There is never, ever going to be a "good time" to do make this big, scary, life-altering decision. If you want to make the jump, just do it now."
What do you do in the food world and what do you love about it?
I'm a professional chef, writer and artist! I run a nonprofit culinary production studio named Studio ATAO and also do a mix of culinary consulting, food styling and freelance writing. I love what I do because I can use all parts of my creative brain -- I'm able to develop new themes and culinary concepts based on social topics I care about (e.g. immigration, gender dynamics) and that requires everything from cooking to food to making the ceramics to collaborating with artists to pair it with visual/audio/installation art and finally turning it into an event that's open to the public!
How do you resist the patriarchy?
A lot of my work is about taking a deeper dive into the topics "woke" people like to think they already understand, and examining it in a different axis. For the patriarchy specifically, I recently developed a dish that talks about the external messages women receive about themselves and explores how we internalize it; one of the topics within that dish is how we as women believe we need to be "more" like men to get ahead, instead of realizing we need to dramatically reshape how we understand "success" and "leadership" so it can be more inclusive to the traits, lifestyles and future we want.
It takes a lot of trial and error and re-calibrating to reach success. What has been your favorite failure along the way?
So many failures! My favorite failure was definitely a very bad private dinner I threw for my former supperclub, Wednesdays, when it was still at my apartment. Long story short, I dropped a beef wellington (the main entree) on the floor (luckily, it landed on some parchment paper) and my dog ate some of it (why was he even allowed to stay for the event?!) and I had to reduce the portion size to feed all the guests there...BUT the guests had no idea. After that, I booked a dog sitter every time and learned to NOT transfer delicate items between sheet trays so recklessly.
You made a big transition from a corporate consulting gig to working hands-on with food. What advice would you give to someone who feels that they truly belong in another industry and wants to make a transition?
There is never, ever going to be a "good time" to do make this big, scary, life-altering decision. There will always be that promotion, the raise, the new "potentially interesting" opportunity within your old field. If you want to make the jump, just do it now.
Your Studio ATAO dinner experiences involve virtual and augmented reality. What motivated you to include these immersive experiences and how have you seen it altering the dynamics of the meal?
I have a bizarre backstory with VR that involved me feeling totally stuck in what I do, going to acupuncture and waking up saying "YES, VR!" It really was that ridiculous / stupid in real life. Fast forward a few years, and VR has been such a fun medium to incorporate within a dining experience. As a introvert, I can say it's changed up the group dynamics dramatically as it gives introverts some "space" to breathe and connect with the art in peace, have a short restorative niche within a relatively long dinner and re-energize them for group discussion around each food course's topic. It's visibly increased and kept steady the flow of conversation throughout the night, which is SO awesome to see.
You are very multi-talented and creative, how do you go about executing your creative ideas when they have never been done before? Have you had to respond to skeptics along the way and how do you do so?
It's tough to execute things when I honestly have no idea what I'm doing (80% of the time). Honestly, it's been about having a great team of people who are willing to do whatever it takes -- for example, our Head of Operations Julie scoured the internet for someone to blow a custom hourglass for a dish once, and the two of us learned a lot about glassblowing the process. When we started touring Asian in America we had zero idea what it means to do something like that in a new city, and it's been total trial and error -- but if you have the right people there and a "can do, always learning" mentality I really believe that's all you need to just keep going. There are no mistakes, just awesome learning opportunities! As for skeptics, this is the secret I've learned along the way: negativity is a reflection of insecurity. If someone is deeply unhappy with who they are / how their life turned out, they will be THE first person to try and bring you down.
What's the best piece of advice you've received from another woman?
"If you're not going to do something about it, I don't want to hear you complaining about it."