Tell us the Journey of where you are from.
I was born and raised in New York City, but I grew up in Queens. We first lived in LES for 1 month after my mom gave birth to me. The space was too small for a family of four, so we moved to Jamaica, Queens. After 3 month of living there, my parents figured out that it wasn't a safe neighborhood to grow up with kids (especially in the 80's). So we moved into a house in Fresh Meadows where they had good schools and more Asians. This is where my immigrant family felt more comfortable.
Where did you hang out?
Growing up in Queens, we hung out in Flushing a lot. It was a main hub for food shopping, restaurants and the 7 train (which took us to the city). If you were cool you popped a squat in front of Burger King-- all of my Queens heads know about this. Some of my favorite spots growing up were Pho Bang, 66, Lucia's Pizza, Matt's Hot Dog Cart, Dong Yi Fong (dim sum), East Buffet, Soy Bean Chen Flower Shop (tofu fa).
We would hang out at Queens Center after school (chicken teriyaki was life), checked out Busy Bee to get our dog tags/name plates/ear piercings/cop new kiks, pool halls, and basketball. I played a lot basketball at the the outdoor courts in Queens (Jewel park, Seven Seas, Booth Memorial, 40 Road Park). We would also chill at friend's cribs to watch music videos and play Wrestlemania or Golden Eye all day.
What should people know about Queens?
People should know that Queens is the most diverse borough in NYC. The best part off having all the cultures together is that they bring their food with them. You can find amazing Greek in Astoria, the taste of China in Flushing, authentic South American/Central American and Mexican food in Jackson Heights, or Colombian food down on Northern Boulevard. If you know a fellow Mexican chef/sous chef/dishwasher/who works in the kitchen in NYC they probably live along the 7 line between Woodside/61st - 111th st.
OUTER BOROUGH-Taiwanese-inspried scallion pancake sandwiches with roast meats, veggies, fresh toppings & homemade sauces. (Vendor at Smorgasburg)
How did you come up with the name Outer Borough?
I wanted a name to represent me, where I grew up--Queens, and I believe that we have the best food in NYC. I wanted to share my inspirations and flavors from where I grew up and introduce that to the less familiar, to a larger audience. While keeping it fun by making dishes like shaved ice, stinky tofu, and scallion pancake sandwiches.
I am a self taught chef. My mom was a huge influence on me because food was her way to teach me about our culture. Then I discovered food tv and I had a major crush on Rachel Ray (before she sold out, don't judge me). My other influences included: Lydia, Anthony Bourdain, Anthony Zimmerman, Ina Garden and Alton Brown. And all the people who has ever let me cook for them, big thanks for being my practice, guinea pig.
I love Taiwanese food, and grew up with a lot of Taiwanese friends so I was always around it. I've had scallion pancakes growing up and on a recent trip to Los Angeles I saw how popular the Beef Roll's were. It was a dish rarely seen outside of Chinatown or Flushing, so I thought I can introduce it with Chinese-American flavors while still making it approachable to everyone.
What should we expect from Outer Borough this year?
We should expect a whole new menu. We've changed the menu every year since we've open to adapt to the ever changing demand/competitive market of NYC. We've had many hits and classics but I think we're forever evolving and this drives us to be creative to bring the best for our guests. ,
Photo Credits: Justin Munoz (top) Jeremy Dehitta (bottom)