.m. as part of the Freer Gallery of Art and Arthur M. Sackler Gallery’s film program. Find more information here.

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Lauren Lyons


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