Here we chat with Chef Anne of Bling Bling Dumpling, a Los Angeles based moving pop-up, about everything from how a weekend dinner parties turned into her livelihood, to foodie culture and the importance of what it means to be a woman in the kitchen.
- Know you gals are Taiwanese and was reading on your website a bit about this whole notion of being inspired by food “from home” in Taiwan when you folks went back. I put home in quotations because there’s always this notion of a romantic reconnection that occurs when one goes back to their “home” country. What does home mean to you folks?
When we went back it was my first time being an adult and being back in Taiwan. My experience was completely different than what I remembered from when I was a child. As a kid what I recall was mostly food and as I was there it brought back a lot of memories of “omg I remember this!” As we experienced the night- markets and were eating all kinds of food, it was amazing to see it now and realize what I had missed growing up. I also felt this pride that I never had before and how amazing my country is!
- How did Bling Bling Dumplings get its start?
I came to the U.S. when I was 6 and landed in New Jersey, moved out here in 2005 and really got into the food scene. Cindy, my fellow co-founder/owner, on the other hand came to L.A. when she was 16 for school and fell in love with L.A. and stayed. We both love L.A. and the rich history of culture it has and with culture comes with food!
Bling Bling started from a vacation we took to Taiwan. When we got back we felt like there was nothing to eat. So we decided to make dumplings because I learned how to make dumplings from my grandmother and Cindy learned from her Mom. We would have dumpling parties on the weekends for our friends and I would bring the leftovers to work. After doing this a few times someone suggested to me that I sell them. I wasn’t very keen on it at first because I never thought to be in the food business. I suggested it to Cindy and she wasn’t sure either. But then I was like why not lets try it! Cindy wasn’t ready but I was like it’s too late because when I shot that email out to my colleagues about selling our dumplings we got 50 orders! So from then on we kept doing it and we both had full time jobs and it was exhausting! Finally it was time to either do this full time and quit my job and see if there is something really there.
- Can you talk about creative connection and process between you and Cindy? In what ways is it beneficial and also at times difficult, to work with another chef so closely? I often forget what a creative thing cooking is and the extent to which one must have a vision etc.
Ha, in the beginning Cindy and I would constantly bicker about the process of how to do things, to what flows and what worked. Lots of trial and error. Cindy’s more of the creative food thinker and as for me, I’m more of the logistics. It’s a constant learning process for us as we both never went to culinary school or business school.
- LA is no easy place to run a restaurant so if you can kind of give us your take on being a part of the community there?
It’s true L.A.’s food scene has different tiers as I see it. As you know, we don’t have a restaurant yet. I believe as we are a moving pop-up we reach many more people than if we were to have a brick and mortar. We also connect with a different range of people. I also don’t care for food trucks as that market is way too saturated. Doing pop-ups and festivals of all kinds has been great for us! We get to travel a lot, we haven’t gone past vegas or past Napa but we probably will eventually!
- On your website there is reference to “foodie” culture, sometimes there’s this negative connotation that goes along with being a foodie because they’re seen to be just trend followers or “culture vultures” but really I think people forget that being a foodie also goes hand in hand in being a cultural explorer per se. Any thoughts on this movement?
Yeah it’s like the word fusion, I think when people start using it so much for everything it becomes null. But when it’s coming from a legit resource or place it’s used in a real sense. Also, I feel like most of us are foodies represented in different ways, we all eat and as long as we have an opinion on the taste and type of food it is.
- Know you folks describe yourselves as “fusion dim sum”. What does this mean and do you hope to change the sometimes negative perversions of Chinese food/Taiwanese food — also how are these different and what is the importance of the difference?
Well first, I know the Asian population is only just catching onto the organic food trend and trying to be a little bit more environmentally friendly. But I also know Asian’s don’t eat as much processed food like we do in the U.S. I believe that choosing sustainable, local and environmentally friendly resources for our ingredients makes a difference in taste. I also believe making all our dumplings by hand gives it a connection to not just eating, but experiencing. Having L.A. as a cultural resource, it’s hard not to want to share ingredients and experiment.
- Being a woman in the kitchen — this is important! But in your words, how and why is it empowering?
YES it’s very important! We work in a shared kitchen and I would say 90% of chefs in there are males. I believe when you’re a female chef you do have this respect from most chefs, female or male. It also depends on the way we carry ourselves, females tend to be more forgiving and emotional which is not a bad thing but people do take advantage of it. Look, when I go anywhere I see everyone as equals, I don’t judge on their gender, race or ethnicity but I do believe sometimes females do need to be stern and aggressive. That’s why there’s this gender gap as chefs. The gap is shrinking and hopefully it will get better, kinda like the wage gap!
Learn more about Bling Bling Dumpling at their website here: http://www.blingblingdumpling.com/blingblingdumpling/Home.html
Catch them serving up that Bling Bling at our #LuckyriceLA Feast on 7/28, tickets this way: